Cartoon Network journeys to a galaxy far, far away with the "micro-series" Star Wars: Clone Wars. The series consists of 20, three-minute installments from Genndy Tartakovsky, creator of Cartoon favorites Samurai Jack and Dexter's Laboratory.
Star Wars creator George Lucas gave Tartakovsky and team the freedom to put their stamp on the Star Wars universe — a rare blessing from the usually controlling director, who refused to release review tapes for fear of Internet piracy. Reviewers had to resort to supervised screenings of the first five episodes.
Designed to flesh out and fill the gap between the Attack of the Clones and the upcoming theatrical Episode Three, each installment is its own fully realized story, yet each fits into the larger story arc. This conveys more of the swashbuckling feel of the original Star Wars trilogy, while eliminating the tedious elaboration of the last two movies, The Phantom Menace and Attack.
Tartakovsky's team give the characters a distinctive but immediately recognizable look to the characters: think Star Wars meets Samurai Jack. The voiceover actors sound so similar to the movie's actors that it is a shock to find out that Anthony Daniels (C-3PO) was the only cast member who had also worked on the movie. All of Phantom and Attack's characters are present: Yoda, Obi-Wan, Anakin Skywalker, Padme Amidala, Mace Windu, Count Dooku, R2-D2 and C-3PO. And there are some new ones — Kit Fisto, an aquatic Jedi Knight; ARC Troopers, an elite force of clone troopers; Durge, a bounty hunter; and Asajj Ventress, a female assassin — all of whom easily fit into the Star Wars universe. Can another tide of Star Wars merchandise be far behind?
Animation allows Tartakosky to enter places special-effects maven Lucas cannot yet plunge as evidenced by Kit Fisto's underwater light-saber heroics in the fifth chapter. The backgrounds are stylized yet detailed when they need to be and even a bit tongue-in-cheek at times.
Clone Wars is far superior to the last animated series featuring Star Wars characters: Saturday-morning 1980s efforts Droids and Ewoks, shows that more or less played off the popularity of their lead characters.
The first chapter of Star Wars: Clone Wars will air on Cartoon Network, Nov. 7, at 8 p.m. (ET) with the next nine running on consecutive weeknights at 8 p.m. All 10 will run in order Nov. 21. The second set debuts next spring.