Before the 2000s, Star Wars only dabbled with television-based content, such as the notorious Star Wars Holiday Special from 1977. However, the release of the prequel trilogy films, starting with 1999’s The Phantom Menace, opened up the possibilities to content created to fill in the decades-long gaps between each storyline. Especially once George Lucas introduced a galaxy-spanning war in the Clone Wars.
Now that the galaxy had an army filled with Jedi, new stories could seamlessly fit into the mythos without confirming the tight timeline of the original trilogy. Thus, new characters could fill in the roster required to make a long-form series work. However, live-action also would pose problems, for people were familiar with Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi on screen. However, an animated series could keep the likeness of the characters without the likes of Ewan McGregor, which would prove cost prohibitive.
Thus, the creation of a cartoon series helped bridge the gap between Episodes 2 and 3, also serving as promotion for the final film in the trilogy. This series became even more popular than The Revenge of the Sith, opening the door for future cartoon series. Thus, the path opened for new stories involving the Jedi fighting in the Clone Wars.
Now, Disney has created a plethora of Star Wars series, even animated anthologies. However, none should forget the cartoons that overtook the Star Wars community.
Join us as we look back on Star Wars: The Clone Wars cartoon series
Genndy Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars 2D shorts (2003)
To promote the impending release of the final prequel film, The Revenge of the Sith, Lucasfilm drafted up the brilliant Clone Wars mini-series that began airing in 2003. Not only could the cartoon lead to increased interest in the next film, but it could also lead to improved sales of new action figures. Lucasfilm then turned to the creator of Samurai Jack, Genndy Tartakovsky, to produce and direct their new series of cartoon shorts.
With each of the early episodes only lasting 2 to 3 minutes, the Clone Wars series became the perfect venue to tease Star Wars fans with snippets of the galactic war. New characters, such as Asajj Ventress, easily slipped into the mythos through this series. These cartoons also allowed Lucasfilm to introduce General Grievous, who prominently appeared in the third prequel, to the public.
As the entered its third and final season, the format changed to feature twelve- to fifteen-minute-long episodes instead. Rather than featuring disconnected battles within the Star Wars universe, the series focused on General Grievous’ assault on the Jedi. By the time that the series concluded, with its twenty-fifth episode, the cartoon set up the storylines that the final film immediately picked up from. This way, fans of the films would wish to watch the series. Likewise, fans of the cartoon shorts would thirst to see the story conclude on the silver screen.
The Theatrical Film (2008)
With the conclusion of the prequel trilogy, fans still looked for stories of the battles and struggles that their favorite characters faced during the clone wars. Lucasfilm also dreamed up the new series to keep fans interested in the merchandise. However, the original Clone Series had left off on a definitively final note. So, a new series would be necessary to continue making Star Wars content for television. As they reviewed their options, Lucasfilm animation decided to create a 3D animated series, taking some notes on the look and style from Tartakovsky’s 2003 series.
As the animators prepared the first few episodes for the series, George Lucas reportedly felt that the animation was so beautiful that it deserved to be in the cinemas. Thus, the production crew quickly wove these episodes together to create a 98-minute-long feature film. George Lucas’ enthusiasm for the project also helped convince Warner Brothers to distribute it to theaters. Thus, the Clone Wars debuted on movie screens on August 15, 2008.
Distinguishing itself from the original cartoon series, this film introduced an integral new character to the Jedi, Anakin’s padawan Ahsoka Tano. During the film, Anakin, who initially did not want a padawan, learned that both he and Ahsoka could learn much from each other. Their struggle to return Jabba the Hutt’s son to his home led to mutual respect and acceptance of their new roles.
This film also brought back Asajj Ventress to the mythos. So, fans of the original animated series knew that this series would not disrespect nor forget the prior series.
Season 1 (2008)
When the Clone Wars launched on Cartoon Network in 2008, it followed in the steps of the feature film. So, the series focused on Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Anakin’s new padawan, Ahsoka Tano. However, the series also often stepped aside to focus on other characters, including a troop of rookie clone troopers.
Thus, the first season presented a series of disconnected battles that raged on across the war-torn galaxy. Thus, some of the episodes featured Jedi such as Pio Koon with barely a sight of the main three stars. Other episodes focused on Padmé Amidala, Jar Jar Binks, and other non-Jedi cast members. Notably, Yoda also frequently appeared in the episodes as well.
Most importantly, by the end of the season, a new bounty hunter stormed onto the scene, Cad Bane. He made a strong entrance into the series with his successful liberation of the unscrupulous Ziro the Hutt from Coruscant’s prisons. To achieve this purpose, Cad Bane and his crew took several senators hostage. With the successful release of Ziro, Bane proved to be amongst the top bounty hunters in the galaxy.
