GONK brings us the questions and answers session with the cast and crew of Star Wars: The Clone Wars in San Diego from last Friday’s USO screenings. Part I is the first Q&A session, after the screening of ‘The Gathering’.
One of the best parts of the cast and crew appearances at the USO screenings of Star Wars: The Clone Wars at MCAS Miramar was the post-screening question and answer program. While I hinted about some of the some of the questions earlier in my coverage of the event and I went in depth with voice actor James Arnold Taylor in an interview at ClubJade.net, here’s the content from the first of the two Q&A sessions:
For each session, we had supervising director Dave Filoni, as well as voice actors Matt Lanter (“Anakin Skywalker”), Catherine Taber (“Padmé Amidala”), Ashley Eckstein (“Ahsoka Tano”), Dee Bradley Baker (all the clones including “Rex”), and James Arnold Taylor (“Obi-Wan Kenobi”). Taylor acted as the emcee of the panel, and brought out a few questions of his own to liven things up.
Background questions on the cast and crew:
After the screening of “The Gathering”, Taylor introduced each of the panelists and asked a few questions of his fellow cast and crew.
- Matt Lanter, on the voice of Anakin: Anakin’s pretty much me, I just deepen it a little bit. A [switched in Anakin voice] little more commanding – it’s more the attitude.
Dave Filoni, on directing Lanter: Matt’s naturally Anakin. George [Lucas] and I wanted our Anakin to be a more heroic Anakin than we had even seen in the films. We had the opportunity to make Anakin a good guy, more than you thought. He’s a true friend to Obi-Wan, and a hero, which he didn’t have time to show in the films. Matt’s a natural – he’s a good guy, and that’s something that I look for when I’m casting is the people that play these parts – they’re naturally Obi-Wan-esque [faces Taylor] and clone-esque [faces Baker], if you will. Matt made a perfect Anakin. Half the time I want to stick him in a Jedi robe and put him on camera.
- Cat Taber, on other her Star Wars voice roles: I voice Leia in The Force Unleashed and The Force Unleashed II, and at Celebration this year, we got to see a little footage from something called Detours where I also voiced Leia, my own daughter. My first game was Knights of the Old Republic and I played a character called Mission Vao, and then in the new The Old Rebublic, a character named Vette. A lot of Twi’leks in my life, not sure why. And Penelo in Final Fantasy XII.
On Games for Soliders (GamesForSoldiers.com): It’s just a little organization, mostly me in my garage. I send video games that are donated, and comic books to soldiers deployed. It was originally to Iraq and Afghanistan, but now it is just to Afghanistan, just to say thanks. There’s a lot of gamers over there, and a lot of Star Wars fans, so it works out very well… You do have to be actually deployed to Afghanistan right now to get a box of games – you can’t be in Riverside, California.
- Ashley Eckstein, on being asked “What’s gonna happen to Ahsoka?”: I don’t know, Dave, what’s gonna happen to Ahsoka?
Filoni: I know. [laughs]
Baker: Darn, it didn’t work.
Eckstein: I don’t know – it gets crazy for the rest of the season, so you might want to watch.
Eckstein, on other things she’s been in: I did a lot of work for Disney Channel and Nickelodeon, so maybe the younger kids not so much, but I was on That’s So Raven, and Drake & Josh. Right now, I’m doing a new show called Sofia the First, if anyone has seen it – I get to voice Mia the Bluebird. [Mia voice: "Oh Sofia"] – a Marilyn Monroe type bluebird. It’s a really great show, and it just started.
- Dee Bradley Baker, on making weird sounds: (After making some weird creature sounds) You can try this at home, kids. You can try it at school. It’s fun to make weird sounds. [prompted by Taylor to do the sound of Perry the Platypus from Phineas and Ferb]. That’s it. Recorded once – reprinted many times. Thank you, Disney, our new master here at Lucas, for Perry the Platypus. That’s a great fun show. I love Phineas and Ferb.
