‘Rebels’ creator: Every generation needs its own ‘Star Wars’ lore – USA TODAY

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Highlights of the ’40 Years of Star Wars’ presentation at ‘Star Wars Celebration’ featuring George Lucas, Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and more, plus a tribute to the late Carrie Fisher.
Lucasfilm

ORLANDO — To the masses, his name might not be as synonymous with Star Wars as Mark Hamill or Harrison Ford, but among the staunch fandom, Dave Filoni is a rock star. And for those who dig the franchise’s recent female-friendly bent, he’s one of the people to thank.

The executive producer of Disney XD’s animated series Star Wars Rebels, Filoni has been an unsung hero expanding the mythos of the Star Wars saga with the current show (set before the first Star Wars film) and the prequel-era series The Clone Wars. He’s made such a mark that he was center stage with the franchise’s biggest icons at Star Wars Celebration’s star-studded 40th-anniversary panel with his mentor, George Lucas.

Lucas’ journey to get the 1977 Star Wars movie made ”spoke to me so much and it inspired my creativity that I was able to get to a position where I took on the task of, ‘Hey, I want to do this,’ ” say Filoni, 42. “It’s that Luke moment: I’m going to learn the ways of the Force and become a Jedi like my father.”

He’s heeded other Star Wars lessons, too, which is why Rebels, which follows young members of the underdog Rebellion battling the all-powerful Empire, will end after its upcoming fourth and final season.

“The selfish thing for me to do would have been to keep telling these stories,” Filoni says. “But if you follow Star Wars, you know the selfish thing is not the right thing to do. The best thing is to end it and to move forward, for myself and for the fans.”

Newer movie characters such as Daisy Ridley’s Rey in The Force Awakens and Felicity Jones’ Jyn Erso from Rogue One have recently taken the Star Wars universe by storm, yet Filoni, inspired by the late Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia, has long made a habit of introducing fierce, indepedent women into the canon. Ace pilot Hera Syndulla (voiced by Vanessa Marshall) and artistic Mandalorian warrior Sabine Wren (Tiya Sircar) have played huge roles on Rebels, as has Filoni’s most popular creation, the former Jedi apprentice Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein).

Since debuting in The Clone Wars in 2008, Ahsoka has built a huge following of young women — at Celebration on Saturday, Filoni was greeted on the Orange County Convention Center floor by 80 people dressed up as the character. “I’m just humbled by it,” he says. “It puts a lot of responsibility on me to play it the right way and to continue to make it an exciting experience around her.”

Another reason why he’s ending Rebels: Every generation needs their own piece of Star Wars lore, and as Lucas’ apprentice ponders what his next project will be, he looks to youngsters for inspiration.

“Sabine was a reaction to how kids are now, not living in the past and not trying to make kids look at something I thought was cool when I was young,” Filoni says. “They have to own Star Wars now. You have to have them love it the same way we loved it.”

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