This past Friday, cast and crew members of Star Wars: The Clone Wars visited Miramar Marine Corps Air Station and hosted a USO screening of The Clone Wars, including the US premiere of the episode 'Eminence'. GONK was on hand at the screening and has this exclusive event report.

Several of the voice actors and production team of Star Wars: The Clone Wars were on hand for the USO screenings of two episodes of the show for military personnel and their families at the base at Miramar in San Diego. After a day of touring the air station, and even going aboard an Osprey (a vertical take-off aircraft), supervising director Dave Filoni, producer Cary Silver, and voice actors James Arnold Taylor, Matt Lanter, Catherine Taber, Ashley Eckstein, and Dee Bradley Baker visited with fans before and after screenings of two episodes: an all-ages showing of 'The Gathering' (the start of the Young Jedi arc) and the premiere of 'Eminence' (which aired on Saturday morning, and continued the arc of Darth Maul's quest for revenge) for ages 8 and up. Before each screening, Taylor, Filoni and Silver would introduce the show, while after each screening, Filoni and the voice cast answered questions from the audience before signing autographs for the fans.[caption id="attachment_47729" align="alignright" width="300"]Photo from Miramar MCAS Facebook page[/caption]

With the first screening at 5:30 pm, families started lining up before 4:00 pm outside the Bob Hope theater on base. The USO showings were free, and open to any active duty military personnel and their immediate families, thus pulling from all over the San Diego area, and not just from Miramar MCAS (which once was the Navy Air Station housing the Navy's Top Gun fighter school back in the 80s). The line included plenty of Star Wars apparel on both kids and adults, and even a few clonetrooper masks, Artoo backbacks, and a Yoda puppeteer out with his family. After the doors opened and the families found their seats in the massive 1,500 seat auditorium, a film crew from Lucasfilm recorded the fandom accounts of families for the Star Wars Stories project and USO messages for their loved ones serving in Afghanistan.

One of the most touching stories I heard was about a family where a boy and his father would always watch The Clone Wars together when they aired, and when the father was deployed, the son didn't watch any episodes until his father came home, and the first thing they did when he returned was to watch all the episodes together.

The Gathering:

James Arnold Taylor acted as the emcee for the showings, and for the screening of 'The Gathering', introduced himself and thanked the servicemen and women for their work, and then brought out Dave Filoni and Cary Silver. Filoni remarked on how after his tour of the base (including finding the logo of the real-life Wolfpack squadron stationed at Miramar and touring an Osprey), he feels that he has to do much more work on the look of the craft of the show. They introduced the story of 'The Gathering' and gave their thanks to the USO and all the audience members. The episode started up with a video greeting from George Lucas, again expressing his gratitude to the troops and their families at Miramar.

While I've seen this episode of the younglings overcoming their own doubts and fears to find their lightsaber crystals before on the big and small screen, it still was breathtaking to behold when theatrically presented. The show doesn't just show up well in the cinema, it really was made for the big screen. After the screening of 'The Gathering', James Arnold Taylor came out and introduced the rest of the cast and Filoni. After letting the voice actors talk a little bit about themselves and their roles on the show, they opened it up for questions from the audience.

One of the highlights of the questions and answers was the inevitable question for Dave Filoni: What's going to happen to Ahsoka Tano with Order 66? Dave turned the question around and asked the boy what he wanted to happen to Anakin's padawan. The youngster replied that he wanted to have Captain Rex shoot Ahsoka, and Dave wondered Ashley Eckstein thought about that. Stay tuned for more of the Q & A later this week.

After the half-hour Q & A session, the cast members came down to sign autographs and talk with the kids and adults, answering questions and listening to the stories of the military families. Dave Filoni took time to draw sketches for his fans. Quite a few of the fans stayed between the first and second screenings, and as the time for the 8:00 pm screening drew nearer, the theater filled again with more families, ready for the premiere screening of 'Eminence' before it aired.


Similar arrangement as before: James Arnold Taylor came out and introduced himself, then brought out Cary Silver and Dave Filoni. Filoni did mention that Maul's injuries at the hands of Obi-Wan will have "huge repercussions later in this arc for [Obi-Wan]". The director and producer also mentioned that the version being screened was the edited cut for television:

Filoni: You're going to notice one point where it gets really awesome and Savage Opress is going to throw his lightsaber down this table.
[Cary Silver mimes out a spinning lightsaber].
Filoni: You will unfortunately have to watch the edited version of this for television. But on the Blu-ray, I've restored the ...
Silver: Director's cut.
Filoni: ...whole head-lopping director glory of it with the smoking... well, you'll see it on the DVD. It will seem abrupt. As a filmmaker, I have to bring it up because we'd never make a cut that sloppy, but there you have it. You'll know now that it is better.
Silver: So, if you go for that sort of thing, pick up the box set, it comes out in October.
Filoni: Let's try not to make it such a blatant commercial.
Silver: That's the producer.

And there it is: confirmation of that scene in 'Eminence' being edited for television (discussed by Swank-mo-tron earlier), and also first report that the video release of Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season Five on DVD and Blu-ray is scheduled for October 2013.

After the intro, the lights dimmed and curtains opened, and George Lucas greeted us from the big screen again. Then the episode played, and I was pretty much blown away. 'Eminence' crammed so much story and action into those 22 minutes that it really felt longer. Seeing it on the 20-foot tall screen with a great sound system just highlighted how rich the visuals and audio of the show are. From listening to the great score as the Mandalorian ships approach their base planet to the details of the characters in the background, it really was a treat to see on the big screen. After the screening, I mentioned to a few Lucasfilm staff that they really need to do more special screenings in theaters: showing full story arcs, like the young Jedi arc was shown at Celebration as a mystery surprise, or some of the fan screenings at Lucasfilm. (I also put in a plug for more Hondo! Everyone's favorite pirate has gotten a few good episodes this season, but probably won't be seen for the remainder of the season.)

Matt Lanter and Catherine Taber sign autographsWith most of the audience having attended the first screening, the Q&A session skipped over the basic introductions, and just dove into audience questions.

Dave gave a great description of all the steps it takes to make the show (which still takes about a year to produce one episode) and Dee Bradley Baker showed off some of his creepiest creature voices (and as a lesson for kids: you CAN get paid to make wacky sounds). Catherine Taber described her Games for Soldiers project, which helps to send video games, DVDs and comics to military personnel in Afghanistan. Matt Lanter revealed that while Anakin wasn't in 'Eminence', Lanter provided the voice of Lom, the leader of the Pykes. Again, more details from the Q&A will be forthcoming. After another 40 minutes of fans (mostly kids) asking questions, the cast came back down into the audience to sign autographs and chat with the fans.

Big thanks to the USO for bringing The Clone Wars cast and crew members to visit MCAS Miramar and host the free screening for our military men and women and their families. One of the audience members remarked that they have been coming to USO events at Miramar for 18 years, and this event with the cast mixing with the audience in person was the best event that he'd attended. This USO tour was the second for James Arnold Taylor, who will be taking his one-man show "Talking to Myself" on a USO tour to Okinawa and Japan later this year, while it was a first for the rest of the Clone Wars crew. Given the turnout and tremendous impact of getting to meet so many fans among the military and their families and thank them for their service and sacrifice, I'm sure this USO event won't be the last for the folks behind The Clone Wars.

Check out more photos from the screenings in my flickr album.

EDIT: Check out my interview at with voice actor James Arnold Taylor about performing for the USO, and the roles of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Plo Koon and more!

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