Premiering on Cartoon Network in 2008, Star Wars: The Clone Wars was an animated series set during the three year span of time between the Star Wars prequel films Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. It built upon the story started in the 2003 Star Wars: Clone Wars run of twenty-five chapters worth of animated story (ranging from 3 minute to 15 minute installments). The Clone Wars (the word “the” in the title is important to distinguish the two) consisted of 121 episodes unveiled across six seasons. The series chronicled the often mentioned but never seen Clone Wars, a period of time that was, for the most part, off-limits to writers and creators. As such, this was previously uncharted territory.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars was developed as a 3-D animation project. Lucasfilm Ltd. and Lucasfilm Animation used 3-D modeling programs to design a multitude of highly detailed worlds, characters, and creatures. George Lucas himself was heavily involved in the project, and insisted that it focus on character development. Efforts were made to move the action across a multitude of worlds to make the story as interesting as possible for the viewer. It was never the intention to have the show center on Anakin Skywalker and his family’s story; rather, whole episodes would feature nothing but Clone Troopers or would detail the exploits of another cast member.
The series was created with a serial / anthology format, but each episode was designed to stand on its own. Season One, picking up where Attack of the Clones leaves off featured a variety of battles and adventures with Count Dooku and General Grievous serving as the primary antagonists. As the conflict escalates, the Republic and Separatists both attempt to convince various races and planets to side with them in the war. In Season Two, appropriately subtitled “Rise of the Bounty Hunters,” the Sith resort to employing a number of bounty hunters to steal intel and attack their enemies for them, while the Jedi-led Republic forces attack the Separatists’ primary battle droid manufacturing facility.
In Season Three, “Secrets Revealed,” and Season Four, “Battle Lines,” the story takes a step away from the battlefield and begins to focus more on the diplomatic side of the war. Viewers now see how the war has been affecting different races and planets, making a point to show that there are times when the Republic Senate can make more of an impact than the Jedi Council. Several early episodes in Season Three actually take place in and around the previous two seasons, in an effort to flesh out the story and make the continuity more cohesive. In the midst of the war, Anakin Skywalker takes more steps towards the Dark Side of the Force, while the Sith struggle with conflict in their ranks.
Season Five consists of several multi-part story arcs, several of which focus on the development of Ahsoka Tano, Padawan apprentice to Anakin. Other developments include the Separatists gaining power, and the recently returned Darth Maul (from The Phantom Menace) meeting his fate.
Season Six, title “The Lost Missions” rather than season 6, debuted on Netflix in 2014 and brought the series to a close. It explored some of the deeper mysteries of the conflict between the light and dark sides of the Force. It detailed the origins of Order 66, which resulted in the destruction of the Jedi in Revenge of the Sith, even as Emperor Palpatine cemented his rise to power. Meanwhile, Yoda embarked on a quest to discover the true nature of the Force and received visions of what is to come.
Now, I know what you are thinking, what would a Star Wars animated series be without a toy line? Well, I have no answer for you, since Hasbro took care of things by producing toys based on The Clone Wars beginning in 2008. Every action figure in the line was depicted in an animated style to capture the likenesses of the characters from the show. The figures were nicely sculpted, featured character-specific accessories, and were highly articulated. Between 2008 and 2013, 169 single-carded basic figures were released: of these, 28 were figures that were re-releases.
Several lead characters, such as Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Ahsoka Tano, had several different figures made of them. These include ones based on Anakin and Ahsoka’s appearances in the second season episode “Cargo of Doom,” or Obi-Wan and Anakin’s cold weather gear from Season One’s “Trespass.” However, over the course of the series, they did not change their outfits all that much, limiting the number of different figures that could be produced.
Outside of that trio, the Jedi Council was well represented. Plo Koon, Kit Fisto, Luminara Unduli, Aayla Secura, Shaak Ti, Ki Adi Mundi, Barriss Offee, Eeth Koth, and everyone’s favorite purple lightsaber-wielding jedi Mace Windu, all debuted in either The Phantom Menace or Attack of the Clones, and were an integral part of The Clone Wars as well. Last, but certainly not least, was Yoda, small he might be in size but not in the ways of the Force, and his figure looks like he leaped right off the TV screen.