Season 2: Rise of the Bounty Hunters (2009)
Unlike the first season of the Clone Wars cartoon, the second series saw the introduction of a new tagline: The Rise of the Bounty Hunters. In that vein, the first few episodes of the new season featured Cad Bane as he stole a Holocron. Since this Holocron held the data on force-sensitive children, the Jedi rushed to recover it from the bounty hunter.
After the first few episodes, the season continued to highlight the various battles of the Clone Wars, not necessarily waving into the larger narrative. However, characters such as General Grievous once again appeared in the series, this time capturing a Jedi, Koth. While Obi-Wan and Anakin rescued the captive Jedi, they did not subdue Grievous.
This season also introduced the conflict on Mandalore, where the planet is on the brink of civil war. Thus, this season introduced audiences to Duchess Satine and the struggles to keep Mandalore a neutral, sovereign planet in the war.
Finally, as the season neared its end, one of the greatest bounty hunters in Star Wars lore entered the Clone Wars series, Boba Fett. This unique clone of Jango Fett did not experience the accelerated aging that the clone troopers go through. Thus, he was still a child during the Clone Wars. However, his youth did not prevent him from forming a team of Bounty Hunters nor making an attempt on Mace Windu’s life.
Season 3: Secrets Revealed (2010)
As with the second season, the third season carried a new tagline for the series, Secrets Revealed. Thus, each of the episodes aimed to reveal new information about the republic and the war. For instance, the first few episodes gave viewers a peek into the events that Catup, Fives, Hevy, and Echo go through before the season one episode, Rookies.
Likewise, Evil Plans features the events that led up to Cad Bane’s assault on Coruscant. The episode displayed how Cad Bane gained information on the senate building and why the Hutts wanted Ziro rescued from prison. The following episode, Hunt for Ziro, explained Ziro’s fate where his former ally, Sy, shot him to death after turning on him.
In Nightsisters, Darth Sidious orders Count Dooku to terminate Asajj Ventress. Thus, Ventress calls upon her old order, the titled Nightsisters, for aid. These events led to the introduction of Savage Opress in the following episode, Monster. Ventress initially scouted out Savage in a revenge plot against Count Dooku. Thus, the Nightsisters and her magically turned him into a berserker that was completely under Ventress’ control. Ventress then sent Savage to Dooku to become his next apprentice. Unfortunately for Ventress, by the following episode, Witches of the Mist, the abuse from both Dooku and Ventress caused Savage to turn against both. Savage finally receives the quest to hunt down his lost brother, Darth Maul.
Unforgettably, this season also had the episode, Overlords, where force-wielding beings, the father, the son, and the daughter appear. Here, the father stood for the force’s balance. Meanwhile, the son represented the dark and the daughter the light. While they tried to force Anakin to take the Father’s place, Anakin refuses and escapes.
Season 4: Battle Lines (2011)
Season four gained yet another tagline for the series, Battle Lines. Following through, the first three episodes focused on the Mon Cala’s struggle to avert a civil war. With their former king assassinated, the Mon Cala and the Quarren differed on their faith in the young prince’s ability to lead. The Separatists then backed the Quarren, supplying the support to triumph over the Republic-backed Mon Cala. However, by refusing to return the planet to Quarren control, the Separatists opened the path for Lee Char to become respected by both people, uniting the planet.
Likewise, many of the other episodes of this season focused on planets on the brink of revolution or civil war. Gungans and the Naboo people struggled against catastrophic tensions for a brief time. Even C-3PO and R2D2 start a droid revolution.
Later in the season, Obi-Wan embarked on an undercover mission to infiltrate Cad Bane’s troop of bounty hunters. This time, Count Dooku had called upon the best bounty hunters in the galaxy to kidnap Chancellor Palpatine. Thus, Obi-Wan disguised himself as a bounty hunter and joined Cad Bane and his crew as they broke out of prison. He kept up his disguise through several trials, gaining Cad Bane’s trust. However, Obi-Wan finally thwarts Cad Bane’s plan just as they attempt to abduct the Chancellor.
Meanwhile, the Nightsisters fall victim to an assault by General Grievous’ troops, leaving Ventress to fend for herself. Elsewhere, Savage finally found his lost brother, Darth Maul, and joined up with him to hunt down Obi-Wan. The bounty on Savage led to Ventress hunting the pair in turn, leading to Obi-Wan allying himself with Ventress to take down the duo.
Season 5 (2012)
Unlike the prior three seasons, season five carried no tagline to help set the tone for the season. Thus, in many ways, this season felt like it returned to form with the first season’s kaleidoscope of stories about the Clone Wars skirmishes.
