Saturday, 15 September 2012

Genndy Tartakovsky on Clone Wars

I am considering coining a new phrase - 'getting Lucased'. It means the post-release continual fiddling with a published work. So Hayden Christensen is now in Return of the Jedi. Thanks to the Special Editions, Billy Dee Williams is not the only black man in the galaxy - there, look, there's a chap passing by in the background on Tatooine! To my mind though one of the more galling, although comparatively less commented upon changes to the internally complex Star Wars canon is the unusual eclipsing of Genndy Tartakovky's work on the Clone Wars animated series. 

Star Wars Clone Wars Genndy Tartakovsky

Mike Ryan interviewed animator Tartakovsky for the Huffington Post and it is well worth a read. Ostensibly promoting his feature film Hotel Transylvania, Ryan took the opportunity to ask about the 'rebooting' of Clone Wars by Lucasfilm, effectively erasing the earlier show from the records. Tartakovsky is admirably upfront and not especially bitter about it. One aspect of Lucas' predilection for re-editing and re-writing his franchise as he sees fit is that it is, after all, his to do with as he pleases. This is the source of a lot of consternation understandably, but given that he can do what he wants, why shouldn't he? I myself will probably edit this blog post several times over the next few days. Are there many other film-makers or creators generally who would not seize the opportunity to revisit and update past works?

Yeah. I mean, you know, of course it bothers me. But, you know, it's George's characters. It's his world and he has to do what he has to do. And the new ones are totally inspired by what we did: A lot of the same character designs and stuff. [from the Huffington Post article]

Of course whenever I have the opportunity to talk about Star Wars I always make a point of mentioning Tartakovksy's cartoon series. I honestly believe it to be one of the best things to have been released with the Star Wars name on it. It is a fun series, with inventive action and great character development. The episode focusing on a squad of clones is a particular highlight - until Tartakovsky they were literally cannon fodder. With Kiwi accents. It was weird.

Star Wars Clone Wars Clone Troopers Genndy Tartakovsky
What's more though Clone Wars almost single-handedly managed to redeem the prequels. The films themselves - The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith - are staggered oddly, with each taking place years apart. Looking back on the storyline now if feels like a failed attempt to sketch out a very broad canvas representing Lucas' fantasy land, taken over by trade disputes, embargoes, and manipulative politicians who literally are evil! I remember the first appearance of General Grievous, the terribly named but compellingly characterized villainous cyborg who made a habit of killing Jedi. In Revenge of the Sith the audience is treated to a rip-roaring fight scene between the villain and Ewan McGregor's Obi-Wan Kenobi, that was apparently storyboarded by Steven Spielberg. It is oddly uninteresting. 
Star Wars Clone Wars General Grievous
Whereas in the Clone Wars, Tartakovksy introduces the character as this unstoppable, malevolent presence, who we witness hunting down a group of these supernaturally empowered (I'm ignoring the whole Midiclorians stuff, sorry) warriors. Yes one of them resembles Shaggy from Scooby-Doo, but that's an example of how the animated show used slapstick humour as a valve for the building tension (as it happens, things don't go so well for Jedi Shaggy). The difference between the two depictions of the same character are quite stark.

Tartakovsky also took the premise of Samuel L. Jackson with superpowers - and made it awesome!

I suppose after that the eventual death scene Lucas had plotted for Mace Windu must have seemed extremely anticlimactic. Tartakovsky took the solemn and aloof character from the films and turned him into Samurai Jack. With a light sabre and magic.

