Star Wars Rebels Communique: Filoni Talks “Twin Suns”
On Thursday, April 13, in just the first few moments of Star Wars Celebration Orlando (SWCO), The Maker himself said of A New Hope: “It’s a film for 12-year-olds…”
It follows that the rest of the canon flows from that premise.
However, there are times when fans lose their sense of humor about certain moments in the Saga. Gungan-related missteps, sand soliloquies, and midi-chlorian “symbionts” are just a few of the subjects, which test even the most suspended adolescence of Star Wars most ardent followers.
The most recent of those moments came in Star Wars Rebels second-to-last episode of Season 3. “Twin Suns” figured to become the highpoint of the Disney XD show’s third campaign; the kind of moment that would trigger nostalgia in older fans, but bring younger fans of the show into a greater appreciation of the canon.
No matter how you slice it, keeping that dichotomy straight seems a task earmarked for Master Yoda.
A Tough Task
Given the weekly cartoon serial is on a Disney-owned channel meant to woo the very 12-year-olds that George Lucas mentioned in his words during the “40th Anniversary” panel of SWCO, keeping everyone equally engaged is no easy job.
Nor is keeping the action (or lack thereof) true to the central tenets of its provenance.
Executive Producer Dave Filoni, said as much to the Lucasfilm Story Group’s Pablo Hidalgo, as the pair discussed the show during the “Animated Origins and Unexpected Fates” panel. Filoni explained perhaps the most controversial five minutes in nearly 10-seasons of television serials – the duel between Obi-wan Kenobi and Maul.
“I figured that this was like a film school section of this panel,” said Hidalgo, who posted Filoni’s hand-drawn outline on the video screen. “Take us through these storyboards.”
First, Filoni explained his “sage orientation” to the animators.
“When I want to get very specific details on certain things, I will still hand-draw, storyboard some stuff, at a very quick pace,” he said. “Then I will hand it off to the episodic director.
“I do this angle…so you can see the whole set, and understand the principal dynamic of where the two characters are.
“I knew how I wanted the beginning of it, but this got into the nitty-gritty [it]…you get a quick feeling of how the emotion should be,” he said.
Telling the Sandy Story
Filoni talked about Maul. He noted the swing of the lightsaber into the ground, which sent sand flying to put out Kenobi’s fire. This changed the lighting from fire-lit to star and saber-lit.
“When I wrote the script I was thinking of these things,” explained Filoni. “I know the image I want.”
In this case, that image included Ben and Maul facing off under the stars. Only their sabers to light their faces. A perfect setting for what Filoni believed should start with a war of words; diplomacy that Kenobi, true to his moniker of “The Negotiator”, always favored over death.
“Obi-wan is throwing this stuff at Maul, because Maul is trying to cut Obi-wan down with his words,” said Filoni. “For Maul, seeing Obi-wan in the desert is like a victory; ‘You’re nothing. You’re like me.’
“But Obi-wan is like, ‘No, actually, I’m nothing like you.”
Filoni explained that Maul hasn’t experienced any growth.
“He hasn’t grown, except in his anger and his need for revenge,” added Filoni, who said he decided that the visual of the Samurai-style switch of the grip by Obi-wan would convey more than any lengthy dialogue.
“[It’s] trying to convey that Maul is intense and over primed for this fight and Obi-wan is just very zen,” he said.
Unfortunately, many viewers found themselves in Maul’s shoes. They expected a drawn out fight (and still others certainly wished for less expository dialogue from Ezra in the desert).
Filoni explained that what he wanted to show — via Obi-wan’s switch in stance from the memorable Revenge of the Sith pose to a more Qui-gon Jinn stance reminiscent of Ben Kenobi’s in A New Hope — that the Jedi Master paid attention to his master’s demise.
The Economics of Execution
Furthermore, Filoni wished to convey the physical skill of Obi-wan via homage to A New Hope’s inspiration from Kurosawa’s samurai films.
“It’s actually a shot right out of The Seven Samurai,” said Filoni. “When Kyuzo strikes [his opponent] in the field, it’s one strike.”
Earlier, in the fights first iteration, Kenobi needed one blue-bladed slice. However, didn’t sit correctly with Filoni and his team.
“I was like, ‘You know, I know it’s dangerous to do not-a-big fight,’” he continued. “I know a lot of people would want a big fight. And it’s just Maul’s technique to go, really quick, one-two-three.
“It didn’t feel like Maul if he didn’t get a shot in… so it’s block, block, and he goes for that move [that took down Qui-gon in The Phantom Menace].”
However, Obi-wan showed progression as he defeated the move, which Qui-gon did not.
Unfortunately, the economics of time (and, certainly, just plain economics) also come into play. With just over 20 minutes to play with, Filoni must take care to stay on “budget”.
“This episode was 35 minutes long, and I only have 21 minutes to tell the story,” he said.
(Outer) Rim Shots
Be sure to read Kristin Baver’s tight synopsis of the panel at StarWars.com. In it, she outlines 11 major findings, including:
- Based on “leaked” images, The Lost Commanders will return. And the canonization of Rex into ROTJ seems confirmed. She writes: Rex, Wolffe, and Gregor from The Clone Wars returned to the screen in the Star Wars Rebels episode “The Lost Commanders.”… although Filoni said he originally wanted nine clone troopers to have survived, an homage to Walt Disney’s original core animators.
- Droid episodes provide a measure of comic relief. Baver says: Filoni is fond of using the curmudgeonly Chopper and now his counterpart AP-5 to cut the tension when he can. “One deep meaningful episode and then one about Chopper by the end of every season.”
- Ahsoka’s fate is in limbo. Kristen explains: Filoni and Hidalgo are still staying tight-lipped about the fate of Ahsoka…”[M]ore to say but it’s not going to be said here.”
Furthermore, Hidalgo and Filoni urged fans to listen in to Saturday’s “Star Wars Rebels” panel for more discussion on the above and what’s certain to be some insight into Season Four. Look for our report on that panel later this weekend.
Finally, be sure to warm up for Saturday morning’s 11 AM panel with this clip from Thursday.