Lucasfilm’s Pablo Hidalgo presided over a packed auditorium for the New York Comic Con 2013 panel for Star Wars Rebels. The series will is set 14 years after the events of Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and 5 years before Episode IV: A New Hope, bridging the prequel trilogy and original trilogy of films. Hidalgo started by running two videos of executive producer Greg Weisman and supervising director Dave Filoni greeting comic con fans and apologizing for not being able to appear in person.
Hidalgo gave a brief rundown of what has already been announced and shown at Star Wars Celebration Europe earlier this year, emphasizing the work of artist Ralph McQuarrie. McQuarrie’s famous concept art for the original Star Wars movie will inform much of the look of the new animated series.
Hidalgo showed concept art of a planet that was originally supposed to be used in Revenge of the Jedi (the original title for Episode VI), adding that it was then turned into what Alderaan was supposed to look like until Episode III ruled that out as well.
He also showed the following art of transmission towers for a Star Wars concept art book.
These two images were combined by Dave Filoni for the following new artwork, which Hidalgo revealed was the surface of the planet Lothal, where Star Wars Rebels will be set.
He also showed concept art of the Ghost, the starship that will be the main transport for the series’ main characters. During the Q&A, Hidalgo said that the pilot of the Ghost gave it that name for a very good reason.
Hidalgo went on to say the panel’s emphasis today would be on the Empire, and specifically addressing “What does it mean when the Empire moves into your planet?” He noted that for most of the Republic after Episode III, the Empire was a welcome change (especially in the inner system worlds), offering stability and security and inspiring fervent patriotism. The series will exploit the Empire’s desire to grow and expand in power, pushing to exploit and dominate the outer rim territories.
Hidalgo noted that the Empire doesn’t have the resources to invade every planet it wants to control, opting to support or install local governments loyal to the Empire. The Empire moving into a new planet isn’t a bad thing at first. Lothal was described as a poor planet that couldn’t exploit its resources, and the Empire’s point of entry is to promise industry and expansion (and the economic gifts that follow). Unfortunately, the Empire’s obvious lack of concern for Lothal’s well being becomes clear quickly, as quotas for the planet’s minerals go from reasonable to unreasonable to crushing, triggering resentment and, eventually, Rebellion.
The next major image shown was this new recruitment poster, since the Empire’s second big resource is people.
This led to a discussion of Stormtroopers. This is the animation model for the Stormtroopers in Star Wars Rebels.
Hidalgo also explained the difference between a Stormtrooper and a Clone Trooper. According to George Lucas’ notes, the Clone Trooper plant stopped production, and Stormtroopers are largely citizens that volunteered. The notes added that the change was because the lab-grown Clone Troopers exhibited too much individuality for the Empire, and they found they could get better conformity from recruits motivated by patriotism.
This is a maquette from the series, as well as the almost-finished CGI rendering.
Hidalgo pointed out the paint strokes and detail on the Stormtrooper armor, adding that the look of the new show is distinct enough that they can’t recycle anything from Star Wars: The Clone Wars. He also added that Hasbro has already appropriated the work for prototypes of the toy packaging:
Next, Hidalgo showed art of the classic blaster rifle.
The little arched “flare” on the top of the rifle is an homage to the original Kenner action figure, which had the little bump as part of the molding process while the real rifle didn’t. He also showed the show’s renders of the classic TIE Fighter pilot:
Next was the “AT-DP” pilot, which is the forerunner to the AT-ST Scout Walkers seen first in Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back:
The AT-DP is based on concept art by Joe Johnston (another seminal Star Wars concept artist, who tended to take Ralph McQuarrie’s designs and “ruggedized” them to look rougher around the edges). The “All-Terrain Defense-Pod” is based on concept art by Johnston:
Hidalgo also showed the “stadium seating” cockpit of an AT-DP (driver in front, gunner in rear):
Next was a look at the Rebels speeder bike, which also uses a Joe Johnston design and features elements to allow the bike to telescope out and compress down:
Hidalgo showed off a vintage toy ad for an Imperial Troop Transporter as an introduction to the new version to be used in Rebels:
The Troop transporter is meant to transport larger numbers of troops or prisoners, and its design is another homage to classic toys (down to the “cutest guns in the Empire” in the turret). Hidalgo even brought out a boxed sample of the transporter to compare to the new model (emphasizing that the package was already open, so he wasn’t opening up a mint-in-box vintage toy).
Next came a discussion about TIE Fighters. In Rebels, the fighters are designed more like the original concept paintings (which also happen to resemble the toy more with their larger center pod and smaller wings):
He also briefly digressed to say that “How does someone get into a TIE Fighter?” is the kind of lengthy discussion they have. The problem is that the art of the interior of the ship does not fit the exterior of the model. The original ILM blueprints show an entry point is in the back, which is reinforced by studio art and the assorted hardware on the model.
