In the last few weeks, we have been getting a chance to meet the new characters from Disney XD’s “Star Wars Rebels” including Chopper, the Grumpy Astromech Droid; Kanan, the Cowboy Jedi; Ezra, the Street-Smart Hero; Zeb, the Muscle; Sabine, the Explosive Artist; and Hera, the Pilot. This is really shaping up to be a really cool cast of new characters.
“Star Wars Rebels” is scheduled to premiere in fall 2014 as a one-hour special telecast on Disney Channel and will be followed by a series on Disney XD channels around the world.
Meet Chopper, Grumpy Astromech Droid
In “Star Wars,” droids are always eager to help out their human masters, drop whatever it is they’re doing when called upon, and sometimes even sacrifice themselves to save others. Right?
Not quite. Introducing Chopper, a lazy, cranky (if ultimately goodhearted) astromech droid, and the latest character revealed from the highly anticipated “Star Wars Rebels” animated series.
“If Artoo is the family dog,” said Dave Filoni, executive producer of the show, “Chopper is the cat.” Chopper is an essential crew member of the Ghost, tasked with keeping the starship running and operable for its band of heroes. In reality, thanks to his many “unique” upgrades and customizations, no other alien, human, or droid could handle the job.
The design of Chopper, a.k.a. C1-10P, takes cues from early Ralph McQuarrie concept art for R2-D2, especially the expressive arms that fold out of his head. As “Star Wars Rebels” takes place four years prior to the events of “Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope,” Chopper’s retro look creates an aesthetic continuity with droids of the original trilogy.
Meet Kanan, the Cowboy Jedi
Not every guardian of peace and justice was lost to the tragedy of Order 66. Introducing Kanan, a survivor of the Emperor’s Jedi purge and one of the main characters of Star Wars Rebels.
Kanan, voiced by Freddie Prinze, Jr., is a less traditional Force-wielder than fans are used to seeing. He carries a blaster, is a little sarcastic, and keeps his past a secret. “I like to call Kanan ‘the cowboy Jedi,’” says executive producer Dave Filoni. As shown in this video, his Jedi robes are long gone, replaced with armor and a holster, though a samurai-like ponytail hints at his Jedi Knight origins.
In Star Wars Rebels, set between Episode III and IV, Kanan has been underground for years, evading the Empire. If the Imperials become aware of his existence “he’s going to get killed,” says art director Kilian Plunkett. He still has his lightsaber, but no longer uses it for fear of revealing his true identity — and has ultimately forsaken the ways of the Jedi Order.
Star Wars Rebels will show Kanan’s journey as he rediscovers himself, just as a rebellion begins to form against the Empire. According to Filoni, “He’s a gunslinger that needs to put the gun away and pick up the sword again, and fight for noble causes and selfless causes.” But what will happen when he chooses to reignite his Jedi weapon, fighting once again for a greater purpose?
The video closes with a tease of what’s to come: an encounter with the nightmarish Inquisitor, the Empire’s Jedi hunter.
Meet Ezra, the Street-Smart Hero
In Star Wars Rebels, fans will see the rise of the Rebellion through Ezra: a 14-year-old con artist who learns to fight for a greater good. The seemingly-reluctant hero is revealed
Growing up on his own in the age of the Empire, Ezra has had to rely on his wit and cunning to get by. As voice actor Taylor Gray explains, “He’s very street-smart, he’s a pickpocket, he’s a little thief. But he’s doing it all because he needs to survive.”
Executive producer Dave Filoni adds that Ezra is not a bad kid. Although he may enjoy stealing from the Empire, his behavior has been influenced by the world around him – a world that is under Imperial control.
But his hard life has also made his world smaller. “He doesn’t really trust anyone,” says Rayne Roberts, creative executive of Star Wars Rebels. “That’s kind of his motto in life. He has that hard edge at times.” When audiences first meet Ezra, he is not yet a Rebel and is not yet interested in restoring freedom to the galaxy – but that will soon change when Ezra is introduced to his new surrogate family: the crew of the Ghost.
Greg Weisman, executive producer, says, “His eyes get opened to the fact that there are people who care, who are trying to fight the good fight. And he becomes one of them.” Still, there is more to Ezra than even he knows.