The season launched with the continued story of Savage and Darth Maul. As the Jedi attempt to thwart the pair’s schemes, Savage slew the Jedi Master Adi Gallia. Despite the death of a Jedi Master, Chancellor Palpatine decreed that the search for the brothers paled in comparison to the Separatist threat.
Several of the episodes focus on Ahsoka as she protects a group of younglings, on the verge of becoming padawans. This group faced off against many perils, especially led by the pirate Hondo. Despite the trouble that Honda placed her through, Ahsoka reluctantly joined forces with Hondo to repel an attack from General Grievous.
Later, the Death Watch recovered Darth Maul and Savage’s escape pod. The Death Watch’s leader, Pre Vizsla, allied with the brothers in a bid to gain control over Mandalore. Thus, they called upon the aid of several criminal organizations, including the Black Sun from Shadows of the Empire. When Pre Vizla betrayed the brothers, Darth Maul challenged him and triumphed in a duel to the death.
After Darth Maul lured Obi-Wan to Mandalore, he murdered Duchess Satine in front of him. Darth Maul’s actions drew the attention of Darth Sidious. Thus, Darth Sidious slew Savage Opress before he imprisoned Darth Maul.
Finally, the bombing of the Jedi temple set off a plot to frame Ahsoka for murder. As Ahsoka’s trial took place, where Anakin proved that Barriss Offee was the bomber. Unfortunately, these events broke Ahsoka’s trust in the order, so she walked away.
Season 6: The Lost Missions (2014)
After a year-long wait, the series returned with a new season and tagline, the Lost Missions. The story continues the tales of the Jedi Order from where it left off in Season 5. As Ahsoka had broken her ties with the Jedi order, none of the episodes featured her.
To begin the season, Fives took the center stage as he fell victim to Chancellor Palpatine’s plots. Fives helped a distressed clone trooper, Tup, who murdered his Jedi Master. While Fives discovered that there was a hidden code in the inhibitor chips, Tup died from the removal of his chip. As Fives is considered deranged himself, the Republic forces hunted him down, eventually shooting him to death.
Other episodes featured an old friend and romantic interest of Padmé’s, Rush Clovis. While Clovis pled for Padmé to assist his planet with the Banking Clan, Anakin becomes distrustful of him. Anakin even momentarily choked Clovis after he tried to kiss Padmé. Count Dooku then offered Clovis the leadership of the Banking Clan in exchange for favors. Unfortunately, these favors angered the Republic. To quell the tensions, he sacrificed his life, which allowed the Republic to take over the Banking Clan.
Wrapping up the season, Yoda became troubled as he heard the voice of Qui-Gon Jinn through the force. Without the support of the Jedi Council, Yoda had to set out on his own to discover the source of this voice. These voices led Yoda to Dagobah then the origin of life, where he faced several challenges so that he could learn how to retain consciousness after death.
Season 7: The Final Season (2020)
Recently, Star Wars: The Clone Wars returned to the forefront as the seventh and final season aired on Disney +. Since the launch of the series in 2008, Lucasfilm had expanded the universe, creating new cartoons such as Rebels and the Bad Batch. Thus, this season mingled with the storylines of corresponding cartoons.
For instance, the season began with Anakin meeting up with the Bad Batch soldiers. The Kaminoans proclaimed that each of these clone troopers was defective. This group joined forces to locate a lost clone trooper, Echo. To rescue Echo, they had to fight through the Techno Union’s droid forces. Echo later joined the Bad Batch’s crew.
This season also followed Ahsoka after she departed from the Jedi Order. Initially meeting after a speeder crash, Ahsoka befriended Trace Martez and her sister Rafa, especially after she helped them fend off thugs. This trio later became the target of the Pyke Syndicate. As they escape from the syndicate, Ahsoka learned that the Jedi accidentally killed the sisters’ parents as they apprehended Ziro the Hutt. Likewise, the sisters learn that Ahsoka was once a Jedi, forming a rift between the three.
Meanwhile, Darth Maul resurfaced as a threat to the Republic. As Ahsoka aided Bo-Katan against Darth Maul, the events of episode III occur in the background. Even though she learned from Darth Maul that Sidious intended to make Anakin his new apprentice, she refused to believe it. Sadly, she discovered that Maul told them the truth as she felt her former master fall to the dark side as clone trooper turn on the Jedi, including her
After subduing Rex and deactivating his inhibitor chip, Ahsoka slipped away into hiding. The season ended with Darth Vader retrieving Ahsoka’s discarded lightsabers from her crashed vehicle.
The Clone Wars are over, but Star Wars stories continue
Even though the Clone Wars have finally come to an end, the universe still holds a vast treasure trove of characters and stories to explore. New cartoons and live-action shows are debuting on Disney+ this year. Moreover, the comics, toys, and books continue to keep the memories of a galaxy far away alive. We look forward to seeing more Star Wars in the years to come.
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