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July 11, 2008

First look: 'Star Wars: The Clone Wars' TV series

By James Hibberd & Kimberly Nordyke

Clone_Wars TCA -- Taking a cue from Comic-Con, Cartoon Network took the unusual step of screening a full episode of its upcoming CG-animated series "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" for critics during its TCA session. The event was billed as the debut screening of the show.

For what seemed like the first time all week, the majority of critics were focused on a network's presentation instead of their computers.

The episode was firmly impressive. "Clone Wars" is likely the most photo-realistic animated TV series ever produced. The surround-sound detail was striking. The series is shot in high definition and it shows – images have that rich Renaissance painting quality familiar to HD fans. 

"I wanted it to look like a painting," said supervising director Dave Filoni. "I got involved in textures and hand-painted styles on every character. I wanted this hands-on quality with a texture artist literally painting every character right down to the eyeball. I wanted a human touch on everything.”

The result is a show that doesn’t look entirely unlike the "Star Wars" prequels. The oft-derided cartoon CG glaze of the recent films took the franchise a few steps into the animated universe. While the “Clone Wars” series takes television animation a few steps closer to theatrical quality. So the distance in realism between the movies and the animated series is less than you’d expect.

More details after the jump...

"Clone Wars" opens with a brief, percussion-tinged variation on John Williams' "Stars Wars" theme. The episode featured Yoda leading a group of Clone Troopers on a mission, and falling into a trap. The episode leaned too heavily on the silly, threat-free battle droids that didn’t really work in the prequels. Yet the episode was effective. During one scene, Yoda uses the Force to control an enemy super battle droid to take out a group of attackers. "That’s a lot of smoke for a surrender," notes a distant observer.

The season includes 22 half-hour episodes that will premiere this fall, and will feature brief story arcs taking place across the Star Wars universe. Filoni said that despite viewers already knowing the past and future story of the Clone Wars, there’s still plenty of material to work with.

"Because you’re going to the right and left of the plot and characters, some that you’ve never seen before, you can keep stretching it and see things George Lucas and I would like to see," he said. "Anytime we go anywhere near Anakin or Obi Wan we’re paying close attention to make sure everything links up."

The Clone Troopers (eventual Storm Troopers) will be shown to have more individual personalities than in the films, he added.

“It’s a nice dose of Star Wars every week,” he said. “No more waiting three years between each episode.”

Here's the "Clone Wars" trailer.


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