However, Darth Vader’s TIE Advanced doesn’t have the same hexagonal window in the rear of his cockpit, and other design elements (not photographed) suggest he gets in through the top. So, if Vader can get in throught he top, why can’t everyone?
These people are being paid to argue about this.
Hidalgo closed the discussion by saying the Rebels TIE Fighter is an earlier version of the fighter with the hatch is on the top, but added that this makes no statement on the mechanics of the TIE shown in the original trilogy.
The “top-entry” argument is also incorporated into the design of the Empire’s medium-sized capital ship. One freighter design used in the prequel trilogy was adapted for the original trilogy aesthetic to come up with the Imperial Freighter.
Hidalgo pointed out the “scribed planes” (flat areas with lines on them) that’s a classic Star Wars design element. He pointed out the TIE fighter racks (it’s a short range ship with no hyperdrive, after all) that also uses the “enter from the top” design, and the wing design that echoed the Star Destroyer.
Speaking of which:
This rendering of the Rebels Star Destroyer was shown at Celebration Europe and is now a little out of date because of a slight art change to the conning tower to match what Darth Vader’s Star Destroyer looked like at the start of the original movie:
Hidalgo also noted that CGI meant they could render models in-scale with each other easily, showing these renders comparing the Ghost to a Star Destroyer.
There was also some art shown of the Star Destroyer engine pods, which break from the Episode IV detailing in favor of a smoother engine from Ralph McQuarrie paintings, replicated in CGI:
Hidalgo stated that Rebels is definitely a return to the Episode IV mentality of the heroes being underdogs, who have hope but not resources on their side. He said they still weren’t ready to go into who the rebel characters are yet, but he was ready to reveal a new character working for the Empire. While most assume that Darth Vader will be the series big bad, a video eventually revealed the Empire’s Inquisitor: one (of what sounded like several) operative tasked to hunt down the Jedi:
The final image was of the Inquisitor’s actual animation model:
During Q&A, Hidalgo noted that the troopers in the background are not with the 501st Division (“Vader’s Fist”).
With that, it was time for Q&A. Highlights:
The Inquisitor indicates that the Empire suspects a Jedi is involved, and he will have a lightsaber as shown in the model. The Jedi have a presence in the show, but Hidalgo said that the crew is being very cognizant that Order 66 is something important and they don’t want to diminish the importance of Luke being the last of the Jedi. Hidalgo said he couldn’t get into much more, and couldn’t confirm or deny connections to Starkiller in the Force Unleashed video game.
Hidalgo said that Clone Troopers are still around, but aging twice as fast as everyone else. Some of them still believe in the system and have become trainers of Stormtroopers, while others have been discarded. Other than that, Hidalgo couldn’t answer whether we’d see any characters from The Clone Wars, other than to say that there are a number of veterans from that show on the crew and there’s “a lot of interest in something like that.”
The crew is not ready to announce who’s involved with the music for the series, but Hidalgo said that Dave Filoni has some things in mind, and that he listens to specific John Williams tracks when he’s drawing (when he’s not listening to a Penguins game).
There is no major difference being caused by airing on Disney XD, as opposed to Cartoon Network’s broadcast of The Clone Wars. Hidalgo said that the biggest difference is schedule: Rebels is being done at a much faster pace than The Clone Wars. Partially, this is because they can work more effectively and efficiently now than they could when The Clone Wars started (or even ended). They also don’t have the year’s worth of lead time to build up episodes before broadcast. In terms of subject matter, he said the biggest difference is not having George Lucas’ direct involvement.
In response to a question about using Star Trek: The Next Generation actors for voiceover (as Greg Weisman has done since Gargoyles), Hidalgo said no casting was announced yet, but “everyone is bringing in suggestions and favorites.” He also added that they did get George Takei into The Clone Wars, which surprised him.
A question about new bounty hunter characters was answered by saying that the underworld influence is part of the series, so there will be new characters of that type on the show. There were also opportunities for new and existing alien species to appear, and there’s a possibility you might recognize some aliens since they might be inspired by unused Ralph McQuarrie art.
Without getting into detail, Hidalgo said that “Vader is around,” but the story of Rebels will start out in a very local area of space. The more successful the Rebels are, the bigger “bosses” they have to fight.
Hidalgo repeated an announcement that Dave Filoni made just recently: the unreleased episodes of The Clone Wars have just been finished and will be seen in early 2014. Unfortunately, he was also coy in addressing the fate of Ahsoka (in The Clone Wars or Rebels), dodging the question on a technicality.