If Catherine Winder is feeling any pressure from her involvement in the new Star Wars computer-animated film, The Clone Wars, and its fall TV series, she isn't letting on.
"Definitely there are high expectations," said the producer of The Clone Wars, which opens in Toledo theaters today and will air in half-hour installments beginning Oct. 3 on the Cartoon Network and rebroadcast on TNT. "For me, it was a huge responsibility to take on the property, and figure out how to bring it to animation, and put the right team together. But I feel really confident that we have protected the franchise for the fans.
"Dave Filoni is a director who has a fantastic vision for the property but is also ... a diehard Star Wars fan and knows the property inside and out. Listening to him and George [Lucas] go, I just knew the property was in good hands."
That's bound to be good news for Star Wars fans, who are legendary for their rabid - some might say slavish - devotion to the space-fantasy franchise.
The prequels generally took a beating among critics and fans, although the final film, Revenge of the Sith, seemed to right the ship. The Clone Wars continues in that direction.
Sandwiched between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, The Clone Wars jumps into the intergalactic civil war between the besieged Republic, led by the Jedi Knights, and the greedy separatist planets, led by Count Dooku.
The stories will revolve around familiar faces - Anakin Skywalker, Yoda, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Padme, Chancellor Palpatine, R2-D2, and C-3P0 - as well as a host of new characters, the most notable of which are Anakin's new padawan Ahsoka Tano, and new Sith villain Asajj Ventress.
The series also takes time to introduce ranking members of the clone army, who aren't as similar as you'd think.
"[Fans] are going to get lots of action, but they're also going to get personal stories, dramatic moments, comedy sprinkles in the tone of the episodes," Winder said. "There's all sorts of stories available for the viewers."
In fact, fleshing out the Clone Wars beyond the films is something Lucas wanted to do, Winder said.
And while he wasn't directly involved with the series, as executive producer, Lucas pushed Winder and her team to be as creative as possible, she said.
He was also open to their suggestions.
"We could bring ideas, stories, and thoughts to him on a variety of issues" Winder said. "And he liked to hear that. He liked to see that we were pushing things creatively, and he pushed us when he didn't feel we were doing enough of that."
What he didn't want, though, were stories that were slaves to the Star Wars canon, in particular, the minute details that only fan boys know.
"George very specifically said to Dave, and myself, and the crew that we need to have fun with Star Wars and that we needed to tell the best story possible," she said. "If there were certain things that historically could potentially limit what we were doing, that we needed to ignore it. Continuity was important, but it couldn't hamper the creative process."
For example, Cartoon Network previously aired a brief cartoon series Clone Wars prior to the release of Revenge of the Sith.
But The Clone Wars wasn't beholden to its predecessor.
"We've sort of taken the point of view that that was an incredible interpretation from an artistic standpoint of the Clone Wars and it lives on its own," Winder said. "Our stories are our own stories and, again, we didn't need to tie specifically to those because that wasn't going to work."
Lucas would like the new series to reach 100 episodes.
Winder and her team are well on their way, with 50 stories written, the 22 episodes of season 1 completed, and they are in the thick of production for season 2.
For most Star Wars fans, Winder is living the dream. How many fan boys would give their signed limited-edition Boba Fett helmet to be in her shoes?
But Winder takes her job in stride. In fact, she didn't become a diehard fan of the Star Wars films until after she signed on as the series' producer.
Her detachment from the movies has served her well.
"I didn't get caught up in the certain details," Winder said, "and could see a bigger picture, and could help move things forward in a way that at times others could not do so easily."
- Kirk Baird