Baker, on more voice work: A long time ago, it started out on a show called Legends of the Hidden Temple, a Nickelodeon game show that grown-ups might remember. More recently, I’m on a lot of SpongeBob episodes. “A guy who wants a Krabby Patty” and Squilly – “Squilliam, Squidward’s nemesis”, and Kevin and Bubble Bass. Lots of different characters on SpongeBob, it’s a very wacky, fun show. Also a show called Adventure Time, which is about the most bizarre thing I’ve ever been on. [Cinnamon Bun voice:]“I’m the voice of Cinnamon Bun on that – Hah-hah. Jake and Finn, Jake and Finn.”
Taylor (in FOX announcer voice): What about American Dad, on FOX?
Baker: [Klaus voice] “I play Klaus Heisler, the fish in the bowl. This is not a show for the children. American Dad – it sounds like it is, but it is not.” That’s a lot of fun. But The Clone Wars is very near and dear to my heart. I’ve loved Star Wars since episode IV came out in 1977. I have a picture of myself in a Jawa costume that my parents made for me, and I’ve always liked Star Wars very, very much. It’s a great thrill and an honor to be involved with this show. It’s such a thrill to come down here to all of you who love this show that we’re on, and tell you all thank you for what you do. It means a lot to us, so thank you all.
- Filoni, on his work before The Clone Wars: I started on King of the Hill, as a layout artist. [in Hank Hill voice, when prompted by Taylor]: Dangit James, I used to draw King of the Hill every day and I would sit there for hours. I went to art school and wound up drawing five guys drinking beer next to a fence. My dad was really confused. He said, “Dave, I’m not sure this is why you went to art school, bum.” [back to regular voice] It was a great show, I loved it. The best thing about King of the Hill was at Film Roman we had a lot of old Disney animators, old cel painters, people from different generations of animation. It was a great place to learn on the job. I did a lot of shows for Film Roman: a show called Mission Hill on the WB, a show called The Oblongs. Both had very short airings.
Then I went to Disney Television Animation and I worked on Teamo Supremo, Dave the Barbarian, Kim Possible, Lilo and Stitch: The Series. Then I left Disney to go work on Avatar: the Last Airbender. Airbender was done by two friends of mine, who I came into the industry with at King of the Hill. We were all at King of the Hill, but we wanted to do big action movies but we didn’t know anybody who knew Bruce Taylor, who was doing all the superhero stuff. So we had to come up with our own adventure show. Mike and Brian created Avatar the Airbender and because I had big ties to them as far as showing them anime, they asked me to come direct the pilot. I stayed on that for a whole season.
Be careful when you joke in life. I love that show. I was like, “Nothing is going to get me out of here – I love Nickelodeon.” We were joking one day at lunch, “What would it take to get you off the show?” “If George Lucas called and offered me a job, I’d go do that.” and we were all “Ha.. that’s so funny. He doesn’t even know you’re alive, haha.” and then they called the next week, and I thought it was a joke and I almost hung up on him, and I don’t know where I’d be now. But luckily, I took that call.
Audience questions and answers
The first two questions were from adults, while the rest were from young people in the audience.
- Q: Is Season Five going to be the last season of The Clone Wars?
Filoni: A heavy hitting question, right out of the box. Is Season five going to be the last season of The Clone Wars? To be honest, we’ve just kept making episodes, and I plan to keep making episodes until they tell me to stop. Because of our production system, we have several episodes in production beyond season five. Beyond that, I really can’t say and that’s not unusual for a television show. Even season to season you’re never quite sure. You never know.
- Q: You made a movie back in 2008. Are you going to make another movie, and if you do, would it be in 3-D?
Filoni: I would love to make another movie. But amazingly, almost unforeseen, there are already going to be a bunch of Star Wars movies in the theater rather quickly, starting in 2015 with Episode VII. Really exciting, to be honest. Work has gone up a notch in recent months. I don’t know if there would be room for a Clone Wars feature again. If we did one, Joel Aron, my CG supervisor, and I feel strongly that we couldn’t do it in 3-D because we would have to re-do a lot of the models, which would be a substantial investment. Part of the way we get the show to look so good is that we use a lot of simple visual tricks. Once you separate the plane out, you might lose a lot of those advantages. But I’m sure it would be explored, because most animated films are in 3-D more and more.
