WonderCon report: The Clone Wars panel

Folks, WonderCon was, as always, awesome fun this year, but it was also the most crowded I’ve ever seen it (I hear tickets sold out for both Friday and Saturday). This is my 6th non consecutive year in attendance and I was hit by so many backpacks I’ve come to loathe them. Lucky for you, I survived a near fall into a vendor’s booth to bring you this vital information.

Lucasfilm held a Clone Wars panel moderated by Pablo Hidalgo. Unlike last year’s, this one was absolutely packed. I love what this means for the show… Lucasfilm must be doing something right. About halfway through, I gave up taking notes when I realized I type faster than I write and began tweeting for the remainder of the panel. Many apologizes for any discrepancies or awkward jumpiness. I hope my tiredness doesn’t show too much!

The panel opened to a long trailer for the finale that spared no scenes. If fans were hoping not to be spoiled, this was clearly not the panel for them. But from the positive reaction and amount of clapping and cheering that was done, I don’t think anyone minded.

Pablo Hidalgo noted there are 66 episodes to date (Dave Filoni mentioned this is a bad number for Jedi;) the first Clone Wars footage aired at Celebration 4 in 2007. Has it really been almost 4 years?

Ashley Eckstein, voice of Ahsoka Tano, and Dave Filoni, Supervising Director, answer Pablo’s questions. When asked how they feel about reaching 66 episodes, Dave replied, “Sixty-six is good, but George wants to more.” (Something in the hundreds was more like it.)

Pablo brought up the the character of Ahsoka and how she has grown throughout the series. Ashley Eckstein is clearly enthusiastic about the character she gives voice to, saying she is “really proud” of Ahsoka’s evolution. With a tip from James Arnold Taylor, she learned to lower her voice register in order to convey a new level of maturity, a tone of seriousness never before seen. “She doesn’t really say Sky Guy anymore.” Dave noted this as well.

The discussion moved on to the Mortis Trilogy and the three facets of Ahsoka’s character in that arc. Notably, her costume change was of interest. “Fans have mastered that costume now so I had to do something different,” Dave joked. Her new look reflects her growing similarity to Anakin as he grows darker. All of the characters have or will get a costume upgrade, but Ahsoka’s in particular has a more poignant feel to it.

Also, by this point, the animators were working off of models that are several years old. Ahsoka’s original model was from 2006. As Dave put it, it’s like “trying to use an Atari cartridge on a PlayStation 3.”

With such a large focus on Ahsoka, naturally the questions turned to the finale, where fans can see how far she’s come. Ashley related, “she’s fine on her own now.” By this point, Ahsoka has been influenced by every Jedi she’s worked with. She’s a “mix of Plo Koon and Obi-Wan…and Anakin.” Dave talked at some length about Anakin’s attachment issues and why Ahsoka exerting her independence like this is an important part of not just her story arc, but of her relationship to Anakin.

Peter Mayhew came on stage to standing applause. Clearly, as fans, we all adore him and admire what he has contributed to the saga. Footage played on the screen of Peter behind the scenes at Lucasfilm being an integral part of the project to bring Chewbacca to the series. He is quite hands on, at one point holding the original costume to provide tips (his mouth is always open a little), spoke about how Chewbacca’s walk is essentially his walk and why this, among many other things makes the character so intimately his own. You absolutely cannot have Chewbacca without Peter Mayhew. He is seen in the video several times walking with a lightsaber cane. How awesome is that?

Dave Filoni says Peter Mayhew is the “heart and soul” of Chewbacca. Peter’s tips for Dave: “It’s the walk, the body stance, and the eyes that make the character.” Ashley Eckstein feels it was a “true honor” to have Ahsoka interact with Chewbacca.

The environment was a large focus for the finale, and Joel Aaron is pleased the show is able to closely reproduce lighting concepts. From 3D story to animation to final, the difference in shots is incredible. The fine details on Chewbacca were sculpted first, and these — like the shelf on the back of Chewie’s head and the hair hanging off his fingertips — made the episode for Joel.

Pablo Hidalgo says The Clone Wars is only going to get better, and after some brief technical difficulties, they show the new S4 trailer.

Afterwards, a long line forms for questions. (Even Jabba has one!) Dave teases that fans can’t ask him about S4 after showing it’s trailer. Great use of a Han quote: “It’s not my fault!”

Filoni said we will see Ventress again, and that he is dedicated to Ahsoka’s character and her development, whatever that may be.

I had a blast at the panel and only regret I had to leave immediately afterwards and could not stay to actually meet Ashley Eckstein. Or properly meet Dave Filoni or the others. I did squeakily say hello to Dave at the screening last weekend, though. A big thanks to Lucasfilm and all of the panelists. Great job, everyone!

On a different note, I did see a Mother Daughter team sporting Her Universe Gear (I wore my ‘Plo Kool’ shirt) and couldn’t help but take a photo.

8 Replies to “WonderCon report: The Clone Wars panel”

  1. Honestly, if Ahsoka hasn’t been made a Knight by halfway through S4, something’s gotta be amiss. By the end of the finale I was half-expecting her to be knighted on the spot!

    Trailer… dammit. Don’t go feeding my cravings like that! Not when autumn is so far away…

    (One thing, though – TWO saberstaffs? That might just be crossing the line into silly territory. And then what’re you gonna do to top that?)

  2. Poor Dave! He must have been mobbed after that trailer. Thanks so much for this post, Erika! It’s great to read about the event after not being able to be there myself.

    Four years already…

  3. Can’t wait to see that Gungan/Grievous rumble in all it’s glory. I always thought Gungans were awesome, and I’m glad we finally get to see them throwing down!

    BTW, is that Dexster Jettster with those saber staffs? I’m just going to assume that’s him :)

  4. @Amaranthine: You’re welcome! :)

    @Sean: I believe Dave Filoni mentioned there was a known character in the trailer, but sly as he is, would not reveal who. :)

    I forgot to name the people on the panel as they appear in the photo. From left to right: Pablo Hidalgo, Ashley Eckstein, Dave Filoni, Peter Mayhew, Joel Aaron. (just in case it’s difficult to make out who’s who, but with a hat like that, I think Dave’s pretty easy to pick out in a crowd!)

  5. The question was about the two additional versions of Ahsoka Ashley had to play in the Mortis trilogy in addition to her “regular” self: adult version and corrupted.

  6. @jawajames: pabawan beat me to it, but is absolutely correct (thanks!). Pablo posed a question to Ashley, mostly to ask how she felt about her character displaying those three facets all in one story arc. She liked seeing the other versions because they do show us where Ahsoka will go and how she is being influenced by Anakin’s darker side. That’s when the discussion went to how her new costume reflects this as well, I believe.

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