“Stars Wars: The Bad Batch,” the animated “Clone Wars” spin-off series, kicks off the franchise’s May the Fourth celebration Tuesday on Disney+, exploring a rapidly changing galaxy and bridging the original trilogy. Based on George Lucas’ concept of “The Dirty Dozen,” and introduced at the start of the 7th and final season of “The Clone Wars,” the genetically-modified squad of elite clones takes center stage as the series segues into the post-war Imperial era ruled by Sith lord Sheev Palpatine. Chaos reigns, with the Republic crushed and the Jedi slaughtered, and the emergence of freedom fighters and mercenaries. But where does the Bad Batch fit in?
“Now we’re dealing with the aftermath of Order 66 [which forced the clones against their will to destroy their friends, the Jedi],” said Jennifer Corbett, the series producer and head writer. “This is underlined throughout the series because it’s what changes everything, and what really sets the Batch off on their journey in figuring out who they are and what they’re going to be in this new galaxy now that the war’s over and they’re technically not soldiers anymore.”
While the original clones were genetic copies of bounty hunter Jango Fett, the Bad Batch were special soldiers named Clone Force 99 (in honor of “defective” clone 99). Once again voiced by Dee Bradley Baker, they all possess unique qualities: Hunter, the leader, is a supreme tracker and sports a red headband; Tech is the fast-talking computer whiz; Crosshair is the sharpshooter; Wrecker is the muscle; and Echo is a regular clone-turned cyborg with great behind the lines intel abilities.
One of Lucas’ mandates, though, was not to make the Bad Batch superheroes, and this has been carried over to their series. “The idea was to have them work together as a team and overcoming obstacles,” added Brad Rau, producer and supervising director. “This is something that when we get it right, it really pops. But it’s not always easy to set it up right.”
Yet it’s perfectly set up in the premiere when the Bad Batch is recruited by Imperial officer Grand Moff Tarkin (Stephen Stanton), who tests their loyalty with a trap, which enables the confused squad to display their strength as a team.
In terms of the design and animation, the series serves as a spiritual successor to “The Clone Wars,” continuing down a more realistic-looking path. Pre-production is handled by Lucasfilm Animation in North America, with the animation done at CGCG Animation Studio in Taiwan, which has been a part of the team since the beginning of “The Clone Wars.”
“It’s essentially the same style, but we took the opportunity to push the fidelity of the design and the assets and the way things are rigged and animated to give more nuance to the animation,” Rau said. “And we try to push how we’re filming everything so it’s more like live action in the way it’s lighted, and the amount of detail and depth of focus is more than we’ve ever done on any of our shows.”
However, as the time line gets closer to the original trilogy, the look of the Clone Trooper vehicles and equipment (V-wings, attack shuttles, All Terrain Tactical Enforcers) are familiar but muted. “We start draining the color from them, making them less individualistic,” Rau continued. “Storm Troopers keep their helmets on more often as a way to shift into that Imperial look and feel from a palette standpoint. It’s very much black-and-white.”
But the most noteworthy part of “The Bad Batch” is the inclusion of a younger version of the badass mercenary Fennec Shand (voiced by Ming-Na Wen) from “The Mandalorian.” “We get to see what she was like in the very beginning of her career as a bounty hunter,” said Corbett. “We talked to Dave Filoni [creator of ‘The Clone Wars’ and executive producer of ‘The Mandalorian’ and ‘The Bad Batch’] a lot about this character and her backstory, and what he envisioned.”
Corbett and Rau also involved Wen in the creative conversation about her character’s look and voice. They continued with her sleek, fox-like persona, in honor of the Fennec name. Like her older, live-action counterpart, the newbie bounty hunter wears a black suit with orange trim around her gloves and other accessories, as well as orange braids with fox ears at the top. She also speaks slowly and purposefully to assess the situation before striking quickly.
“It’s really fun to have Ming-Na Wen play that role for us and figuring out what motivates her and drives her,” added Corbett. “And it will be really interesting for fans to see the difference between the young, intro version to her and then where she ends up on ‘The Mandalorian’ [where she’s been forced to confront her vulnerability as a cyborg partner to Fett].”