Star Wars Rebels unofficially kicked off its second season with the TV Movie Siege of Lothal that saw our ragtag band of heroes being forcibly removed from their home planet now that the Empire sees them as a real threat. Having sent out Darth Vader to deal with them, Kanan and Ezra realize they are clearly outmatched and are now retreating with the military that seeks to bring down the Galactic Empire.
We were recently invited to screen the first two episodes of the second season – which brings back some Clone Wars fan-favorite characters like Rex – and sit down with fellow journalists to talk about the upcoming season with creator and executive producer Dave Filoni. Check out the full interview below.
What is the production process for each episode of Star Wars Rebels as compared to Star Wars: The Clone Wars?
Dave Filoni: Clone Wars was easily a year. Rebels we have down, I like to say, to several months, from script to screen, to shoot an episode. Once I have the script and I hand it off to the director, that takes about six weeks to actually just shoot it, so it is rough proxy. Then I send it to Disney, and they send it back, and they talk about what they like and don’t like. [We’re] given two additional weeks to revise that reel. Once that eight week period is over it goes into animation and lighting, and we are just running at that point until we get it back up until three months all said. I’ve got one more shot to change anything that is horrifically wrong and embarrassing, and to get something right that is not working. And final sound design and music. I don’t believe in the statement “fix it in post.” At that point it is probably too late. There was a cast a couple weeks ago where I was getting rid of a couple lines of dialogue and final sound block, it just hits ya wrong. I’ve come to the decision that trusting that instinct when you are watching something and you just have the slightest little tick of “mmm, that’s lame,” but you have to stop and get rid of it, you have to crush that. It’s a lot harder than you think, but it can make a big difference in the episode. I say Rebels is more eight months. Depends when you think about it from story to its inception.
Geeks of Doom: Why release the Siege of Lothal two months before the season 2 premiere of the show?
Dave Filoni: It is an interesting thing because I don’t have a lot to do with that. If you asked me right now “Dave, when does the show start,” I don’t even know. I’m so busy making the show. Someone will say, “I just saw the episode last night,” and I’ll go “uh, great.” That is not the world I am in anymore because Star Wars is happening 24 hours a day. What I found fascinating this year is that when Clone Wars would end, and the next season would start, for whatever reason it didn’t feel like that big a period, but this felt like a long time to me. So I emphasize with the wait for the fans. The only thing I could say is that there is so much Star Wars news everyday, I can’t imagine anyone lacking for Star Wars information. Everything in my feed is Star Wars news, Steelers and Penguins, Pirates every now and then. But that is about all I get. At least we get stuff to talk about. I’d like to think people are excited to have Darth Vader in some stuff, they couldn’t wait to release it. In [Star Wars] Celebration we had a great opportunity. We like to connect directly with the fans, at Lucasfilm. So to fill a room up with fans, and have them all watch in a room together was an awesome opportunity, because I had a lot of key creatives from my team there who don’t get to do events like this. For the actors I think it is important to hear what the audience reacts to, what they don’t. It’s an exciting experience, and an educational one for my crew.
Geeks of Doom: With the confirmation of the additions of Ahsako Tano and Rex, how much will we see of them in season 2?
Dave Filoni: Their story had to serve the story of Rebels. I couldn’t just haphazardly bring them in because I like them. I love the characters Ahsoka and Rex. It was hard to let them go after telling their stories. But it had to be purposeful. For a long time on season 1 I didn’t want to have them in it. It would be brought up to me by different members of the story group, I think they wanted to be nice and say “Hey Dave, we are open to this,” I’m like “It’s not right. Kanan, Ezra, Hera, Sabine, Zeb, they have to own that space.” So once you know them, and you understand their character dynamics, to sit there and say “I wonder what Kanan would think of Rex,” and you realize he’d wouldn’t think much of Rex. That’s very challenging because the kids who grew up with Rex love Rex. But if I was able to create a group that love Rex, but they also secretly love Kanan, now we have a conflict. But you also have a boy that didn’t know the Clone Wars, like any kid who didn’t watch the Clone Wars, so they go “What’s the problem with Rex?” So that’s what we found really interesting. That helped serve the relationship of Kanan and Ezra really well. Ahoska really helped serve the story as far as if you wanna have Vader in Rebels, you can’t just bring him into it because he’s going to crush them. They don’t stand a chance. Ahsoka has a personal connection to Anakin Skywalker that we believe people are interested in. Once that side of the story emerges, what’s Vader like before realizes his son is alive, so that became important. Plus she is a Force wielder that is way more progress than Kanan. She’s had training from Anakin Skywalker, one of the greatest Jedi of all time, from Obi-Wan Kenobi, from Yoda, so she brings that lineage to the rebels, but a perspective of “that didn’t work for me, I walked away from it,” which is also challenging then when you get to Ezra because he is a kid, one of the first kids where there is no Jedi order. There is no temple for him to go to. There isn’t 10,000 examples of what it is to be a good Jedi. He’s making this up as a student as he goes as much as Kanan has to make up the training based on his memory of when he was a child. Those are all interesting story problems for Star Wars Rebels to have that made it worth while.
