Looking back at 10 years of Star Wars: The animated series

STAR WARS REBELS - "Twin Suns" - Reacting to a vision of Maul, Ezra defies Hera and Kanan to travel to a remote planet in hopes of stopping the former Sith Lord from carrying out his plans. This episode of "Star Wars Rebels" airs Saturday, Marc9h 18 (8:30 - 9:00 P.M. EST) on Disney XD. (Lucasfilm)DARTH MAUL
STAR WARS REBELS - "Twin Suns" - Reacting to a vision of Maul, Ezra defies Hera and Kanan to travel to a remote planet in hopes of stopping the former Sith Lord from carrying out his plans. This episode of "Star Wars Rebels" airs Saturday, Marc9h 18 (8:30 - 9:00 P.M. EST) on Disney XD. (Lucasfilm)DARTH MAUL /

Star Wars has been under Disney ownership for nearly ten years, so it’s important to look back on each aspect (the films, TV shows, video games, books and comics) and evaluate them. Star Wars has always had its foot in animation, with the most notable examples being the two iterations of Star Wars: The Clone Wars show. Disney has sought to expand on animation, with new shows like Star Wars: Rebels, Star Wars: Resistance and Star Wars: The Bad Batch.

TV under Disney got off to a rocky start. The cancellation of The Clone Wars still stings for fans, and, while it did get revived, arcs were missing. The conclusion to Ventress’s story, how Maul escaped Sidious, and Boba Fett’s duel with Cad Bane, are just some of the stories not released in animated form. They would of course be told in other media, but that unfortunately left some fans behind, and didn’t let these stories reach their full potential. This cancellation left a bitter taste in fans’ mouths, with a story unfinished.

Of course, the reason The Clone Wars was cancelled is so that Disney could tell their own animated story, Rebels. The series was a limited exploration of the formation of the Rebel Alliance, though it did it with a light hearted manner which doesn’t fit the era. Rebels doesn’t live up to the high quality of The Clone Wars, and leaves out a lot of the depth the series had, instead opting for a simple adventure tale. The animation too looks like it got worse, with the budget not allowing it to push the boundaries of the medium.

However, Rebels is still worth watching. While the first few episodes lean heavily on iconography from the original trilogy, the series eventually developed its own identity. Spirituality is a big part throughout the show, which meant anyone looking for their fill of the force would be pleased. Season three and four especially have stand out episodes and villains, with Thrawn being a particular highlight. Rebels is not the successor to The Clone Wars however, that honour belongs to another show.

Resistance is the animated series that explored the sequel trilogy, and its success is even more limited than Rebels. An animated series to further contextualise and explain the sequel trilogy (just like The Clone Wars did for the prequels) is sorely needed, and Resistance didn’t do that. While Star Wars is a kids property, Resistance leaned into this angle far too much, alienating audiences that watched The Clone Wars and even Rebels.

Thankfully, Disney brought back The Clone Wars for a seventh season, to give it the ending that it deserved. The arc focusing on the Siege of Mandalore is easily some of the best Star Wars that has been released, completing the vision for the series. The arc introducing the Bad Batch is a fun, simple, action romp, and while the Trace and Rafa arc is the weakest of the season (dragging two episodes of story into four), it’s by no means the weakest of the show. The animation has clearly developed from prior seasons, and looks amazing. And, apart from moments in the Trace and Rafa arc, Disney didn’t compromise on the tone that audiences had come to expect for the show.

The Bad Batch, an animated series that followed the titular group introduced in season seven followed soon after The Clone Wars, and this is the true successor to the ground breaking series. The depth, the animation and the tone of the series evokes that of The Clone Wars, building on the series where Rebels couldn’t. While relying on cameos from The Clone Wars and Rebels a little bit too much, the story is a continuation of what had been set up in The Clone Wars, taking events and characters from the show and showing what they look like in the Imperial era. Tonally, The Bad Batch is perfect, as while some moments can be goofy and light-hearted, it mostly strikes a sombre and serious look at the galaxy. Where the horror of the Empire is downplayed in Rebels, The Bad Batch highlights it.

That isn’t to say the first series is perfect. A lack of narrative drive is evident, with some episodes taking an episodic format and some taking a serialised format. This effect is even more pronounced when looking at the two halves of The Bad Batch, the bounty hunter/mercenary aspect and the Imperial aspect. The episodes focusing on the Empire are much more interesting, having political depth, whereas the bounty hunter aspect is much more limited in this regard.

The animated series have a common figure across them, and it would be wrong not to mention him. And that man is Dave Filoni. His vision has been an amazing constant across the shows, connecting them to each other in surprising and interesting ways, and paying homage to all eras of Star Wars. While the series he has been a part of may not be of equal quality, it’s clear how he has grown as a creator throughout. There should also be a shout out to the amazing work that goes on behind the scenes too, with Kevin Kiner scoring Rebels, The Bad Batch and The Clone Wars, again developing each time. Voice actors too, with Dee Bradley Baker being a current standout.

While Disney had a rocky start in its animation, it’s slowly returning to the former heights that were lost with the cancellation of The Clone Wars. Rebels and Resistance missed the high mark set by the series, but with The Bad Batch the animation, story and characters are a joy to watch, expanding the Star Wars universe in new ways.