Author Dan Wallace talks to StarWars.com about his journey exploring the making of Star Wars Rebels.
It’s been over two years since Star Wars fans said goodbye to the crew of the Ghost in the season finale of Star Wars Rebels. But interest in the show, especially with its debut on streaming service Disney+ last fall, hasn’t waned. And now audiences both new and old can dive into the art behind the series.
Available now Dark Horse Books, The Art of Star Wars Rebels takes fans inside the making of the series with never-before-seen concept art, interviews with the talents behind Star Wars Rebels, and much more. StarWars.com caught up with author Dan Wallace for insight into how The Art of Star Wars Rebels came to be.
StarWars.com: How was writing this book different than writing reference books like Star Wars Year by Year: A Visual Chronicle?
Dan Wallace: I always enjoy working on books like this because of the artistry on display. Just on technical skill alone, the concept art and renderings are such a pleasure to look at.
StarWars.com: Who did you interview from the production staff of Star Wars Rebels while working on this book?
Dan Wallace: Rebels art director Kilian Plunkett was my ticket inside the process of how the show decided on its signature look. I was able to get his insights on design for creatures, tech, starships, and more, and he is heavily quoted throughout the book in reference to the show's artistic decisions.
StarWars.com: What was your relationship to Star Wars Rebels when you started writing this book? After you knew you would be writing this project, did you re-watch any of the series?
Dan Wallace: I've been a Rebels fan since the beginning, and even before the beginning! During Season One of Rebels I wrote two tie-in books: Ezra's Rebel Journal and Sabine: My Rebel Sketchbook, and as part of that I got to read the early scripts before the show was officially released. Of course, I kept up on the show as it aired, and you're definitely right that working on The Art of Star Wars Rebels required a lot of rewatching of certain episodes and sequences.
StarWars.com: Did you have a say in which images and illustrations would appear in the book?
Dan Wallace: I had some limited say in the choice of images, but in this case I was not the primary person working with Lucasfilm to obtain production images. Usually I would make suggestions for scenes and characters that I thought could stand to receive more exposure in the book and then I'd see a selection of related images during a later round of editing. In general, my favorite images are the landscapes and environments -- the kind of sweeping alien vistas that might have been done as matte paintings on glass in classic Hollywood, but are now conceived as digital backdrops instead.
StarWars.com: It’s clear from reading this book that Ralph McQuarrie’s concept designs from the original Star Wars trilogy were a huge inspiration for the Rebels artists from vehicle design to the look of Yoda. What element of Rebels do you think was the most heavily inspired by McQuarrie’s work?
Dan Wallace: In my talks with Kilian Plunkett, I was surprised to learn that the answer is probably the starships. There's an overall sense of McQuarrie simplification and smoothness to the whole visual aesthetic of Rebels, but Kilian explained that in the case of the starships they not only looked to McQuarrie but also the early Star Wars toys released by Kenner in the late '70s and early '80s. Just from a plastic-manufacturing standpoint those vehicles had a similar simplicity to their design which led to things like the shorter-winged TIE fighter seen in Rebels.
StarWars.com: Some of my favorite illustrations are the first concept drawings of the main characters shown near the beginning of the book. Which character do you think changed the most from original sketches to final design?
Dan Wallace: I love the cartoonish facial studies done for all the key characters where the artist runs through a series of extreme expressions: shock, hilarity, anger, thoughtfulness, disgust. It's fun to see Hera or Kanan or Zeb pulling these faces because they're slightly more extreme than they would be on the show, but they're still 100 percent in character. In terms of character design, Darth Vader is one of the more interesting cases since his helmet has the narrow shape and sharp angles of McQuarrie's original concept paintings.
StarWars.com: The book is organized by seasons and then divided by sections (characters, environments, props, and vehicles) -- did you find one of these sections the most interesting (or challenging) for you to write about?
Dan Wallace: It all has its own flavor, doesn't it? The characters are the core of the story and there's so much expressiveness that goes into their design, but things like props and vehicles are informed by the same design sensibility and can be really interesting to study up close in a book like this. And, of course, I already mentioned how much I love the environments. I think writing this book gave me more of an understanding of how each of these things is essential to the visual tone that makes an animated series like Rebels feel so distinct.
StarWars.com: One of the interesting bits of info I learned from this book is that digital assets from The Clone Wars were “re-painted” to be used in Rebels using digital paintbrushes created by Andre Kirk. What are some other fun facts about the production of Rebels you learned while working on this book?
Dan Wallace: Here's one of my favorites, from Kilian Plunkett: the design of Bendu -- the huge, strange Force being introduced in Season Three -- was heavily influenced by the mega-sized puppets common in '80s fantasy films like The Neverending Story.
StarWars.com: In addition to concept art of locations such as Lothal, Geonosis, and Mandalore, there are also sections of the book devoted to small details like Lothal ancient paintings and advertising shingles used in an episode. What are some of your favorite sections or pages of the book?
Dan Wallace: The advertising shingles that you mentioned are in fact one of my favorite bits in Rebels and I'm glad we were able to showcase them in this book. In the show you might see a crate with a label advertising meiloorun fruit, or you might catch a glimpse of an exotic bazaar with brightly-colored banners. These signs are all unique, and even when they're written in Aurebesh they can still be translated into labels like Hutt's Grotto, Repair Rack, or Eat at Koe's.
StarWars.com: Why do you think Star Wars Rebels remains such a fan favorite with Star Wars fans?
Dan Wallace: It's a natural continuation of the characters and themes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, which is already an outstanding take on the saga, while pushing the story forward with its own heroes and villains as it transitions into the classic trilogy. With all-new episodes of The Clone Wars streaming now, I hope fans will revisit their favorite parts of Rebels or check out the series for the first time.
The Art of Star Wars Rebels, with an introduction by Star Wars Rebels executive producer Dave Filoni, is available now.
Amy Richau is a writer, lifelong Star Wars geek, and diehard Denver Broncos fan. You can find her on Twitter @amyrichau and more of her writing on FANgirl Blog.
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