Genndy Tartakovsky Talks About Star Wars: Clone Wars (Again)

What did you think of the fan and public reaction to the first 10 episodes of Star Wars: Clone Wars?


I’ve been pretty pleased with most of the things I have heard.  The responses I have heard from kids have been the best.  They really liked it.  I heard about one couple that recorded all the episodes and they use it as a bribery tool – if their kid is good, they’ll let him watch an episode.


And what about from the hardcore Star Wars fans?


It’s also been pretty positive.  I think the biggest complaint has been the time.  Everyone wanted them to be longer.


But overall everyone has been happy with all the action and the way that we portrayed the characters.  At least that’s what I’ve learned from talking to people and on the Internet.  Of course, there are always going to be people who don’t like something.  But it seems like about 90 percent of the people really liked it. 


A major new villain, General Grievous, is introduced iun Chapter 20 and will play a major role in the upcoming feature, Star wars: Episode III.  How did you feel about that experience?


Introducing the new character of General Grievous is an awesome responsibility.  Working with the great characters of the Star Wars universe was humbling to all of us on the crew of Star Wars: Clone Wars, but helping to create a new character that will enter the mythology has made us truly feel a part of the Star Wars family.  The fact that he is a powerful villain made it even cooler.


There are a lot of characters in the next batch of episodes that will be new to the casual Star Wars fan – like Barris Offee and Luminara Unduli.  Why did you choose to bring them into the story at this point?


We briefly saw these characters in Star Wars Episode II Attack of the Clones and thought they were really cool.  So we decided to build a couple of episodes around them.


We always loved the idea of where the crystals that power the lightsabers come from.  And of course, during war, someone would always sabotage the supplies, so that’s where this story comes from.  The Sepratists want to destroy the Jedi crystals so that the Jedi would not have powers.  So that’s where that story originates – so we can see the Jedi Caverns on Ilum. 


It’s part of the classic Star wars lore that we all kind of knew about.  It was a mystery that we wanted to explore.  All these stories have originated from things we’ve always wondered about.  Everything flowed really easily.  We didn’t have to do much research.  It was embedded in us.


How has this affected your relationship to Star Wars as a fan?


It’s still fun to look at it, but I’ll need some time off of it before I go back and re-watch any of the things I’ve already seen – including Star Wars: Clone Wars.


What about George Lucas’ reaction?


It’s been really great. I heard that he said that it is Star Wars, which is what we set out to do: to create really cool action cartoons that fit into the Star Wars story.  He’s been really happy about it, especially because his kids like it too, which is important. 


Are there any differences in the tone between the first ten episodes, which aired in November 2003, and the final ten, which air this spring?


I think once we get to the last three episodes, the tone gets much darker because the stakes are much higher. 


Do you have a favorite chapter?


My favorites are Chapters 12 and 13 – the ones with Mace Windu.  That huge seismic tank is brand new. It is one of the first ideas that I had on this project. 


What was your favorite character to bring into the animated realm?


It was fun to do Yoda.  He’s kind of cute, and in these episodes you get to see how tough he is.   They did this in the movies, but we push the concept even further. 


And then Mace was really fun to do. It’s just a lot of action, so we were able to really explore Jedi powers.


How does this prepare viewers for what’s coming in the next movie?


Most of the series have been stand-alone episodes, but in the last episode there is a surprise that ties into the next movie. 


You really spent a lot of time making sure that, in addition to looking like Star Wars, it sounded like it, too.  Why so much emphasis on the sound and music?


In the Star Wars universe, so much relies on the sound.  Even as an adult, we can all remember the sound of a lightsaber.  The sounds that R2-D2 makes are so particular.


As we started this project, we knew we’d have to spend a lot of energy to make the sound stand out.  And in television, all the sound is kind of squashed. 


We really had to plan out how we would balance the music and sound effects.  We had to keep it a little more open – so that if we had a big fight sequence, we would stick to just sound effects.  If the scene is more emotional, we’d go with just music.  We had to break it apart a little more than if we were making a feature, where there is room in the dynamic range for both things.


Having access to the Lucas library was the key, because it let us make everything sound authentic. 


There seem to be more characters and locations involved in the final ten chapters than we saw in the first ten.  Was that a deliberate part of your plan?

In the beginning, we needed to set up the big overall story, so we kept the first 10 chapters simple and linear.  If we jumped around too much in the beginning, we thought it would be too distracting. 


The first 10 play out very straight and orderly.  We remind everyone of the story in Chapter 11 and Chapters 12 though 16 are separate stories.  We move around a lot.  Then Chapters 17 through 20 build to a big finish. 


Were there any big themes that you wanted to weave through the entire “epic micro-series”?


Really, we just wanted good stories and lots of action.  As the story with Anakin and Asajj builds, there is a little more intensity that comes out, character-wise.  It gets more emotional.  The episodes with Mace Windu are just a lot of fun. 


How has this experience changed the way you approach your craft – in terms of storytelling, how to build action sequences and how long a cartoon needs to be?


I think that working in a limited time frame taught me how to really boil down storytelling to the most essential bits.  Where we could stretch out in Samurai Jack, here we had to distill everything – to make it much, much shorter and have the same emotional impact. 


The ability to finesse dialogue was a big issue as well.  We really had to be much more precise with the words to fit into the time frame.  We had to condense it into its perfect form  - to say nothing more than needs to be said, but also nothing less. 


It was also useful to work on someone else’s characters.  It was kind of difficult.  For most of my career, I have worked on my own stuff or things I have helped create.  This was hard – to do justice to someone else’s creation. 


What’s next for you now?


I want to work on an animated feature, but I’ll need a little time off to think after this.


Source: Cartoon Network Pressroom (Now defunct)