Dave Filoni and Pablo Hidalgo talk past, present and future of Star Wars Animation

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Apr 14, 2017, 10:00 AM EDT

The second major panel at Star Wars Celebration brought Lucasfilm animation producer Dave Filoni and Star Wars Story Group executive Pablo Hidalgo for the Animated Origins and Unexpected Fates panel. "This panel is really about the questions you bring to us, and our ability to skillfully avoid answering them," Hidalgo teased right off the top.

Darth Maul kicked things off as fans cheered loudly for the Sith lord, shown in his Star Wars Rebels character art. Original concept art from The Clone Wars showing Darth Maul with his spider-legs was shown as Filoni described when George Lucas told him he wanted to bring Maul back. "He's coming back," Filoni said Lucas revealed to him. When he asked how, Lucas said, "I don't know, you'll figure it out!" The character of Savage Oppress directly led to Maul's return; George liked Savage so much that he asked them to bring back Maul as his brother. The spider-legs? Those also came directly from George.

A bunch of Clone Troopers interrupted the panel, taking the stage to present Filoni and Hidalgo with custom plaques. "I love this, so much, you have no idea," Filoni said of the cosplayers. "To draw something on a sheet of paper one day and have it walk up to you and say hello a year later is really amazing."

Getting back to the shows and Maul, Filoni hand-drew storyboards for the final duel between Maul and Obi-Wan Kenobi in the recent Rebels episode "Twin Suns." They discussed the fight, which was very short -- four strikes total. When they originally storyboarded and even recorded the episode, it was 35 minutes long and had to be cut to 22.

"The big part that got cut was on the Hera/Kanan side of it," Filoni revealed, explaining it was simply about their side of the family and them dealing with Sabine leaving, then Ezra leaving them behind as well. "It's the kids growing up, and always too fast." Filoni was sad to cut it because the family is so important to the story overall.

Next was Captain Rex, whose name was initially "Alpha," as in A-17 from a Dark Horse comic book series -- the extensive amount of "A" names already changed that by necessity, though. Palpatine abandoning the Clone Troopers when he activated the Empire was a direct result of the Clones gaining their own personalities as a result of the influence of the Jedi, Hidalgo revealed. Originally there were going to be nine surviving clones that got brought into Rebels, and "production said NO." They were going to be the "nine old men of Disney."

The other two clones, Wolf and Gregor, will "probably be back at some point -- probably the next season," Filoni revealed. "That's a plug for the Rebels Season 4 panel." A shot of Rex in Rebel Forest gear, looking very much like an old character at the Battle of Endor, was teased while Filoni said, "That shouldn't be out there."

Ahsoka Tano was next to get the spotlight, to the delight of the crowd. Ahsoka was greatly influenced by San from Princess Mononoke in her style and motion, Filoni revealed. He wrote notes on Ahsoka and her voice for EK Johnston, who wrote the Ahsoka novel, and praised her both for her original work and for her ability to take some direction and work with him.

The left the conversation of Ahsoka with her fight with Vader, though Hidalgo said, "There is more to say, but it's not going to be said here." He further teased, "There is a Season 4 of Rebels. Season 4 panel on Saturday, there's a lot coming."

When Chopper, the droid from Rebels made his Rogue One: A Star Wars Story cameo, director Gareth Edwards leaned over to Filoni and said, "I love this shot, except for that orange thing there," ribbing him. That was a direct product of the Story Group's work to bring all these stories together, as was Saw Gerrera, the Ghost and Hammerhead Corvettes being used. The ILM model of the Ghost has about 200% more detail than the Rebels version - something they had to adjust for its big screen debut.

"We were as thrilled to see this on screen as you guys were," Hidalgo said of the Rebels transfers and cameos to Rogue One.

Cad Bane wrapped things up, and the character's original design was meant to be the Legends character Durge. The complete transformation into a cowboy character came, again, directly from George Lucas. "He's one of my favorite characters," Filoni said.There was another story arc featuring Cad Bane teaching Boba Fett to be a real bounty hunter, and it's fully voiced animatics of Daniel Logan as Boba and Cory Burton as Cad Bane, and they showed a clip!

Boba was wearing his full classic green armor. He confronts Bane, fighting for some innocents -- an interesting added dimension to his character for sure! Embo and Bossk show up as well. The confrontation became Bane versus Fett in a one-on-one gunfight, total classic western "High Noon" style.They both pull their blasters and shoot, and both land shots -- Cad Bane hits Boba Fett right in the helmet - where the dent in his helmet is in the films, a suggestion from George Lucas. Amazing!

That wrapped the panel, but there's a lot of promise for much more from the future at the Rebels Season 4 panel on Saturday.