Geeks of Doom: What’s it been like for you to be able to explore deeper into the Star Wars mythology since Disney acquired the property and has allowed it to expand beyond canon with spinoffs?
Dave Filoni: I think for me it is the opportunity we have for the characters, and what I mean is if things have to go dark at times then it has to. You learn more about these guys at the beginning of season 1. Now it’s season 2 it gets more complex. It is a natural story course for me. The only challenge I find creatively when writing it at times is that kids now have cell phones that probably work better than the communicators they had in A New Hope. Threepio could have put the comm on vibrate, instead of shutting it off, maybe he would have probably known there was a trash compactor, I don’t know. It’s about the character opportunity for me.
Geeks of Doom: Can you talk about the evolution these characters will go through in season 2?
Dave Filoni: It’s a different type of evolution for because, Ahsoka was in a system where she was trained in temple, and she had very formal teachings before she met Anakin, and Anakin changes that. With these guys we have a much more diverse group of characters as far as some are weapons experts, some are great pilots, one makes it up as he goes, one is a clear cut warrior, it has been interesting to develop. We spend less time on what their skills are and more time developing them as a person. I think in thing in season two what is most exciting is that you will learn a lot more about where they came from and what drove them to the position they are in Star Wars Rebels, which I think is what people wanted in season 1. Like for example, if you didn’t know about Clone Wars, you got a whole lot of information on Kanan having to explain to Ezra what happened to him and why he feels the way he feels about Rex. You’ll have episodes where it just focuses on Hera, and you’ll learn all about her. We have more than one actually which does explain the back story. One is very much she was the pilot and what that is about, and the other, I’ll just say it since I am in the mood today, gets into her family and her father and why she is not a part of Ryloth, and what happened there because her father was a big revolutionary in Clone Wars, so you almost think it would be natural she be alongside him. We get very specifically into those character backgrounds in season 2.
There is an awesome one about Tiya Sircar (who voices Sabine) we have a new trailer that we are going to debut next week, and there is something you will definitely get if you watched Clone Wars, and I won’t have to hint about what it is because if you watched Clone Wars and you hear what Sabine says you’ll go, “Oh, that changes a lot.” She gets a lot of velvet. I’ll say this, we are working very far ahead in the show, and I would argue where we end up in the future on Rebels, Sabine kind of elevates and is as every bit as important as Ezra when you think of dynamically who the show is about and where does it go, because they are both kind of the young people dealing with this war, and it just became more important to elevate them and have the mentor characters be supportive. They all get much deeper backstories and you get to see it not hear it, which is fun.
Geeks of Doom: Now that Disney owns Lucasfilm, how has your discussions with George Lucas changed?
Dave Filoni: As far as “Jey George, I have this idea, what do you think?” no we don’t talk like that. We cover any number of topics, TV shows we watch, I could never get him to talk about sports, but that’s George. Before we left, we had a lot of discussions. I would bring up things that I thought were very important like Ahsoka and Darth Vader and asked them “if they ever met, what would happen” and he would discuss it. I’ve done several drawings of that encounter as a result of it. I made sure before it was officially separated Disney and Star Wars and George, that I’ve made sure to them had these discussions with him because I don’t want to bother him. He created it. It is always going to be special and important to him. But also he is as excited to see what everybody does with it. I’ve shown him Rebels. So he’s seen it. He knows I follow the lessons I was taught as any good Jedi should. But I’ve expanded on a few things that I wanted to do, but nothing I feel out of accord of what he would have done. Every decision I have made on Clone Wars I did or every interview I did I said “Is this something I would say or do if George were here,” because I so greatly respect that it is his universe. Even to this day as I go forth I always ask myself, “Is that something you really want?” the fans want all kinds of things, but you can’t get caught up in that, and I will tell you why, it is because Star Wars is so strong after so many years, and people love so many aspects of it, you have to be careful what you are serving. So you always have to serve the character and story of Star Wars. I would say to the prequels kids who love their prequel movies, they are very vocal now about what they love about it. And I love them too. They get a lot of flack for it, they don’t care. There are some of the most exciting moments in those films, and I have always been a big supporter of them, and I am still. I treat Rebels the same way I treat Clone Wars, which is if it is something compelling, I bring it in. So there is still stuff from the EU, which is now called Legends, that appears in Rebels from time to time the same way it appears in Clone Wars.
Geeks of Doom: So what is it like to bring characters from the Clone Wars back to Rebels?