Ezra is Force-sensitive, Filoni reveals, though he is unaware that he is tapping into this mystical energy field. Ezra knows he has some strange abilities, but they’re “instinctive and reactionary.” It is only through his relationship with Kanan, a Jedi Survivor and crew member of the Ghost, that Ezra will learn the true nature of his power. Together, they will forge new paths and destinies – and a rebellion will rise.
Meet Zeb, the Muscle
Every team needs a tough guy. Introducing Zeb, the (smart) muscle of the Ghost crew from Lucasfilm’s upcoming animated series Star Wars Rebels. He is revealed for the first time in this video, featuring concept art, clay sculpts, and final renderings of the character, in addition to creator interviews.
Zeb is a well-trained honor guard and is highly educated, according to executive producer Dave Filoni, which juxtaposes his brutish, alien appearance. He’s voiced by Steve Blum, who says, “He’s got a bit of a chip on his shoulder, hates Chopper and is starting to build a relationship with Ezra, begrudgingly.”
Zeb’s favorite pastime: beating up Stormtroopers, or bucket heads, as he’s heard calling them. He’s an agile fighter, using his hands, feet, and acrobatics. But there is more to Zeb than pounding Imperials. “It’s just going to be exciting to develop him and his bizarre new species,” says Filoni, “and to explain to the audience where he came from.”
Meet Sabine, the Explosive Artist
Sabine is a key member of the Ghost crew in Star Wars Rebels. As seen in this special video, featuring early design concepts, animation tests, and final art, Sabine is unlike any Star Wars character – especially in her love for blowing things up and tagging her work with graffiti.
Dave Filoni, executive producer of the animated series, discloses that Sabine is a Mandalorian. She has a great understanding of weapons and combat like few others, and has turned against the Empire. “She is spunky, she’s feisty, she’s got a little bit of attitude,” says actress Tiya Sircar, who is voicing the character. Additionally, Sabine is an artist, which is reflected in her hair, personalized armor, and graffiti calling cards. After the Ghost crew hits the Empire, Sabine makes sure the Empire knows who did it. Concept artist Amy Beth Christenson says that the Star Wars Rebels animation team has created a library of graffiti tags for Sabine, and is constantly adding to it.
In the end, Sabine is a strong, no-nonsense heroine. As Sircar says, “I think she’s kind of an inspiration.”
Meet Hera, the Pilot
Hera is the heart of the Ghost crew from Star Wars Rebels. The Twi’lek is an ace pilot, able fighter, and is revealed to fans in this behind-the-scenes video featuring creator interviews, character sketches, and animation previews.
Hera is voiced by Vanessa Marshall, and is an especially gifted pilot. “I think she really makes flying the Ghost look easy,” says Joel Aron, CG supervisor. And while she’s strong-willed, Hera also keeps the group together, and can be warm and nurturing. “She knows how to talk to them to get the best out of themselves and to be part of that team,” Aron says. “That to me is the commander of a ship.”
Hera wears “utilitarian flight gear,” orange in color, with her Twi’lek head-tails hanging down her back. She’s not particularly glamorous, and is just focused on getting the job done. Like every member of the Ghost team, she has her reasons for rebelling against the Empire. Uncovering those reasons will be part of the Star Wars Rebels story, says executive producer Dave Filoni.
“Every time we get a script,” says Marshall, “I am breathless with anticipation. I cannot wait to read what’s next because I want to see where we’re going, too.”
Meet the Inquisitor, the New Face of Evil
The next great villain from a galaxy far, far away is here. Fans attending Lucasfilm’s Star Wars Rebels panel today at New York Comic Con got the world’s first look at the Inquisitor, a black-clad, intimidating figure who will play a prominent role in the upcoming animated series.
In a new video screened at the end of the panel, Star Wars Rebels executive producer Dave Filoni officially revealed the character, showing design sketches, a sculpted maquette, and disclosing that the Inquisitor is “tasked by Darth Vader to hunt down the remaining Jedi Knights.”
The panel, hosted by Lucasfilm’s Pablo Hidalgo, focused on the Empire and how it is central to the story of Star Wars Rebels. Hidalgo revealed that the series takes place about 14 years after the events of Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith, a time in which the Emperor’s rule is secure and the Empire is seeking to expand its power to Outer Rim territories. Further details about the panel can be found on www.starwars.com.
If anything was made clear at today’s panel, it’s that the Empire is back — thanks to Star Wars Rebels.
Here are some other really cool behind-the-scene look videos from “Star Wars Rebels”