Lucas' CGI project going bigscreen before small

Another “Star Wars” tale is on its way to the bigscreen, but it won’t be distributed by Fox.

Lucasfilm has partnered with Warner Bros. Pictures and Turner Broadcasting on “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” a CGI toon that will bow in theaters this August before moving to the smallscreen in the fall. The Aug. 15 feature will set the stage for the spinoff skein, which will bow on Cartoon Network, followed by airings on TNT. International release dates for the feature and TV series are still being set.

Multiplatform project is an expansion of the earlier “Clone Wars” microseries that aired on Cartoon Network. However, Fox’s homevid arm released those episodes on DVD, just as it has distributed every “Star Wars” theatrical release since 1977.

Lucasfilm said Warner Bros.’ cable and theatrical resources made it an especially good fit for the project. “We’re trying to do something unprecedented — marrying TV series and theatrical release,” a rep said.

Under this deal, Warner will release the film and TV skein on DVD.

Warner execs eagerly tracked the project throughout the development process, and decided to give the property a theatrical launch after seeing footage.

“I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t want it,” said Stuart Snyder, president and chief operating officer of Turner Animation, Young Adults and Kids Media, who said a theatrical launch “has always been contemplated as part of the process.”

The “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” movie is expected to run around 100 minutes and pick up between episode II and III. Anakin Skywalker is not yet Darth Vader. The story will then continue in 30-minute smallscreen installments.

George Lucas, who has revisited the property and time again over the decades, said he mounted this new spinoff because he “felt there were a lot more ‘Star Wars’ stories left to tell.” He said he wanted to tell them through animation, pushing the technology forward at the same time.

Lucas serves as exec producer on the project, which will primarily employ voice actors. The only original actors returning are Anthony Daniels as C3PO and Matthew Wood as General Grievous and the battledroids.

Dave Filoni is the helmer. Henry Gilroy, Scott Murphy and Steven Melching are the writers. Catherine Winder is producer.

Lucasfilm Animation has already produced more than 30 episodes in the TV skein, with production continuing in Singapore and Taiwan. On Tuesday, Lucasfilm is launching an online Web docu about the project at Starwars.com.

(David S. Cohen contributed to this report.)

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