Ultimately while I respect Lucas' desire to perfect his own vision, I do not see why it is not possible for Star Wars to become the broad church it clearly is. This question of 'what is canon' is suffocating. Ryan and I reviewed Tom Taylor's Darth Maul: Death Sentence recently, which features the presumably dead Sith alive and well, slaughtering his merry way across the surface of an alien planet. It is comics after all - death is cheap there, but it shows there is no reason why other creators cannot take established facets of the canon and turning them on their head. Maul is too good a character to be left unused. John Ostrander's most recent series, also for Dark Horse comics, was Agent of the Empire and when I had the opportunity to interview him I queried him about a certain familiar aspect of the story -

The pitch was “James Bond meets Star Wars”. There’s a great deal of overlap between the two – similar tropes. Exotic locales, sexy females, charismatic main character(s), gadgets, big time villains, chases and so on. So I didn’t have to introduce them; they’re already part of Star Wars.

Star Wars Agent of the Empire John Ostrander Stephane Roux Dark Horse

That to me is the correct approach, introducing elements - or refining already present aspects of the franchise - to reflect its adaptability. So I really cannot fathom why Tartakovsky in particular should be singled out, having provided such sterling work.

And given the announcement of Star War Detours from the lads behind Robot Chicken, I am really confused now!


  1. Tartakovsky's Clone Wars is truly an inspired piece of animation. It made the Jedi look competent and capable. The immaturity of Anakin came through real clear without him being too annoying or overly whiny. The Troopers were badass and magnificent.

    What a waste that it's no longer cannon.

  2. Tartakovsky has said himself that the clone wars(2008+) show has taken inspiration, character designs and in many cases the plots have been identical. The fact that it is not considered full cannon I would not worry about to much as Lucas does not consider anything outside of the films to be cannon. I would see the show as just another media version of the same events ;-)

    In terms of Cannon I believe there are 3 levels , films, Clone wars/(the upcoming TV show) , and then extend universe which Tartakovsky clone wars would be consider still a card carrying member. Tartakovsky version showed this story could be told and as emmet has stated it created a story that may make the prequels forgivable ;-) I think the prequels had a great overall story but Lucas was too close to the material and his team around him did not have the ability to say no at times or even once ;-) He should not have directed 2 or 3 in my opinion ,which may have helped the situation. I for my sins now really like episode 1 but I treat it as an Art house film and not a mainstream film because if you use that taxonomy it truly is the worst film ever made.

    I think the clone wars tv show is a different beast though to the films, its a kids show with a very mature underlying theme that most kids will only get when there older and look back on the show (some kids in 20 years is going to get quite a shock) , similar to my (and many peoples experience) of TV shows in my youth like Ulysses 31.

    Four highlights from the show for me are , one when clones in a few episodes are fighting on the planet "fallujah" mirroring US marines in Iraq, two some of the story lines about rebel clone troopers are amazing one clone referring to himself as a slave for instance. Third, when we see fighting Geonosis again in one of the episodes, and the locals refer back to the fighting in "Attack of the clones" as fighting invaders to their planet and showing how the locals knew nothing of the galactic politics , all they knew was a bunch of aliens invaded their planet , with multiple reference to the Vietnam war. Final as the series progresses , the clone trooper
    battle from screen left to screen right to symbolize there transition into the storm troopers we known from the films , its a small thing but its a really interesting thing .

    The show is now been written by writers who grow up on star wars and are giving back an amazing satire on politics and war, and in general on how totalitarian regimes can come to power with the best intentions. Without Tartakovsky version , I believe we would have just got quite a bland Saturday morning show but he upped the game and inspired them to make an amazing show. So we lost nothing but gain two wonderful stories

  3. Its "canon" and not "cannon" and no one has ever said anything about the 2d series not being canon. In fact every Star Wars story has some level of Canonicity. This is just more hateboy venom against GL.

  4. You got me on the spelling - like I said, this blog gets its 'storm trooper hits head' moments too....

    But I'd appreciate it if you didn't put words in my mouth. I don't hate the second Clone Wars iteration - here's my review of it - - I just don't think it's *as* good.

    And as for the canonicity, well I refer you to the interview and the comments about the availability of the series itself.

  5. Actually wait a sec....I did spell it as 'canon'. Gave you the benefit of the doubt there.


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