- Q: Where is Yoda from?
Taylor: The mind of George Lucas.
Filoni: George and I talked about this, this year actually. It comes up every now and then – every year I bother him with this. Finally, it looked like he was going to answer it and I told him not to. I told him, “I don’t want to know.” One of the cool things about Yoda is that we don’t know, and it leaves it up to mystery. If you grow up and get a Star Wars television show, you can decide where he’s from.
Taylor: We don’t even know what he is..
Filoni: There are theories about that but no definite note or anything.
- Q: Will Embo and Plo Koon ever meet?
Filoni: That would be an epic episode. That would be one of the best episodes that you and I would watch.
Taylor: Let’s clarify. Master Plo Koon, who I think has a wonderful voice, is one of your favorite characters and Embo is also one of your favorite characters. But the secret of Embo is that you’re actually his voice?
Filoni: I do the voice of Embo, which is really nothing. I can’t turn the magic on right here, because the magic is really at Skywalker Sound. I put my voice through a ton of processors with Matt Wood and Dave Eichhorn, because I want the show to be good. I don’t want people have to hear this on their TV screen.
One of the secrets to it, for the language – I know what the sense is – but the words are actually Italian soccer players. Because Americans don’t watch soccer. If I say “Totti Totti Cannavaro”, that’s an alien language to Americans, but it’s actually Francesco Totti, a soccer player.
- Q: For Dee Bradley Baker, what’s your favorite clonetrooper?
Baker: That’s difficult. I really love 99. I love Hevy. And recently, they introduced one a couple episodes ago, Gregor – I think he’s terrific. I love the clones who get a quick heroic story arc. I’ll give you those three – I can’t choose just one. Rex, of course, I love – he’s very straight ahead. Cody is very interesting because he’s not only really skilled and dependable, but things go in a very odd, interesting, and frightening way in Episode III. I still have some questions about that. But maybe those things will be answered.
Filoni: I wrote something about that this past week – We were having a discussion about why Cody did what he did in the third movie, I should email that to you.
Baker: When Cody ordered the shot to be fired at Obi-Wan, they miss. Right?
Filoni: You’re really hopeful about that. It’s fun to watch you.
Baker: A clone can hope.
Filoni: When you come up, we can deliberate more. We can’t talk about it here.
- Q: Are all of the character voices played by human actors? Or are some computer generated?
Taylor: Ashley, you take this one.
Eckstein: I don’t know if I’m the most qualified but yes, most of them are humans…
Filoni: Dee’s a robot. Everybody else is a real person.
Taylor: Dee was Byph.
Eckstein: Dee, give us the Geonosian queen…
Baker: The Geonosian queen, Karina… [raspy screeching voice] talks like this. [long sustained screech]
Taylor: To answer your question, because we have Dee Bradley Baker, we really don’t need any machines.
Filoni: Even R2-D2, his voice originates with a human, Ben Burtt. In his office, Ben has the original keyboard, mikes, sounds, that he uses to make Artoo-Detoo. So when we need new R2-D2 sounds, we go down to his office and use the same equipment they used in ’77.
- Q: For Dee, how did you start off in voice acting and doing noises?
Baker: I’ve done shows and performing all of my life, but I do all kinds of performing, like musicals, stand-up, singing telegrams,… I do anything, just to stay out of an office.
The noises, specifically… When I was your age, I would go fishing with my dad, and he taught me to do [crickets chirping] crickets, just like that. I’ve always liked animals and I’ve always like biology and I always loved monster movies. As I continued to do the different kinds of performing that I liked, it slowly became apparent that I liked to do weird sounds and voices that are not like my normal annoying nasally voice.
I saw, once I moved to Los Angeles, that people would pay me to do weird sounds, like a dog or a monster. So I started focusing on that, and it became almost half of what I do: weird creature sounds, in addition to straight ahead voice acting like in this show.
[Rex voice]: yes sir, you may call me captain or sir. That’s my Captain Rex voice, which is the basic straight ahead clone. [goes softer]: Now a clone might be a little bit younger. [goes lower] might be a little older. [louder]: might be a little more brash, like that. [normal]: Each one is a little bit different and Dave and the script set the tone of each of these clones. We try to make them all feel that they are an individual human, that they have individual humanity.
