Star Wars Animation and the Future of the Franchise, Explained


Summary

  • Star Wars
    animation has seen a modern renaissance with popular series like
    The Clone Wars
    ,
    Rebels
    , and
    The Bad Batch
    .
  • The end of
    The Bad Batch
    marks the end of the Clone Wars era, leaving the future of
    Star Wars
    animation uncertain.
  • A new core
    Star Wars
    animated series is expected to be announced soon, possibly exploring new eras like The High Republic.



As the Star Wars franchise has grown with new films and television series over the years, the realm of animation has become one of the most successful avenues for the franchise to engage and expand its passionate fan base. There have been over a dozen animated Star Wars series over the decades, with the best and most famous released over the last decade or so. Most of the modern renaissance in Star Wars animation was kicked off by Dave Filoni’s The Clone Wars animated series, which began airing on Cartoon Network in 2008 before eventually wrapping up with its final season on Disney+ in 2020.

Beyond The Clone Wars, the Star Wars franchise has produced other quality animated shows ranging from Rebels to The Bad Batch, Visions, Tales of the Jedi, and more. Over the last decade, there has been a fairly consistent output of new Star Wars animation, typically with one primary show at the center of it all at any given time. The baton has been passed from The Clone Wars to Rebels to Resistance, then briefly back to The Clone Wars and on to The Bad Batch.


However, with the third and final season of The Bad Batch completing its run earlier this summer, the animated side of the galaxy far, far away appears to be directionless for the first time in years. With that in mind, we want to take a look at the pattern for releasing new Star Wars animated shows, when we expect to hear about what’s coming next, and how this part of the franchise needs to evolve to stay alive.


The Bad Batch Ended the Clone Wars Era

Star Wars: The Bad Batch

Release Date
May 4, 2021

Seasons
3


The end of The Bad Batch wasn’t just the end of the latest core series in Star Wars animation, it was the end of the Clone Wars era as we’ve known it. For over a decade now, the defining animated series from Star Wars has been Filoni’s take on the Clone Wars, for good reason. That show redefined what episodic storytelling within the Star Wars franchise could be and almost singlehandedly repaired the reputation of the prequel films. After it was canceled (temporarily) following Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm, The Clone Wars was built upon with Rebels, which incorporated many of the most famous characters from The Clone Wars and in many ways operated as a sequel series to that hit show.

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Shortly after Rebels wrapped in 2018, Star Wars animation debuted Resistance, a new series set in the lead-up to the sequel trilogy. That show lasted a couple of years. Then, The Clone Wars returned with its seventh and final season in the early summer of 2020. That season also introduced Clone Force 99, a new bunch of experimental clone characters who would receive their own spin-off series, The Bad Batch, in 2021. Although neither Rebels nor The Bad Batch takes place during the Clone Wars, they very much build on the story of the Clone Wars series, and as such, they exist in a very similar space creatively. However, the end of The Bad Batch shows that the story of the Clone Wars era is pretty definitively finished at this point.


While The Clone Wars may live on to some degree through the Tales series – Tales of the Jedi and Tales of the Empire – those series are mainly anthology stories focused on the broader Star Wars galaxy rather than just the Clone Wars stories. On top of that, the Tales anthology series are also released very sporadically, with short episodes (typically less than 20 minutes) and abbreviated six-episode seasons. It’s hardly the driving force that Star Wars animation fans have become used to.

The Future of Star Wars Animation Is Uncertain

Although the Clone Wars series has come to an end, that doesn’t mean that Star Wars animation is going away anytime soon. We will almost assuredly receive new installments in the Tales anthology at some point, and the same is likely true of the non-canon Visions series. On top of that, there’s also Young Jedi Adventures, a much more child-oriented series that will be debuting its second season at the end of this summer.


While all of these shows are on the docket, the future of Star Wars animation still feels somewhat uncertain and directionless without a major show to center it on. There have only been minor periods like this over the last decade of animated Star Wars shows, though they’ve never lasted more than a few months. Back in 2013, Rebels was announced only two months after the cancelation of The Clone Wars. Then, Resistance was announced only a few weeks after the conclusion of Rebels in 2018, with the revival of The Clone Wars for its final season unveiled shortly after. After The Clone Wars wrapped up in May 2020, The Bad Batch was then announced just two months later, in July. Since then, we have not had a substantial gap of any sort.

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If Disney and Lucasfilm Animation continue this trend, that would mean that the announcement of a new mainline Star Wars animated series could be coming any day now. That seems unlikely, though, as the focus of the franchise appears to be squarely on the live-action series The Acolyte at the moment, with Skeleton Crew following in just a few months. On top of that, there is no Star Wars Celebration, the convention at which these shows are usually announced this year. While it’s always possible fans will get a surprise announcement at San Diego Comic-Con in a couple of weeks, we aren’t holding our breath.

Explore New Eras of the Star Wars Franchise


With all that said, it appears that Star Wars animation is taking a bit of an unannounced break. Lucasfilm is leaving a gap between its shows, likely to let them stand alone a bit more and not overwhelm audiences with an avalanche of new material. They have clearly applied this same approach to feature films, as we haven’t gotten a new Star Wars movie since The Rise of Skywalker in 2019, and we will not get one until The Mandalorian & Grogu in May 2026 at the earliest.

Whenever Lucasfilm Animation comes back with a new core Star Wars animated series, it will likely be something completely new. They have developed a reputation for expanding the franchise in unexpected ways, and we have no reason to believe this will stop anytime soon. Personally, we hope that they will maintain the same animation style of The Clone Wars and The Bad Batch and bring it to a new era, such as The High Republic or even The New Republic, in which it could be set alongside live-action shows like The Mandalorian and Ahsoka.


Star Wars animation has failed to expand beyond the Clone Wars era before, with Resistance, an animated show that was set in the same era as the sequel trilogy. The short-lived series only lasted two seasons, with its first season set immediately before The Force Awakens and its second set concurrently with and after The Last Jedi. While Resistance failed to grow an audience, that doesn’t mean the idea behind the series should be abandoned.

Whatever direction Lucasfilm Animation decides to go with the next Star Wars animated series, it needs to be something fresh to get fans excited. While Tales of the Empire scratched that itch temporarily, Star Wars animation needs to go further and produce something completely original to keep this corner of the franchise alive and growing. Star Wars is streaming on Disney+.




https://movieweb.com/star-wars-animated-shows-timeline/