Dave Filoni: I always thought it was important that a kid watching Ahsoka can still see there is still a part of her that will wink at you and has fun, because it’s who she is. As young person and as an older person you keep a lot of traits, and you choose to be very specific when it creeps in. Most of the time for me for Ahsoka she is looking at this world at these friends, and especially Kanan and Ezra, and it reminds her of the way things used to be, and things aren’t that way now, and all of that got taken from her, and she is trying to figure out how does she move forward herself. She very much respect and cares about them, and is happy for them. But she does not have that any more, and she wouldn’t even inject herself or include herself to what’s going on there, except in very minimal ways as she figures out her own past.
Geeks Of Doom: Can you talk about Sabine’s journey in this season?
Dave Filoni: I just think it was important to flesh out all the characters, especially someone like Sabine. There is so many interesting things, just the fact that she is Mandalorian. We dealt so much with Madalorians in Clone Wars. We have a whole history that I have diagrammed on white boards at Lucasfilm to track all these family houses and who belongs to what. It is a very complex world and one that I know fans are interested in. I just think the idea that she is from this warrior culture, gets brought into the forefront as we move forward, because I think people want to know more about it. I think she like anyone has parents, and a family, and what were they like, and now that we know there is such a history on Madalor, were they involved in any of that. The other interesting to me is like, this is a strange discovery to me this season, I found there to be at least two cases where we were filming something in a developed character and then I realized that character had been on screen in Clone Wars and I didn’t even know it, because they had a helmet on. But when you think about it, it is reasonable to assume that the character was standing right there. Because in Clone Wars, it was just a background character wearing a helmet, you would never know. But now it’s like you find these people in the story as you evolve it. I would say that is a bit the case with some of Sabine’s history. She wasn’t around to see any of that since she was a young child. I can’t even get to the importance of developing these female characters in a multiple roles as mentors, as cadets, as strong personalities, you want the whole range for people to look at. As you go through Star Wars we have so many examples of so many different characters that boys grew up emulating. We need to broaden that. It’s just been a real goal of mine. My wife is very outspoken in all these things that she studies and researches. The most important thing I’ve done is listen to her and any other woman that’s come up to me to say, “This is what I feel we’re missing and lacking.” It’s the same trait I took on frankly that made me successfully work with George. I listened to him. I don’t know the best way to tell those stories. I’m in a position where I have the authority to put them into play. So, my strongest play here can be I want to activate that.
I want to create these opportunities and then see how far they can go. Tiya has earned that in her performance. Vanessa’s performance so strongly identified with girls because they go, “Oh my gosh, Hans Solo was the pilot that I knew. Now it’s Hera, and she’s an awesome pilot.” What does that mean? When Ahsoka stepped on stage as the apprentice to what people identified as the most powerful Jedi of all time, it was like a bomb for fans. “What how can that be?” It just is. Just deal with it. Guess what that means? It means that she’s a better sword fighter than Kanan. When you develop these characters, it’s so important, because it makes your universe real. Because, people feel that these characters are real. I just think it’s the way to go. Hera is interesting. I want to tell stories about compelling people. Freddie gets his day, Tiya gets her day, even Chopper gets his day. When I talk about backstories, everybody gets it. You will find out where Hera found Chopper, and how she rebuilt him. It’s actually really important. But I would say of arcs, Chopper is the only one that doesn’t arc. He’s kind of a jerk in the beginning, and he’s still pretty much of a jerk at the end. It’s like your cat who will sit on your lap more, but it’s still a jerk. There’s not much you can do to change it. I think it’s important for Chopper. He does get a friend this year. That’s a big step for him.
This is a minor spoiler alert, as the first two episodes serve as an arc that reintroduces us to Rex, a fan-favorite clone trooper that helped Ahsoka and Anakin and the rest of the Jedi in Clone Wars. Because Kanan resents all clones because they carried out Order 66, he distrusts Rex, Wolff, and Gregor. However, they successfully survive an attack by three AT-ATs, and managed to commandeer one of them. Filoni explains how a scene that was inspired by Kelly’s Heroes, one of his favorite movies, was taken out. But holds on hope that you may see it in the future.
Dave Filoni: There was an additional ending on this story. Gregor and Wolffe actually take the AT-AT. There’s a version of that AT-AT that Sabine has painted that has a giant wolf head on the side of the AT-AT head. It was great. Everybody was like, “You’re not really going to do that?” They prevented me from putting a tail, because I just thought it looked like a gray wolf. It’s one of those things where sometimes I wanted to have more fun than the gang does. I had to cut it for time, but the whole idea for film nerds about why they would take this tank at the end was based on Kelly’s Heroes where Oddball (Donald Sutherland), the tank driver, has a Sherman tank, and then he steals it. He pays for the Tiger tank at the end. I loved that movie. I had to get that in there, and there’s more Rex coming up. The sad thing is now you can feel the power you have when you know the story and no one else does. Dee hasn’t seen those episodes yet, but it is fun. You can reference stuff that Dee is in and he won’t know. You’re going to see it wonderfully soon.
Star Wars Rebels Season 2 returns October 14, 2015 on Disney XD.