There was a great disturbance in the Force on Thursday, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in wonder, when Lucasfilm announced that it would bring back Star Wars: The Clone Wars next year on its new streaming service.
Fans had good reason to be surprised by the news, given that the animated TV series, set between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, was canceled more than five years ago, soon after Disney bought Lucasfilm. The company’s announcement at the time, that it would “pursue a new direction in animated programming,” sent a clear, decisive message: Disney wanted a fresh start for its newly acquired Star Wars franchise, and not just on the big screen. Star Wars: The Clone Wars would, thankfully, be allowed to remain part of the official canon—it was spared the fate that befell other Star Wars comics, video games, and novels, all of which were declared non-canon in a single swoop—but the show, Disney seemed to say, was a holdover from a previous era. It had to go.
Except that fans were not quite ready to let it go. It’s not that Lucasfilm Animation left them hanging entirely—The Clone Wars wrapped up some of its most pressing storylines with an abbreviated sixth season, released on Netflix in 2014—but devotees of the series were haunted by the episodes that were never finished, even as Lucasfilm found ways to deliver them in other formats. It didn’t help that writer Brent Friedman revealed, tantalizingly, that The Clone Wars had already been fully written through a potential Season 8 at the time of its cancellation. And so began an online crusade to save The Clone Wars, one that lasted longer than anyone could reasonably have expected. There were Facebook groups, Twitter accounts, even entire websites clamoring for its return. There were multiple Change.org petitions demanding closure and laying out, in excruciating detail, why fans deserved that closure. And there was a snappy hashtag that the most dedicated campaigners continued to use, even after Lucasfilm had moved on to other projects and hope seemed lost.
If these tactics sound familiar, it might be because they’re similar to the ones currently being employed by another doggedly determined group of Star Wars fans: the faction demanding that Disney remake The Last Jedi. You can see why the success of #SaveTheCloneWars would bolster the confidence of the #RemakeTheLastJedi campaigners—assuming, of course, that they are as serious about their cause as they claim to be—because those tactics, apparently, worked. During the announcement at San Diego Comic Con last week, Lucasfilm’s head of animation, Dave Filoni, noted that hardly a week goes by that he isn’t tagged on Twitter in a plea to save The Clone Wars, and he later acknowledged the role of “relentless fan support” in the show’s revival. Even the trailer for the new 12-episode season recognized fans’ enthusiasm by flipping the hashtag #SaveTheCloneWars to #CloneWarsSaved.
No one is happier than I am that The Clone Wars, the best thing to come out of prequel-era Star Wars, will be back to finish what it started next year. But it’s not hard to draw parallels between the fight to save the show and the fight to give The Last Jedi a do-over, because both require a certain sense of entitlement, a belief that the creators of Star Wars owe something to the fans, whether it’s the delivery of a promised season or an installment that lives up to expectations (however incoherent those expectations might be). And while a subset of The Last Jedi haters are taking that sense of entitlement to an ugly extreme, The Clone Wars fandom has, to a lesser extent, had its own share of trolls, with some lashing out at Star Wars: Rebels, the animated Disney XD show that followed The Clone Wars’ cancelation and involved a lot of the same talent.
At the end of the day, however, the two Star Wars fan campaigns, despite using similar methods, are as different as the Light Side and the Dark Side. While The Clone Wars coming back was a long shot, its revival in 2019 makes a certain sense, given the sustained interest in the show; Disney’s new streaming service can now rely on The Clone Wars’ built-in, very determined audience to subscribe. Compare that to #RemakeTheLastJedi, which has yet to make a compelling case for what, exactly, the company has to gain by complying with their very vague demands. Most importantly though, #SaveTheCloneWars has succeeded where #RemakeTheLastJedi will fail because its purpose, to paraphrase an embattled Star Wars heroine, was not fans fighting what they hate, but saving what they love.