The Mad Aardvark

Critical commentary on culture…

Star Wars Rebels

Posted by madaardvark on October 20, 2014


The cartoon Star Wars Rebels started on Disney a few weeks ago, and I managed to catch the first episode. There are problems, of course, but I can’t say it’s necessarily worse than, say, the Ewoks cartoon, other than the fact that Ewoks didn’t necessarily fit into continuity (and even as a kid, I didn’t expect it to).

Star Wars Rebels, like the Clone Wars before it, uses that crappy computer animation so popular nowadays, though I have to admit that stuff is getting more sophisticated as the technology gets cheaper. I mean, it’s become pretty clear to me that cartoons are made on a budget, and computer animation is the cheapest way to make something with a consistent, fluid style.  Unfortunately, that makes it feel much less warm and inviting than hand-drawn stuff, and in that regard, the Boba Fett cartoon from the Christmas Special remains the best animated Star Wars I’ve ever seen.

Anyway, the story and setup are much better than I thought t hey would be, and there seems to be some nod to the things that have come before, which Lucasfilm tried to erase with its list of what is and isn’t canonical. Disney is re-writing that list, apparently, probably because it’s cheaper and easier for Disney to maintain a status quo by doing so. The good news is what they’re including, and I think the new cartoon is establishing some of that.

For one thing, one of the main characters on the show is modeled after the original Chewbacca design. The Star Wars Roleplaying Game from the 80s, published by West End Games (affectionately known as D6 Star Wars), called that race the Lasat. I don’t know if that was kept part of the cannon in the Lucasfilm re-writing, but that race did first appear in D6 material, back when they had wider license to write things based on leftover images from the films back in the day, long before the Lucasfilm cash-cow locked down all of those images and ideas and had to approve of things before they saw print.

Another nice thing: although one of the main villains uses a double-bladed lightsaber and has a conspicuously adjective name (very stupid ideas, from where I’m sitting), the advertisements I’ve seen clearly label him as an “Inquisitor”, which was the title given to dark side force-users under Empire command in those D6 books. Again, I don’t know how much of that ever stayed in the public memory long after West End stopped printing those things, but I know Lucasfilm stopped considering those things part of the universe when they drew lines in the sand between CANNON and EXPANDED UNIVERSE and OTHER THINGS.

Most importantly, though, the tone and setup for the show is very reminiscent of the “classic” D6 RPG campaign setup. There are about 5 characters on a light freighter that more or less act independently from the Rebellion while clearly acting in line with the Rebellion’s philosophy. Character templates include: Brash Pilot, Lasat (generic alien race template, circa 1st edition), Cranky Astromech (heavily modified by the crew), Failed Jedi (on the run from Imperials), and Kid (who is Force Sensitive and will be getting trained by aforementioned Failed Jedi). In-game schticks also included: a speederbike chase, a stormtrooper and taking his gear to sneak around (thankfully, they’re stormtroopers and not clones or even some halfway stormclonetrooper), daring rescue aboard an Imperial Star Destroyer, and the obligatory TIE fighter chase.

Computer animation and double-bladed lightsabers aside, the experience wasn’t unenjoyable. It made me want to play Star Wars D6 again, or at least give it an honest try. I stopped for a long, long while when I realized that I couldn’t put the game into a context that didn’t include the prequels, and that damaged the spirit of the campaign and, indeed, the setting as a whole.

I’ll write more critiques of the show as it progresses, though I don’t get to watch much since I don’t have expanded cable. I mostly get a chance to watch these things when I’m sitting around with my daughter, turning her into a television junkie like myself, but that’s a post for another time.


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