- Q: What happens to Ahsoka in Order 66?
Taylor: [Obi-Wan voice] I don’t understand what you mean. What do you mean, Order 66?
Filoni: Well, it starts out… No, I’m not going to tell you that. I couldn’t. I really want to – I’ve been asked this question ever since we introduced the character. I appreciate you asking the question because it means you care about the character. I absolutely, implicitly know what happens. Before when I answered this question, there were certain possibilities, but now I definitely know because George and I sat down and talked about it finally, and locked it all down, since he was retiring.
It’s in my brain, I haven’t told her (Eckstein), she doesn’t get to know. If we did it one way, I could go back to the studio and shoot it a different way which would be really funny. She’d think she knew but she wouldn’t know – I love that kinds of humor. So until I get to screen it, you can’t trust me. I’m a trickster and I would just coyote you. What would you like to see happen? I’ve never asked anybody that before.
Boy: Captain Rex kills Ahsoka.
Filoni: Wow! (cast reacts in shock) You’re one for the drama.
Baker: Whoa.. wait a minute.
Filoni: (To Dee) Haha! You didn’t see that coming. You thought an innocent kid out there – Game on! That’s what his shirt says. Order 66 – Boom! Ahsoka – too bad!
- Q: When’s your last episode?
Taylor: Matt, Cat?
Lanter: [joking] I don’t know. I just show up in the booth.
Taylor: So make something up. Dave’s not saying anything. We don’t really know when our last episode is, right?
Filoni: I don’t. He’s a San Diego Chargers fan, and I’m from Pittsburgh so I don’t have to answer his question.
Taylor: We would love it to be… fifty years from now. I think that would probably be the best for us.
Eckstein: I think we can say that the last episode of this season get pretty dramatic for Ahsoka. So you can watch this season.
Filoni: As long as, evidently, you’ll need to stay away from Rex, you’ll be fine.
Eckstein: Rex is nowhere near.
Filoni: I’m going to ask that all the time now. “What do you want to happen, kid?” [high voice] “I want her to die!” “Oh, wow.”
Taylor: and start tallying it up.
- Q: Will you make new characters and what will their names be?
Filoni: What’s your name?
Young Boy: Lars.
Filoni: Lars? We could make you Beru and Owen’s actual son, instead of adopting Luke, you could be Lars Lars. Because their name is Owen Lars and Beru Lars, so there – there’s a Star Wars character. I haven’t put you on the screen yet. You could be a little boy – you look kinda like an Uncle Owen as a child, so maybe that would work out. To give credit where credit is due, my buddy Kyle Newman came up with Lars Lars, so it’s ironic that your name is Lars and that the name Lars does exist in Star Wars because Luke is living with Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru, whose last name is Lars. So you’re already part of Star Wars.
We come up with new characters all the time. We name them various different things. Bo-Katan, the Mandalorian girl, is named after my wife, Ann, and she has a cat she calls “The Boogey”, so “Boogey – cat – Ann” became “Bo-katan” and that’s how I made up that name.
Taylor: And I did Osi Sobeck. What about Osi Sobeck?
Filoni: I don’t know where that came from. It could have been a juice or something. It could have been from Robek’s Juice or Sobek’s juice. We stopped short of naming one of the Mon Calamari “Charlie” – he became Lee-Char instead of Charlie Tuna. That’s what happens when you’re in the writer’s room for a long time: you have great ideas and you have dumb ideas and they all make it up on screen.
Eckstein: I think I voiced a droid once that was K2-B4, which was after Kobe Bryant, 24.
Filoni: Because the Lakers won the basketball championship that year, I did that. I do that every now and then for teams that win, I’ll throw an Artoo unit in that’s green and yellow for the Green Bay Packers.
Taylor: We need a character for Miramar now.
Filoni: Miramar would be a great…
Taylor: ..or uso for USO.
Filoni: Uso. That would work. All of that would work, shockingly.
Stay tuned for part II, the Q&A from the ‘Eminence’ screening.