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Immersed in Movies: Going Deeper into ‘Star Wars Rebels’ with Dave Filoni

Immersed in Movies: Going Deeper into 'Star Wars Rebels' with Dave Filoni


Star Wars Rebels
 debuts tonight on Disney XD at 9:00 pm (it’s already been renewed for a second season), and exec producer Dave Filoni discusses the animation at Lucasfilm Singapore and the role of the new series, which takes place five years before A New Hope.

Bill Desowitz: You got to start all over again from scratch with Rebels. What was that like?
Dave Filoni: We started attacking the character designs and the whole look of the thing based on our experiences. So I think this series starts out with a more cohesive look in style of animation than Clone Wars. We revamped the rigging system. We made a choice, strange as it may seem, to make it more over-the-top. Clone Wars is very subtle, attempting a more lifelike photo-realism. But I wanted the characters in Rebels to be a bit more rounded and have more exaggerated expressions. Part of that was for the increased comedy and banter. So it took a different facial rigging system to do that. Also one with simpler and fewer controls so we could animate at a faster pace. I think it’s worked really well. 
We looked at Tangled as an influence because the way they made expressions was reminiscent of 2D animation. And I would always use frames of Miyazaki animation and say, ‘Look at how over-the-top some of the expressions can be yet it never loses its integrity.’
BD: Did you use a lot of previs again?
DF: We used previs for a lot of the bigger shots, but because the camerawork on Rebels is meant to reflect A New Hope, there’s not as much flying as you see in the prequels. We do a lot more storyboards, which is a lot faster and that helped drive the expressions. But we do drawings that exist in a 3D space so we’re getting the best of both worlds. We’re kind of marrying 2D drawing with previs in our own way and that’s something we’re in development of. That’s why I like Lucasfilm. They attack problems with entirely new ways of looking at things. And then back that up by giving us the technology.
BD: Is that one of the many things you learned from George?
DF: Yeah, it is. If you came to him and said you had a theory that would yield a certain result with no real proof, he would encourage us to try it. He made us put previs [Zvis] into production on Clone Wars, and he told me no more safe tests, this was the only way to do this. But having the experience with previs, I still wanted to edit and shoot in a certain way so we’ve been combining what we like about 2D drawing with what I like about the cameras you get and the coverage in previs, and it’s now getting to be a nicely married process. The trouble is you always have hiccups on a TV production, but I make sure to hire people that are good at maneuvering under these situations.
BD: It’s a wonderful opportunity to go into the genesis of the Rebellion and complement what’s going on with the new movies. What’s it been like?
DF: It’s exciting. I think too that when people hear Rebels, they think galactic scale with lots of battles, but the truth is you start out very small. The untold truth to me begins in Revenge of the Sith when Palpatine declares the Empire and takes over. At the end of that war and having shot a good portion of it, I know that people gladly welcomed the Empire. They’re giving up freedom and liberties and don’t realize it because they’re just happy the war’s over and they’re tired. They have more of a police state but they don’t care — they think it’s security. It culminates later in the Death Star, but as power is being consolidated, it means telling that story on a more personal level with a small group of people. And the effect of the Empire has been terrible to each of them. And they come together and seeing where that goes is a big part of the story this year. When we say Rebels, we’re talking Robin Hood at this point, taking from the powerful and giving it to the very meek and poor.
BD: Star Wars has become a multi-generational experience and we will be witnessing the next iteration of that.
DF: I think what’s fantastic about that are the differences between each generation and what they like. The original trilogy generation is the loudest and proudest and has the most fanfare in their mind, but the prequel generation is coming int their own now and they’re more vocal than they used to be. It’s kind of fun to watch them defending their prequels. But they all get together at Star Wars Celebration. When we did Clone Wars, we broke canon several times in the minds of the fans, though I was working with George so it was hard for me to believe how we were breaking canon with the creator.

But I’ve never shied away from any questions or debate because it comes from a place of passion and excitement. And you can go in so many different directions now with this saga and some kids are going to start with Episode VII and not have the context that you and I do. And what a great thing that they can deep dive into anything, including animation, video games, comic books. They’re a lucky generation and I’m glad that I get to help facilitate it.

BD: What are you most looking forward to?
DF: I’m very excited to see the new landscape take shape across cinema, TV, and video games, and to be a part of that. It’s going to be interesting to see how the world absorbs it all. It’s Star Wars on a scale we’ve never seen before. My role is to be a legacy person. While we must push the boundaries, I’m a voice at Lucasfilm to keep what the feeling is. I know understand more what the Obi-Wan was thinking rather than writing from the Luke Skywalker point of view.

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