Animation vs. Live-Action

Cameron Antonakes

In recent years, the Star Wars fan base has become deeply divided, more than it ever has in the past. This recent division has separated the Star Wars fan base into many different sects such as the Original Trilogy fans, the Prequel fans, the EU (expanded universe) fans, the all-inclusive fans, and the dreaded Sequel fans. However, in 2019, The Mandalorian released which brought a majority of the fan base together. The Mandalorian is the first live-action Star Wars show and it did not disappoint. Yet a big question still remains, The Clone Wars and Rebels are both animated Star Wars shows with Clone Wars arguably being better than The Mandalorian and many of the mainstream movies. So that begs the question, why weren’t these shows able to do what The Mandalorian has in just two years?

The best person to answer this question would be Dave Filoni, writer and director of The Clone Wars, Rebels, The Mandalorian, and the new acclaimed animated show: The Bad Batch. Filoni has been working on Star Wars since 2005 when he and George Lucas started to work on the Clone Wars movie which preceded the show. When the movie came out in 2008 it was met with a poor response due to a mildly interesting plot and the fact that this was the first time Star Wars was ever in full fledged 3D animation. Despite the film flopping, Filoni and Lucas went ahead with their original plan to create a Clone Wars TV show. The show went on for six seasons before it was cancelled when Disney bought Lucasfilm from George Lucas. By the time of the show’s abrupt ending, it had amassed a huge cult following, mainly made up of Prequel fans, hardcore fans, and fans that grew up watching the show back in 2008. There was even a movement on Twitter called #SaveTheCloneWars which started in 2014 when the show ended and spanned five years until 2019 when Dave Filoni unveiled Clone Wars season 7 which would tie up all the loose ends left by the series’ abrupt cancellation in 2014.

Although this may sound similar to how the fans are reacting to The Mandalorian, it’s not that simple because The Mandalorian is appealing to all Star Wars fans and people who don’t even like Star Wars in the first place. It was different with The Clone Wars because it was animated which deterred a lot of people. The stigma of animation being for kids has been around since 1928 when Steamboat Willie (early Mickey Mouse) came out. 80 years later, people are still thinking that animated shows are just for kids. Yes, the animated Star Wars shows are appropriate for kids and aired on kids channels, but that doesn’t mean adults and more mature fans shouldn’t watch them. The animated shows dealt with big issues that the kids watching would not be able to understand. The animated shows regularly tackled the issues of discrimination, PTSD, existential crises, politics, moral and ethical issues, and even death. All subjects that would likely go over a child’s head. 

In my interviews with Mr. Sargent, Intro to Film teacher, and Noah Kravitz, longtime Star Wars fan, I asked them about the stigma behind animated TV shows. When asked if there is indeed a stigma behind animated shows that isn’t present with live-action, Mr. Sargent answered, “I think there is, perhaps, some stigma still with animated shows. They’re generally considered less ‘serious,’ which might explain why most of the adult-market animated shows are comedies.” Noah was asked a similar question; is animated Star Wars just for kids? He answered, “I’d say no, because Star Wars is for everyone to enjoy, however, I wouldn’t advise young children not to watch it as it gets dark and evil and may scare kids or confuse children.”

Both of these responses show that a stigma does exist around animated TV shows, which directly contributes to The Clone Wars and Rebels lacking success compared to The Mandalorian. These shortcomings and his frequent work in animation is why Dave Filoni has not gotten the credit he deserves. However, with Dave Filoni’s recent promotion to executive creative producer at Lucasfilm and his success with his new hit animated series; The Bad Batch, his underrated status and animation stigma might be finally coming to an end.