Moody look of ‘Clone Wars’ inspired by ’70s classics

'Star Wars: The Clone Wars' 100th Episode

There’s more than a little of 1970s Hollywood in the look of Cartoon Network’s “Star Wars: The Clone Wars.”

CG supervisor Joel Aron, who has been with the show since 2007, of course relies on “Star Wars” movies: 1977’s “Episode IV: A New Hope” (a k a the original “Star Wars”) and especially 1980’s “Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back,” as go-to sources.

But “Clone Wars” also draws on Aron’s favorite films, including “Jaws,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “Indiana Jones,” as well as “The Deer Hunter” and “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”

“You’ll always see those influences pop up in any given episode,” says Aron, who has been with “Clone Wars” since the end of 2007.

“For me, the lighting and look is all about trying to set a mood,” he says. “Whenever you have an intimate conversation, you close down the set lighting … and keep the light on the characters.”

One inspiration is the scene in “Jaws” where shark hunter Quint recalls his World War II experience on the doomed ship Indianapolis. “I use that balance with the lighting all the time. In our recent Onderon arc, when Ahsoka is talking to Steela and they are under the tree, it’s the same thing.”

A bar scene in season 4 borrowed heavily from the famous Mos Eisley bar scene in the first “A New Hope.” “The exact color palette, lighting, direction and how it was shot was taken directly from Mos Eisley,” he says.

Aron and his team also were inspired by the first incarnation of “Clone Wars”: the mini-episodes done by Genndy Tartakovsky. Tartakovsky didn’t work on the 3D-CG half-hour “Clone Wars” series, but Aron says its influence shows in such elements as the shapes of explosions and smoke, and the use of dramatic silhouettes.

“Clone Wars'” look is unique among animated series, says Aron, “so we are going to be used as a benchmark.

“I believe our look, story, and cinematic shooting style will inspire other animated TV shows and encourage them to incorporate that level of artistry in their work.”

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