Today (April 2nd), Genndy Tartakovsky’s rendition of Clone Wars hits Disney+, and it’s time to embrace how great it is. Before we had Filoni and Lucas’ Clone Wars, before we had Rebels and Resistance, and before we had The Mandalorian, the only extension of Star Wars in television since the Ewok animated series from 1985-1986 (which is also coming to Disney+ today) was Genndy Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars. To some of you, this name and this might have little significance. For others, this name and this short-lived series might bring back the nostalgia of Clone Wars‘ first look. Genndy Tartakovsky helped create a three-season Clone Wars show on Cartoon Network to bridge the gap in events between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, and it does a remarkable job in doing so.
Tartakovsky was a long-time creator on Cartoon Network, helping create shows like Samurai Jack, Powderpuff Girls, Primal, and Dexter’s Laboratory. His previous work on Cartoon Network and the aforementioned shows influenced his work with Star Wars. The animation style that he used to make a career for him. The animation and storytelling style he became accustomed to made its way over to Star Wars.
So Tartakovsky didn’t have the luxury of having four, five, six, or even seven seasons of twenty-plus episodes to tell a story, so he had to figure out a way to tell this efficient story. He also had to tell a story that wouldn’t contradict what would happen in Revenge of the Sith, and it had to live within the parameters of what was set up in Attack of the Clones. With such short episodes, he had to tell a story with a lot of action that pushed the story forward without going too deep on character arcs or even having a lot of dialogue. He had to use a visual style of storytelling that would push forward a compelling story in the quickest way possible, and he did just that. It had to be fast-paced and include a ton of action, and Tartakovsky did just that.
Outside of Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars animation style, there are many inherent differences between his version and the new canon version of Clone Wars. The Cartoon Network version came in a smaller variation of three to five-minute episodes, while the later version of Clone Wars spans from about twenty to twenty-three minutes. The Filoni and Lucas Clone Wars is often touted as some of the best storytelling in Star Wars mainly because it goes into these deeper character stories. Still, I think the question has to be asked – are long-form stories always better for storytelling? Yes, the Clone Wars that is now considered Canon had these rich lore-based stories, but it has also had some bland and quite frankly dull story arcs. On the other hand, Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars, when put together as a whole, is more told like a movie and lasts about two hours and twelve minutes, and has a much more efficient way of telling the story between episodes two and three.
Another difference with Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars comes down to how violent it is, even by today’s standards for a cartoon. It very much feels like a piece of art that represents the times. By that, I mean the style of warfare to me is much more urbanized and displays similarities to the Iraq War, and it’s an urban style of fighting where you have Clone Troopers pinned down by snipers instead of drawing from something like World War II and trench warfare that the Original Trilogy draws from. It very much feels more real and, in ways, more violent and a true reflection of the times that the show was created.
Another aspect that makes Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars so great is how it leans into the Jedi mythos. In the Original Trilogy, they build up the idea that the Jedi are viewed as myths more than anything and this version of Clone Wars. Throughout this show, the Jedi legitimately seem like gods. There is a point in the show where Mace Windu takes on an entire droid army by himself, and it is three or four minutes of complete god-like animated fun. Now when I say army, I don’t mean a few hundred. I mean, he takes on what seems like at least ten-thousand battle droids, and if you told me it was a billion, I’d believe you.
This helps build up Mace Windu, who is a very well-respected swordsman among his peers in the movies, but in the end, it is somewhat underwhelming to put it lightly from the perspective of the audience. It also makes the Jedi feel invincible and like they cannot be beaten, and I liked that they leaned into that mythological aspect of the Jedi lore.
The last part that ensures Tartakovsky’s Cloe Wars, a special place in my heart, introduces some crucial new characters, Asajj Ventress and General Grievous. Ventress in this series is everything I love about her. From her first moments on screen, I fell in love with this character. It is this version that I think of when Ventress comes to mind, not Filoni and Lucas’ Clone Wars. She is powerful, she is witty, she is an excellent swordswoman, and she is so, so evil. Not evil in the way Palpatine is, but you know she is a bad guy, but you’re pulled to her character. She also has a moment in this version of Clone Wars where she has a lightsaber duel with Anakin Skywalker that (hot take incoming that may or may not be a hot take) is a top tier lightsaber duel, and in fact, I would put in the top three of all lightsaber duels. Her face-off with Skywalker is emotional, has a great score, and visually looks stunning.
Then with General Grievous, he is portrayed as this almost horror-villain archetype, and it is perfect. He looks just like he does in Revenge of the Sith, but he moves better and fights better than he does in the movie. You can see why some Jedi may fear him as he is almost like a Michael Meyers serial killer. He lurks in the shadows, and before you can comprehend what is happening, he has killed a handful of Jedi. He is genuinely feared in this version of Clone Wars. While Filoni and Lucas introduced a fair share of notable characters in the newer Clone Wars (mainly Ashoka Tano), Ventress and Grievous are up there with newly introduced characters in terms of quality.
Whether or not you loved Tartakovsky’s version of Clone Wars or whether you hated it, or whether you are just now hearing about it – it is hard to ignore its impact. It was the first modern-day Star Wars TV show, and without its success on Cartoon Network, we may have never got shows like The Mandalorian, Rebels, and so on. It introduced new characters that people fell in love with, told a compelling story, and helped create anticipation for Revenge of the Sith. Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars remains excellent and should be watched by every Star Wars fan. It was a show that was a high-octane action show set in a Star Wars universe; it’s weird, and the only issue I have with this version of Clone Wars is that it was so darn short.