Filmmaker and artist Dave Filoni is right at home among the fans here at Comic-Con. It’s obvious from the moment he starts talking that he’s a keen consumer of pop culture, and that passion served him well as supervising director of the animated series The Clone Wars, which lasted six seasons on Cartoon Network. Now, he’s found another creative outlet in his latest project, Star Wars Rebels for Disney XD. We had a chance to sit down with Filoni one on one to talk about Star Wars Rebels and how it relates to the rest of the Star Wars universe. Read the full interview after the jump.
Set in the gap between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, Rebels follows the ragtag crew of The Ghost as they travel around the galaxy, evading the Empire and sewing the seeds of rebellion wherever they can. In creating the look of the series, Filoni and his team combed through the Lucasfilm archives to find original concept drawings done for the first Star Wars movie by artist Ralph McQuarrie and incorporated many of the designs. We asked him how he felt about carrying the Star Wars torch for a whole new generation of fans.
Do you feel any responsibility on your shoulders now as the sort of a steward of this franchise?
FILONI: It’s a guilty pleasure that things I loved as a kid I now have the power to put into motion and up on screen. But my logic is, well, if I liked it, bet you other people like it too. So they’re going to be just as excited to see it as I am. And there are all these little moments and Easter eggs that people catch. Like in the screening last night somebody noticed in the trailer there’s an old McQuarrie protocol droid. He did more of a Metropolis kind that he designed. And we stuck it in there because we liked it.
Do those kinds of things things thrill you as a fan as much as a filmmaker?
FILONI: It’s really fun. People say, “Are you excited when those things become action figures?” And I’m like, “What do you think?” I go downstairs to the Hasbro booth and I just sit there and look at them all. One of the most exciting things was the first day I got down there and finally they had the Hera and Sabine action figures. And they make great action figures. I like that the Rebels action figures are a little bit more retro. They look more like classic Hasbro, or Kenner figures. They don’t need all the ball joints and stuff.
One of the new characters, Sabine, is a graffiti artist, which is something that feels very current. Have you found it challenging to keep the show fresh and relevant to new generation of fans while still pleasing the old ones?
FILONI: It is hard. We had done a rather aggressive, kind of artistic interpretation of Mandalore. They had some very modern art. We had some paintings based on Guernica and abstract, very cubist kind of things. It was Mandalorian Picasso. So she would have been affected by all of that artwork, but she’s expressing it in her way. So her tagging comes out of that and it comes out of the idea that in Rome there was a lot of graffiti. As things become more pressured in a culture people want to speak out. So she’s part of this subculture. She leaves her calling card. So it’s like a hidden language among the people. And I think kids enjoy that. It’s part of their world now.
As a sort of a feminine Boba Fett, at least visually, do you see Sabine becoming a breakout character?
FILONI: The reaction to her has been great. I mean, people have been saying that’s something they like. And I can’t stress enough, it’s something new. And when you haven’t seen something in Star Wars before and it becomes part of it there will always be the naysayers who say, “Well, that’s not what it is.” I’m like, “What do you want it to be? You want to go back to Tatooine again? You want to do another Snow Walker battle?” Those things were done really well already. Maybe we don’t go back to these places. Maybe we set foot on a new planet that Ralph designed that never saw the light of day. Maybe we bring in new characters that do different things that we’ve never seen.
You created a great female character in Clone Wars with Ahsoka Tano. And now there are two on this show, Sabine and Hera. Was that a deliberate effort to attract more female viewers?
FILONI: You know, you run into people and they have these ideas about what roles are and they don’t necessarily get it. I have an amazing education through my wife on female fans and perspectives on it. Things that I never would have thought of. So when we create these characters I ask her questions all the time. “How will this work?” And “Is this something we should do?” I think that’s a very important perspective to understand.
Clone Wars was a show with a broad appeal to both kids and grownups. Is that still the case with Star Wars Rebels?
FILONI: I hope so. I had the same target audience I did when I did Clone Wars. I always described it as six to 46 and beyond. The best compliment we ever got on Clone Wars was a parent coming up and telling me that it was something they could watch with their kids. I really love that. I felt, to be honest, as we did Clone Wars it got so dark that we alienated a good part of the younger viewers, which I think works counter to your purpose on a show like Star Wars. When people ask me if I’m making it for kids I just chuckle and go, “Well, of course.” And then they’re like, “Why?” And I’m like, “How old were you when you saw Star Wars for the first time?” They go, “I was six. I remember it exactly” And I’m like, “Well, there you go.”