…at least when it comes to the characters. The rumour that has fallen into the garbage chute (sorry, couldn’t resist that pun), is that the characters will look and be animated in a style reminiscent of Disney’s Tangled. Which will be very distinctive to what has been seen in The Clone Wars, with the stylized marionette design used for the characters.
If this comes to pass, it will be a clear break from the previous series. This makes perfect sense, as of course Lucasfilm (and the directives they get from Disney) will want to break from the past, ensuring that audiences who catch a minute of this new animation won’t mistake it with the last one. But choosing such a classically Disney character design also shows the influence the new masters are having. The decision to go down a heavily stylised route last time was clever, as it would potentially look odd to have an animated version of Obi-Wan look too much like – but not quite like – the character from the movies.
If it does turn out that this new series is based around a group of teenagers, however, it makes sense to choose whatever animation style suits the project best. If these are new characters that did not appear in the movies, then there will be no comparison with live-action counterparts. The choice of new characters is also a good one, as one of the drawbacks to The Clone Wars was that the fate of the characters was already known (and those who read the novels and comics had their version of the story trampled over). By introducing new characters and making them the focal point, the story is wide open – who will live, who will die, who will fall for who et cetera are all wide open questions.
Not only does it keep the series unpredictable, but it gives the writers scope to develop their own characters rather than be beholden to characters who are already defined. As Expanded Universe writers often find, there are certain parameters for writing Like, Leia and Han – and the fans quickly let them know if they stray too far from those parameters. It also allows Lucasfilm to show that in an era of many new movies, there are many more characters than those we know from the movies to explore. It softens up casual Star Wars fans for the first stand-alone film, which will hopefully feature predominantly new characters too.
This is all of course conjecture based on a rumour. It may turn out that Rebels will lean on the brand recognition that comes from Luke, Leia and Han to make the series a success. But the more interesting move would be to showcase new, original characters. Either way, fans will know a bit more in just under a fortnight when Dave Filoni takes to the stage at Celebration Europe II to share a first glimpse at Star Wars Rebels. Roll on Messe Essen!