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Dave Filoni – Modern Day George Lucas

A long time ago, in long forgotten meat space, I was talking Star Wars with fellow Ferret Will Attar. He shocked me with the Messenger equivalent of a blank stare when I mentioned Dave Filoni. Dave Filoni! Avatar director! Clone Wars and Rebels supervising director! Mandalorian director! He’s destined for the Mount Rushmore of Star Wars creators, if he’s not already there.

Will’s a bigger Star Wars fan than I am, and Avatar The Last Air Bender is a passion of his but a blind spot of mine. For such a fan to not be aware of Filoni’s contributions to Star Wars, especially now, is a disservice to fans and Filoni.

Lucas’ Dark Side

Growing up, I loved watching Star Wars documentaries. Which is weird to think about, because I grew up in the VHS age, without cable, and when Star Wars wasn’t owned by one of the major networks. And yet I remember stumbling across several stand-alone specials about the making of Star Wars, prominently featuring George Lucas. He came off like this down to earth artist, an auteur in plaid. You got the sense that he had a vision, fought for that vision without compromise, and fulfilled that vision single handed.

Unfortunately, as the years went on, a few things became clear:

  1. When George Lucas said things like “it was always the plan,” “always” and “the plan” could not be trusted. The more documentaries and interviews you watched, the more you’d hear Lucas contradict himself about what the plan was.
  2. Lucas downplayed the marketing decisions he made. Which is a shame. Star Wars’ sustained existence was as much because of George Lucas’ creativity as it was his marketing genius. I’ve come to appreciate things like releasing the Special Editions in the 90s to regain distribution rights to some version of Star Wars, but in my less mature teen years, I felt tricked.
  3. Star Wars and George Lucas owe their success to a lot of people. Talented artists and filmmakers get overshadowed every time George Lucas takes full credit for himself.

The existence and popularity of Mr Plinkett’s deconstructions of the prequels and The People Vs George Lucas documentary are the result of not just fans expectations not being met, but the real world narrative that George Lucas curated in decades of interviews blowing up in his face. Thinking back, those Star Wars retrospectives may have been paid advertising spots.

I transitioned from what might have been Lucasarts infomercials to critical dissections of Lucas. Modern Star Wars documentaries didn’t feature George Lucas prominently, or sometimes at all. These documentaries featured a name I wasn’t heretofore familiar with. A new face. A new hope.

Lucas’ Young Apprentice

Dave Filoni embodies the Star Wars fan I used to be. Enthusiastic. Awkward but in an endearing way. And a full to bursting with Star Wars knowledge and an eagerness to share it. Also, to be clear, I am not comparing my Star Wars knowledge to Dave Filoni’s.

One aspect of Filoni’s love of Star Wars that I admire he was able to retain is his admiration for George Lucas. He reminds me that despite his flaws and taking more credit than he should, George Lucas still deserves a lot of credit for Star Wars. At first my reaction to Filoni talking so highly about him was “C’mon, it’s George Lucas.” But that was eventually replaced with “That is George Lucas.”

The Filoni Verse

Hearing Dave Filoni talk about Star Wars is almost like listening to your favourite Star Wars fan go over his theories and head-canon, except these aren’t theories, they’re insight. And it’s not his head-cannon, it’s canon. Canon he knows better than anyone.

When Disney bought Star Wars off of George Lucas and declared most of the Extended Universe non-canon, the few exceptions that weren’t theatrically released movies were all made by Filoni’s hand. Clone Wars. Rebels. Both of which feed off one another, back and forth. And they feed into Mandalorian, considered inarguably Star Wars’ biggest win since the original trilogy. And the big reveal at the end, that Gideon possesses the darksaber, is a follow up to a McGuffin B-plot introduced on Clone Wars.

Fan of the Fans

Some of my favourite Filoni moments are when he interacts with or talks about Star Wars fans. Like my views of George Lucas , the perception of Star Wars fans is jaded to many people. But again, not to Dave Filoni. When he’s in a crowd of fans, he doesn’t look like he’s doing it for publicity. There’s a great recreation of a conversation between Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni about the famous Star Wars cosplay group the 501st in the last episode of Disney Gallery – Star Wars: The Mandalorian on Disney+. They’d spent their costume budget and weren’t happy about how few Storm Troopers that got them.

Favreau asks Filoni how many 501st members he could get on short notice. Filoni thinks about it and estimates 30. It doesn’t come off like he knows a guy who knows 30 guys. It looks like he’s going through his mental rolodex of 501st members he knows or is aware of well enough to know how to get in touch with them. Which doesn’t surprise me. I rewatched Morgan Spurlock’s Comic-Con: Episode IV – A Fans Hope documentary after watching some Clone Wars featurettes. I spotted Dave Filoni, unannounced, standing in a group shot of Star Wars cosplayers. Maybe he didn’t get identified by the film because he wasn’t a big enough name yet, or if the filmmakers completely missed that they had the supervising director of The Clone Wars in one of their shots.