How The Clone Wars' Final Season Honors George Lucas' Legacy - Exclusive

Season 7 of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, which is currently airing on Disney+, is special for a few reasons. Not only is this final batch of Clone Wars episodes the conclusion to the fan-favorite animated series, but it also marks the end of the very last Star Wars project that George Lucas worked on.

The Clone Wars debuted in 2008, when Lucas still owned Star Wars and when, with no future movies on the cards, the animated series was envisioned as the future of the franchise. As Lucasfilm animation supervisor Keith Kellogg recalls in an exclusive interview with Looper, "[Lucas] was super involved at that point, which was really a pretty amazing and incredible experience. He really wanted to see these stories told. He brought along Dave Filoni to be his padawan, if you will, and really showed how he makes stories and films and TV shows."

Lucas was directly involved with each and every episode of The Clone Wars, at least during the show's initial run. "It was up to him if he liked certain things," Kellogg tells Looper. "He could kind of look at it as a viewer and just sort of know, 'Hey, this isn't working. This introduction does not really work for this character,' or, 'This story point we need to hone a little bit more.'"

The filmmaker contributed lots of story ideas to the show, too. According to actor Daniel Logan, it was Lucas' idea to bring Boba Fett back on The Clone Wars. Lucas also created the Bad Batch, a group that anchored the first arc of The Clone Wars' latest season.

While Lucas isn't directly involved with The Clone Wars' revival, the show carries his personal stamp to this day. The series' cinematic look? That's all Lucas' doing. As Kellogg says, "George has shown us how to put characters on thirds, to make sure you have a wide establishing shot, move into a more close-up view — all the classic sort of filmmaking techniques that we've been able to incorporate into the series."

He continues, "George's whole idea was that at any one time, you could stop a frame and it would look like a comic book or a painting. So, we still want to retain that idea, a lot of the angularity that's in the models, and the look from when we first started." 

The Clone Wars has improved over time, but its initial design sense hasn't changed; it's still honoring Lucas' initial concept.

The technology has changed, but Lucas' vision lives on

Of course, technology has changed a lot since 2008, and Star Wars: The Clone Wars has evolved right alongside it. This latest batch of episodes is hands-down the best that The Clone Wars has ever looked, although it took quite a bit of work to get the series up to modern standards.

"Our rigs are able to be a little bit more complex. Our modelers now know a little bit more about how we can dial in and blend shapes and different things into our rigs," Kellogg says. "Just honing the animation skills of our overseas team over the years, they've gotten better and better. So, now we're able to produce something that looks hopefully better than it did earlier on."

Unfortunately, that meant re-doing a lot of past work. The old Clone Wars assets still look good, but Lucasfilm wanted them to look great. "Originally, we thought we'd be able to share a lot more, but we usually do have to change or retrofit things," Kellogg admits. "When we went back and looked at some of the stuff we did and how simplistic it is, it was like, 'Well, we need to up that.'" Rigging characters for animation was a particular challenge. Lucasfilm's system now works differently than it used to, meaning everything had to be re-rigged to make sure it was up-to-snuff.

Still, even on the tech side, George Lucas' legacy lives on with The Clone Wars. Back when the series was still in its initial run before it began "winding down," Lucas helped develop a tool that let The Clone Wars' animation staff shoot episodes kind of like a live-action feature. "Through George's help creating it, we were able to create a really great storytelling tool that allowed our story artists to block scenes quickly, shoot with coverage, and then bring that into an editor and go through an editorial session where we could cut it and change it and manipulate it," Kellogg says.

No one else was making cartoons that way in the late '00s, and that tool worked so well that Lucasfilm continues to use it. "Now we're doing the same thing," notes Kellogg. "The tool has gotten a little bit better, with different sorts of enhancements," he adds, but notes that it's still the same software that Lucas helped design over a decade ago.

It's all in honor of preserving Lucas' original mission: to make the very best animated series possible. "We always wanted to try and make sure that this was the best-looking show on television in terms of computer animation," Kellogg says. "Hopefully, what everyone sees, once they get to the Siege of Mandalore, is something that they're incredibly wowed by."

So far? The Clone Wars' final season isn't just meeting that bar — it's surpassing it. Thanks, George.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars season 7 airs on Fridays on Disney+.