It is easily argued that Disney’s recent smash hit series The Mandalorian is one of the best incarnations of the Star Wars universe. Not only has The Mandalorian returned the sometimes troubled Star Wars franchise to its space western/samurai roots, it has begun to incorporate elements from beyond the films back into the fold. Major characters like Cobb Vanth from the Star Wars Aftermath book series, Bo-Katan from the 2009 computer animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars series, and even subtle references to “Life Day” from the unfortunate Star Wars Holliday Special have made their way into various canonical episodes. There is one series, however, that still remains lost in the abyss of disavowed Star Wars content and desperately deserves to be recognized. Genndy Tartakovsky’s Star Wars: Clone Wars (2003) is still some of the best Star Wars content out there, even if George Lucas and Disney don’t want you to see it.
What Is ‘Star Wars: Clone Wars’?
For many, Star Wars: Clone Wars was the first look at the Star Wars universe outside of a movie theater. It was intended as a small teaser to keep people interested in the franchise between core film releases. What Genndy Tartakovsky gave us was a thrilling look at a galaxy far far away, in a way we had never seen before. We saw familiar faces, new allies, and dangerous enemies all wrapped up in a narrative that, many believe, surpasses any of the theatrical releases to this day.
A Master Class In Animated Storytelling
Those who remember the golden age of basic cable will fondly recall Gendy Tartakovsky’s work. His iconic visual style and storytelling were revolutionary in the genre of children’s animation, including Samurai Jack and Dexter’s Laboratory, and this was never more true than in Star Wars: Clone Wars. Bold lines, bright colors, and sharp edges cut their way through unique and dynamic worlds. There is minimal dialog throughout the series, but the visual storytelling is so strong that few words are needed to convey the tension and emotion of the story.
A True Star War
Despite the title, very few of the various incarnations of Star Wars take place during an actual war. At the time of its creation Star Wars: Clone Wars would be the first glimpse of a galaxy in open conflict. Taking storytelling cues from early Japanese directors like Akira Kurosawa and mixing it with elements found in Stephen Spielberg’s war movies, Genndy Tartakovsky created a true war epic. He was able to depict large scale battles that felt suitably massive and one on one duels that were packed with emotion. Genndy explained one of his major influences in an interview:
“I like compare it to HBO’s Band of Brothers – a project I really admired that takes a huge story like the European Allied campaign of World War II and presents it in a series of “a day in the life of” stories… We’re able to explain the goals and obstacles the old Republic and Jedi must face, reveal important internal conflicts between the main characters, and still have time to highlight the action of the battle.”
The Best Version of Anakin Skywalker
The story told in Star Wars: Clone Wars is a vast one, and Lucasfilm placed some pretty extreme time constraints on Genndy and his team both in episode length and development time. That didn’t stop Genndy from injecting some real substance and character into his protagonists. Multiple familiar Jedi are given wonderful character arcs, not the least of which is Anakin Skywalker. We were able to see his continued training under Obi-Wan, his ascension to knighthood within the Jedi Order, the evolution of his hairstyle from boyish buzz cut and padawan braid to luscious rockstar locks (something even the later computer-animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars didn’t touch on despite the timeline), and flashes of the anger and rage that would foreshadow his villainous transformation.
The Best Villains
Star Wars: Clone Wars saw the introduction of some extremely cool villains, many of whom would never be seen outside Genndy Tartakovsky’s limited series. There are a few, however, that would stand the test of time, and remain canon to this day. Besides Count Dooku, who made his first appearance in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, Genndy gave us something of an origin story for his Sith apprentice/assassin named Ventress and it was the first time anyone had seen the sinister cyborg General Grievous. In fact, Clone Wars would introduce Grievous in one of the most intense scenes in the entire series, and answer the question ‘how did he get all those cool lightsabers?’. Gendy Tartakovsky explained how that scene came to be in an interview:
“We were able to introduce [General] Grievous, and, even at the time, he was kind of a new addition, so George didn’t have him all figured out… we were kind of able to give it our own spin and make him a real badass. “
The Best Jedi
In the Star Wars prequel films, the Jedi order is often referenced but rarely seen. The governing body, the Jedi Council is shown mainly as old Jedi sitting around discussing Anakin’s personal life like a cabal of gossipy grandmas. Those truly invested in the series had long desired to see more of this supposedly powerful force for justice in the universe.
In Star Wars: Clone Wars we saw an altogether different side to the order. They were warriors and generals leading their armies into battle. They were protectors defending the innocent (and not so innocent). We even got a full 8 minute 2 part episode of fan favorite Mace Wundu being an absolute force fueled beast! Don’t take my word for it, see part one here.
Why Can’t We See Clone Wars Now?
The sad truth is that, in proving that Star Wars could be adapted for television, Star Wars: Clone Wars had a hand in its own destruction. The micro-series was such a success that it spurred George Lucas to want to expand upon the concept. He would create a long-form CGI series to explore that same time period in more detail, and in doing so, cast aside the micro-series that so many had come to love. Disney has since mirrored this decision and declined to add it to their Disney+ catalogue, or even release the series on disk. Almost as a cruel joke, the series that replaced Star Wars: Clone Wars would bear an almost identical name, Star Wars: The Clone Wars. As Tartakovsky explained to Digital Spy:
“It’s frustrating that they tried to erase it from being canon… at first it was canon. And then once George [Lucas] started doing the CG version, he wanted to clean the slate. And so they de-canonised ours.”
Tartakovsky’s Lasting Legacy
While the servers of Disney+ still sadly lack the majesty of Star Wars: Clone Wars, there can be no doubt that Genndy Tartakovsky and his team have left an indelible mark upon Star Wars. Ideas cooked up in Tarkovsky’s animation laboratory laid the foundation for shows like The Mandalorian, and revolutionized the way we saw the Star Wars universe. His work will forever be remembered by those who saw it as one of the best Star Wars properties ever.
Even through all of this adversity, what is Star Wars without a ray of hope. ScreenHub Entertainment has created a petition on behalf of this wonderful little show. I plead with each of you, if you’ve loved Clone Wars from the start, if you’ve just discovered it, or if this article has piqued your interest in any way, sign our petition. Let Disney know that, canon or not, everyone should have the opportunity to see the amazing hand-animated war story that is Genndy Tartakovsky’s Star Wars: Clone Wars.
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