Star Wars is deepening its repertoire of animated content to accompany the films. But does the story value of these films have more to present for fans besides being ancillary material? At Dragon Con in Atlanta this year, a group of Star Wars fans came together to discuss and make the case for why more people should get into animation. Caitlin Plesher of The Skytalkers Podcast moderated the panel, joined by her co-host Charlotte Errity, John Liang of Retrozap.com, Hope Mullinax of the Jaig Eyes & Jedi Podcast, artist Logan McGaw, and cosplayer Melissa Pye, delved into why the animated Star Wars series of the Disney era are so important to the overall canon, and why they have some of the best storytelling in the Star Wars universe. The panel as a whole made the case for more fans to engage with animation.
They spoke on about how the various Star Wars animation series relate to the wider universe and why people should pay attention to them. The Skytalkers have longtime said on their podcast “Look to the animation department for the future of Star Wars.” As a longtime listener of their podcast and Star Wars watcher, I can echo this statement emphatically.
One key thing stressed was the accessibility that the animated shows provide for incoming viewers, particularly younger ones. Hope asked young audience members under 18 to raise their hands. “You guys are the future of Star Wars too,” she said. “It’s so important that you guys have an outlet to get you into the genre.” Caitlin concurred. “That’s one of the great things about Star Wars now and with all of these new animated shows. There are so many entry points into Star Wars.”
Hope also later gave a poignant speech about why she, in fact, preferred the animated series to the Original Trilogy films. The crux of her reasoning was that the animated shows give so much more room for flawed characters to grow and change, whereas the film characters may not have that space to grow on screen. She said that although she loved Leia, she could see herself much more in the messy Ahsoka Tano. “She was flawed. She was so flawed….She struggled. It was the first time I saw myself in Star Wars.”
Caitlin, a longtime Ahsoka fan, concurred and noted how it tied into one of her favorite animated stories. “One of my favorite arcs that I’ll always go back to is the Ahsoka Leaves arc at the end of Season 5 of Clone Wars.” She further explained that because she became a Star Wars fan after Revenge of the Sith, that she could be surprised by the story direction of this new character, and be invested in her journey.
Melissa noted that with the animated shows, there is so much more opportunity to explore the Galaxy Far, Far Away than what is allotted in the main films. “In all the animations you have a better opportunity to world-build. In the movies, you’re limited by the time-span the movie’s going to run and you don’t get to see the background characters.”
The panelists were asked about their favorite arcs across the shows, and what viewers should check out. James had a singular answer, one that dealt strongly with the experience of the Clone Soldiers. He emphasized as Melissa alluded to, the time to get to know these characters benefits the viewing experience tremendously. “For me it’s definitely the Umbara arc…for me, rewatching it so many times I’m noticing how much character development the soldier of Turret company got, especially Captain Rex.”
Charlotte responded with arcs in both Clone Wars and Rebels. These ones in particular deepened the mystery of the Force with various meanings for fans to dig into. “My favorites that I always refer to are “World Between Worlds,” “The Mortis Trilogy”, and the “Yoda Arc”. All are linked and deal with the Force in mysterious ways…I feel like I can return to those arcs so many times and get something new out of it each time.”
The panel, later on, said they hoped that the battle between Rey and Kylo Ren in The Rise of Skywalker would be set in the World Between Worlds from Rebels, with the characters going through time and space in the various Star Wars locations in their epic lightsaber fight.
The panel was also critical of some of the decisions made by Lucasfilm regarding their animated shows. John made a key point made on how Resistance, which was recently reported to end with only its second season, is the “most diverse” of the shows and deserved to have as many seasons as the other shows. Indeed, having watched and loved the first season, I fully concur that it had room for so many more stories to tell. He and other panelists noted how it was not promoted well. He also said, however, that “this decision (on Resistance) must have been made a year ago,” even if the timing for it to end feels peculiar.
Overall, the panel was an incisive discussion on the vast range of animation coming today from Lucasfilm. It made me more excited for the future of animation, even after I was dismayed by the news of Resistance ending. You can find the entire panel in audio form on the Skytalkers Podcast.