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How a cult animated series shows the future of the franchise

The animated show “Star Wars” which debuts Tuesday on Disney + revolves around the members of Clone Force 99, an elite squad of restless mercenaries who set out on daring missions.

Even if you’ve seen every “Star Wars” movie dating back to Jimmy Carter’s administration – even the prequels, even the Han Solo spin-off, even the 1978 vacation sacrilege – this plot shot can not ring any bell.

That’s because the central characters of “Star Wars: The Bad Batch” were first introduced in a project outside of the core nine-episode film saga – in this case, “The Clone Wars,” an animated series that was still cherished among die-hards. never became a national phenomenon.

But the series could nonetheless play a disproportionate role in the future of the “Star Wars” franchise, providing Disney, the company that owns Lucasfilm, with relatively untapped characters and storylines that they can exploit for a seemingly endless cycle of original films and shows, including content, it falls on the annual “May 4th” commemorative day.

This would mirror the trajectory of the interconnected Marvel film series, which started with household names (Iron Man, Captain America) before burrowing deeper into lesser-known entities, such as Guardians of the Galaxy or Heroes of the Galaxy. next “Eternals” by Chloé Zhao. . “

“Hollywood studios are not trying to create new franchises. They are trying to revitalize the old ones. It’s about keeping the golden goose delivering and proliferating as much as possible the ‘Star Wars’ universe, ”said Caetlin Benson-Allott, who teaches film and media at the University of Georgetown.

“We’re in a time when the idea of ​​a ‘transmedia universe’ is popular, where fans are required to do some research to see how all of these disparate characters and storylines are connected,” said Benson-Allott, comparing the model to a giant puzzle.

“The Clone Wars” previously appeared in “The Mandalorian”, the first live-action “Star Wars” series. The show, a neo-Western about a masked bounty hunter and the green moppet known as “Baby Yoda,” helped make Disney + a smash hit and opened the door for more franchise to build. of the world.

Ahsoka Tano, a Jedi played by Rosario Dawson in the second season of “The Mandalorian”, was featured in “The Clone Wars”. The same was true of Bo-Katan Kryze, a warrior voiced by Katee Sackhoff on “The Clone Wars” and played by the same actor on “The Mandalorian.”

Dawson’s role in the expanding franchise isn’t limited to a guest spot on “The Mandalorian,” however. She will play the character again in a spinoff series, “Ahsoka,” which is slated to debut on Disney + in 2022.

Ahsoka Tano in “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” and Rosario Dawson as Ahsoka Tano in “The Mandalorian”.Disney +

“The Mandalorian” is also filled with obscure proper names taken from the “Star Wars” books that have long served as the narrative connective tissue between films. Timothy Olyphant’s character Cobb Vanth first appeared in a novel trilogy, for example.

Incidentally, “Star Wars: The Bad Batch” might prompt some casual fans to explore the 133 episodes of “The Clone Wars” that are readily available on Disney +, keeping subscribers glued to a platform that rivals all other actors. streaming for market share and cachet. (The show premiered on Cartoon Network in 2008, moved to Netflix six years later, and then landed at Disney + last year for a seventh, final season.)

“There is so much fragmentation of attention, so intellectual property with an integrated audience is incredibly valuable and a way to retain viewers,” said Gabriel Rossman, associate professor at UCLA specializing in mass media.

The possible wave of renewed appreciation for “The Clone Wars” would likely be gratifying to fans who cherish the series for its intricate characterizations and sleek graphics.

It was probably inevitable that Lucasfilm would look beyond the confines of the original nine-film series, known as the “Skywalker Saga,” after JJ Abrams’ “The Rise of Skywalker” in 2019 completed an intergenerational narrative that has started with the inaugural blockbuster. in 1977.

In that sense, “The Clone Wars” is just one entry into the “Star Wars” canon that could become increasingly essential to understanding the future of the franchise.

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