Animation has been the driving creative force behind the “Star Wars” universe for some time, a state of affairs cast into sharper focus by how live-action series Lucasfilm has produced for Disney+ have drawn upon those shows. That relationship continues with “Star Wars: Tales of the Jedi,” an animated anthology that provides an opportunity to flesh out the stories of peripheral but familiar lightsaber-wielding figures.
It’s hardly a surprise that this latest addition to the mythology comes courtesy of producer Dave Filoni, who oversaw such series as “The Clone Wars” and “Rebels” before throwing his fertile mind for all things “Star Wars” into “The Mandalorian” and other live-action fare.
Filoni wrote five of the six shorts, which are split between Ahsoka Tano (again voiced by Ashley Eckstein), soon to be featured in her own live-action spinoff; and Count Dooku (played in the movies by Christopher Lee, and voiced by Corey Burton).
Beyond a glimpse of a baby Ahsoka (just in time for holiday gift-giving, kids), in an episode that illustrates her home planet and its warrior streak, the episodes leap around in time. That includes additional insights into Dooku and his abandonment of the Jedi order to embrace the dark side and Darth Sidious (Ian McDiarmid).
The anthology format creates the opportunity to drop in at different inflection points scattered across the “Star Wars” timeline. The six episodes crisply run anywhere from 10 to 17 minutes, with each deftly adding nuggets to our understanding of “Star Wars” lore, weaving in key details and events that helped forge these characters. Fans will likely be particularly intrigued by some of the gradations surrounding Ahsoka, her relationship to Anakin Skywalker and the aftermath of the Clone Wars.
In that respect, Filoni and company have essentially crafted within this animated package a condensed version of what Lucasfilm accomplished with “Obi-Wan Kenobi,” lovingly wrapping these pristine little stories around the flagship movies. Animation has also become a vehicle for greater experimentation, as witnessed in the “Star Wars: Visions” anime shorts that premiered last year.
Granted, the knock on these productions is that they amount to a kind of super-service for the “Star Wars” faithful, rekindling old flames, and comfortably submerging them in the past, while Lucasfilm has been relatively cautious in terms of lighting new sparks.
It’s a fair criticism broadly, but somewhat removed from the question at hand here. Because if you take it as a given that “Star Wars” is going to indulge in what’s derisively referred to as “fan service,” then by all means, do it as well and as slickly as this.
“Star Wars: Tales of the Jedi” premieres October 26 on Disney+.
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