Is ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars’ The Return of George Lucas The Auteur?

As a lifelong “Star Wars” nut, I grew up believing in a supreme being that you didn’t worship every Sunday at church, but rather in a movie theater on a Friday night. I’m speaking, of course, about George Lucas.

As children, we all grew up thinking he was the ultimate auteur, who’d dreamt up every eccentric alien, battered space ship, and gonk droid himself. But now, the Comic-Con floor is buzzing with anticipation over “Clone Wars,” the slick-looking CG “Star Wars” flick that hits theaters next month. So I had to ask: After handing over the reigns to so many animators, how much creative input does the film’s “Executive Producer” still exert?

“It’s more like I have milestones, almost like I have a final exam every couple weeks,” grinned director Dave Filoni when I sat down with him backstage after unveiling footage to eager geeks, explaining that George isn’t quite as hands-on as he used to be.

“I wouldn’t say [he approves] everything; I wouldn’t say everything. He is big picture. He comes in at key moments,” agreed producer Catherine Winder. “No, when we were developing the [movie as] a TV series, since I didn’t know exactly what he wanted and needed to get inside his head, I would bring him in at specific milestones that I knew were key to the development – if we went off track here in his mind, we’d be in trouble. We’d have big milestone meetings with Dave, myself, him and whoever the artist was for whatever we were working on, and he’d give us notes and thoughts…he trusted Dave in terms of knowing the characters, being true to the universe, and taking care of continuity issues with vehicles and planets and that sort of thing. He didn’t really need to get involved from that point of view.”

Yet, it was Lucas who made one very major decision: The series set between Episodes II and III was too good to keep on the small screen.

“When we set out to make this TV series, since I’m a big “Star Wars” fan and so is everybody on my crew, we wanted it to be a big series that was on TV every week,” explained Filoni. “I said ‘This has got to be ‘Star Wars’,’ and I didn’t put any limitations on that, as far as the budget. It’s got to be up to snuff because I’m a fan, and the fans know what they want. In doing so, George just saw it and – I don’t know – maybe he was surprised by the results that everybody’d come up with. He thought the fans would really like to see it on the big screen. It was something he wanted to do for all of them, mainly. At first, I thought ‘Well, maybe he’s not serious.’ But when George says something it happens later, all the time.”

In the regard that he has enough power to help his people get what they need to make their work excel, Lucas has evolved into a true producer. But as long as you’re willing to let go of the notion that he’s still the kind of guy who still fusses over minutiae like the Wookie hair on Boba Fett’s shoulder, “Clone” might make you appreciate all the far-less-famous people doing such dirty work these days.

“Design-wise, I get some groundwork laid by him, and we have discussions about what everything is going to look like,” Filoni said of the process for the film, which hits theaters August 15th. “I’ll do some sketches while I sit with him, we’ll initially go over story. And then it’s up to me to make sure we maintain that vision all the way through…later on down the line, he comes back in to check it all out. Hopefully, everything’s gone smooth; but he’ll definitely let me know if it everything isn’t the way he wanted it, and then I’ll correct it.”

Are you excited to see “Clone Wars”? Does it make you happier these days to feel like Lucas is in charge, or that others are steering the directorial ship?