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Star Wars: Clone Wars

"Star Wars" aficionados are an unusual breed, and the disappointment they've felt regarding the franchise's last two movies was mostly deserved. Hard-to-please types might finally find something to smile about with Cartoon Network's vignettes, which represent a novel marketing tool and an intriguing experiment with the animated form.

With:
Voices: Anakin Skywalker (Mat Lucas), Obi-Wan Kenobi (James Arnold Taylor), Yoda (Tom Kane), Palpatine (Nick Jameson), C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), Asajj Ventress (Grey Delisle).

“Star Wars” aficionados are an unusual breed, and the disappointment they’ve felt regarding the franchise’s last two movie installments was genuine and mostly deserved. Those hard-to-please types might finally find something to smile about with Cartoon Network’s vignettes using the characters, which represent both a novel marketing tool and an intriguing experiment with the animated form.

George Lucas has allowed Genndy Tartakovsky of Cartoon’s cult fave “Samurai Jack” (a self-described “Star Wars” nut who probably hasn’t washed the phone since Lucas called) to create 20 three-minute shorts. Billed as a “micro-series,” they tell a serialized story that follows the events of “Attack of the Clones” and precedes the latest trilogy’s third episode, which isn’t due until 2005.

Featuring very cartoony, stylized character design but sumptuous backgrounds and effects, the story isn’t easy to follow, but for the most part, who cares? The snippets are pretty much nonstop action, and it’s a clever way of luring an audience to Cartoon Network, which will air the first batch of installments on 10 consecutive weeknights in November.

Among the handful screened is a particularly striking sequence involving a Jedi knight, Kit Fisto, who wields his light saber underwater in what might be one of the best-looking battles beneath the waves since “Thunderball.” The remaining episodes will debut sometime next year.

Inevitably, these segments will be compiled into a special and DVD, yet the commercial benefits seem relatively modest. Perhaps foremost, it’s a way to keep the story and merchandising alive until the next movie, as well as a dazzling showcase for cell animation at a time when a droid army of computer graphics has been chasing the genre into retreat.

Clearly, this was a labor of love for Tartakovsky and his team, and their creation neatly fits the toehold that Cartoon Network has sought to carve out among young men and teens.

If nothing else, the shorts play like a treat for die-hard “Star Wars” fans, who had to swallow hard after the last two movies but doubtless still are contemplating when to pull out the old sleeping bags and begin lining up for “Episode III.”

Star Wars: Clone Wars

Cartoon Network, Fri., Nov. 7, 8 p.m.

Production: Produced by Cartoon Network Studios and Lucasfilm Ltd. Producer-director, Genndy Tartakovsky.

Crew: Supervising producer, Brian Miller; story, Tartakovsky, Paul Rudish, Bryan Andrews, Darrick Bachman; art director, Rudish, Scott Wills; storyboard, Bryan Andrews, Mark Andrews; background supervisor, Dave Dunnet. 3 MIN.

Cast: Voices: Anakin Skywalker (Mat Lucas), Obi-Wan Kenobi (James Arnold Taylor), Yoda (Tom Kane), Palpatine (Nick Jameson), C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), Asajj Ventress (Grey Delisle).

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