Given that the line is based on The Clone Wars, it makes sense that a good number of the figures are the clones themselves. In fact, about one quarter of the line is comprised of members of the clone army. Some are just rank and file soldiers, like the members of the ARC Troopers, the 212th Attack Battalion and the 41st Elite Corps. Others are characters that the animated series focused on, such as Captain Rex, Commander Cody, Clone Troopers Odd Ball, Echo, and Denal. As the series progressed, the Clone Troopers’ armor received an upgrade, and this was reflected in the design of the figures.
Opposing the Republic, the Jedi Council and the Clone Army were the Sith and the Separatists. Sith Lords General Grievous, Count Dooku, and Asajj Ventress, led by the soon-to-be-emperor Darth Sidious, represented the Dark Side of the Force. Later in the series, fan-favorite villain Darth Maul returned, with his brother Savage Opress by his side.
To combat the Clone Army, the Separatists relied upon the might of their battle droids. From the standard issue Battle Droid all the way on up to the Super Battle Droid, the Clone Troopers had more than enough to handle. That’s not even mentioning the even more dangerous-looking Destroyer Droid, as well as the Magnaguard Droids, General Grievous’ personal bodyguards.
No Star Wars story would be complete without a few bounty hunters thrown in. From newcomers like Cad Bane, Aurra Sing, Embo, and Cato Parasitti to a pre-Mandalorian armor Boba Fett, these figures add an element of diversity to the line.
Beyond the individual figures, Hasbro produced several other assortments. Deluxe Sets feature a Class 1 Fleet Vehicle, or “mini-rig,” along with a single figure. Some of these include a Clone Trooper on a BARC Speeder Bike, a Naboo Desert Skiff with Anakin Skywalker, and a Freeco Speeder with Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Battle Packs featured three to four figures, packaged together to re-enact battles and events from the animated series. Assault on Geonosis, Jabba’s Palace, Attack Battalion, and Mandalorian Warriors were but a few of these sets available. Some of the figures included were reprints of older figures, while others were brand new,
Finally, a whole fleet of vehicles was produced for both heroes and villains to fly around the galaxy in. The Republic’s Y-Wing Bomber and V-19 Torrent Starfighter could face off against the Separatist Droid Gunship and the Trade Federation Armored Assault Tank in battle, with armies of Clone Troopers facing off against the assembled Droid Army.
Overall, this was a well-designed and executed line of action figures that more than lived up to the name Star Wars. In comparison to the original Kenner Star Wars action figures, Hasbro’s The Clone Wars figures featured far more articulation, cleaner sculpts, and better paint applications but that is to be expected as toys mature over time. However, one thing that it does lack is variety. For example, there are only a handful of aliens represented in the line, and as mentioned above, a great number of the figures are members of the Clone Army.
What made the classic Star Wars action figure line so much fun were the random characters that received about two seconds of screen time but still turned up in our collections. Sure, everyone liked Luke, Han, and Leia, and Lando Calrissian is the coolest man in the galaxy, but the characters that you liked and the figures you wanted to own, were the weird aliens. The patrons at the Mos Eisley Cantina, the hangers-on at Jabba the Hutt’s palace, even the unnamed bounty hunters that Darth Vader hires to capture Luke Skywalker, these were characters without backstory and, ultimately, they became the ones that sparked your imagination as a kid during playtime. Back then, no one knew where Hammerhead was from or what Dengar’s story was, and that was part of the fun. These were simply anonymous aliens who filled in the background of Star Wars, and Kenner made every last one of them a figure.
To The Clone Wars’ credit, the series was not about the exploits of one small group. It made a concerted effort to tell a grand story with a large cast of characters, changing the focus and the story so the viewer could see the big picture. To that end, there really weren’t too many unnamed background characters for Hasbro to make figures of, since the animated series made time to tell stories about everyone. Rank-and-file Clone Troopers were as important, if not more so, than Jedi Knights and Republic Senators. It’s part of what made this a great series of stories.