Star Wars Rebels: First Looks and Early Impressions

Concept art for Star Wars Rebels.
Concept art for Star Wars Rebels.

Star Wars Rebels is set to be the latest on-screen entry to Star Wars canon and the successor to the popular Clone Wars series, which is set to debut its final season on Netflix in a few weeks. The history behind Rebels is an interesting one in itself; the series was greenlighted and announced despite the fact that there was already an ongoing successful TV series for Star Wars on Cartoon Network. Unfortunately for fans of that series, Rebels is helmed by the same team, including producer Dave Filoni, meaning that The Clone Wars would have to face its end to make room for the new series.

The development team contains several members that worked on The Clone Wars and also shares the same, 3D cartoony art style. Unsurprisingly this announcement came after the Disney purchase of the Star Wars franchise and makes complete sense from a business standpoint. Disney would naturally want to capitalize on the popularity of The Clone Wars, but on their terms and on their own channel, Disney XD. So while we may mourn (or celebrate, depending on what camp you’re in) the loss of The Clone Wars, let’s look forward to the latest entry in the saga of a galaxy far, far away and see if it’s worth getting excited about!


The setting of Rebels differs from that of The Clone Wars rather notably, and takes place about 5 years before A New Hope (5 BBY for those familiar with the Star Wars dating system). This is over a decade after the end of the Clone Wars and the bloody ascension of the Empire as seen in Revenge of the Sith, meaning that the Empire has solidified its grasp on the galaxy and all but wiped away the last vestiges of the Republic, including most of the Jedi Order. This time period naturally lacks a bit of the large scale excitement and intensity of the warfare present in The Clone Wars, but it makes up for it in other ways. Instead of featuring huge, destructive battles on land and in space, Rebels seems set to take on a more grounded tone, focused more on survival and the day-to-day lives of enemies of the Empire who now fight a more secret war.

This period is a dark time in Star Wars lore, as the Empire puts forth all its effort in extinguishing the last rays of light in the galaxy, merciless hunting Jedi and Rebel sympathizers throughout the galaxy. Rather than following squads of elite soldiers and their superhuman Jedi leaders, Rebels features a group of rebels (surprise!) who comprise the crew of the Millenium Falcon-esque starship, the Ghost. It’s hard to say right now what the goals of the crew are, but the creators have said they want to explore the beginnings of the Rebel Alliance, and the Empire has seen fit to send an Inquisitor after them, so it would not be a stretch to imagine they will be doing their best to be a thorn in the Empire’s side.

The Ghost
The Ghost

While some may prefer the galaxy-spanning battles and consequences of the events of The Clone Wars, there is a different kind of excitement to be found in following a smaller cast taking part in smaller, but no less important, actions. The idea of following the crew of one ship as they have adventures and subvert the Empire reminds me greatly of the show Firefly, heralded by a dedicated cult following as one of the greatest science fiction series of all time and still greatly beloved by deeply loyal fans despite its very short lifespan. Settings like this are very conducive to storytelling focused on character development and interactions, which provide the potential for some very enthralling story arcs.

Just because the crew is small and might not be fighting the Empire directly does not mean their actions will be inconsequential of course, Malcolm Reynolds and his crew succeeded in making some VERY big waves with their actions after all! Firefly was described as a “space western,” providing a science fiction setting with more emphasis on the frontier and less “shiny” aspects of a futuristic setting, (think Tatooine) and early materials for the show seem to indicate Rebels seeks to evoke a similar aesthetic. So who makes up this intrepid crew we’ll be following?

Concept art of the crew, from left to right: Kanan, Zeb, Ezra, Hera, Sabine
Concept art of the crew, from left to right: Kanan, Zeb, Ezra, Hera, Sabine

The Characters

Meet Kanan, the Cowboy Jedi | Star Wars Rebels

Kanan Jarrus could go either way in terms of being a good or bad character. While it is good to see that the Jedi will be represented on the crew, Kanan seems to fill the rogue archetype so commonly represented in the media these days, throwing caution to the wind and having little regard for the rules. Not to say these characters are not good ones, simply that they are highly represented already, and Kanan will need some more depth to avoid being boring. As seen in the video Kanan also seems to embody a reluctant hero as circumstances have made him turn away from his Jedi heritage for some time now and he may have some difficulty getting back into the Jedi state of mind. His behavior is markedly un-Jedi like after all.

That being said, he evokes memories of both Anakin Skywalker and Han Solo in his personality and attitudes so far. Kanan could give us a look at what Han Solo would be like as a Jedi, and definitely seems set to be an Anakin surrogate for fans of The Clone Wars. As Kanan was not present at the Temple for Anakin’s assault he was probably not a youngling at the time, so he likely has some experience in warfare and leadership. The dark side will be a constant threat for this Jedi, already far removed from proper Jedi behavior and thrown into the role of fugitive and prey. He’s said to have forsaken the Jedi ways upon their destruction, and it’s hard to see him not being driven by revenge or hate for the Empire given those circumstances. On a separate note, fans should be pleased to see Kanan will be voiced by Freddie Prinze Jr., who also voiced James Vega in Mass Effect 3 and is a sci-fi fan himself.

Meet Ezra, the Street-Smart Hero | Star Wars Rebels

Ezra Bridger seems to clearly fill the role of audience surrogate for the younger members of the audience Disney will obviously want to win over. The immediate impression is of a slightly more selfish Aladdin, given his mischievous thieving and unwillingness to stick his neck out for strangers. Interestingly Ezra is also Force-sensitive and is said to have a mentor relationship with Kanan, which is sure to be one of the strong character driven relationships audiences should hope to see.

Now the biggest concern with Ezra is that he’ll end up falling into another character archetype that is far too prominent these days, that of the whiny adolescent/teenager. It’s a mystery why these types of extremely annoying and unsympathetic teenage angst characters seem to be very prevalent lately and they are often used to sloppily create drama. Ezra is said to be charismatic so hopefully we’ll avoid that particular pitfall with him and fans should look forward to seeing him learn to control and master his ability with the Force, although the dark side will be a worry for this young one as well.

Meet Chopper, Grumpy Astromech Droid | Star Wars Rebels

Chopper (C1-10P) looks to be quite the entertaining character. Personally I’ve always had a soft spot for droids, and Chopper seems to be a refreshing subversion of the usual droid characters in Star Wars. Approximately 90% of the astromechs in Star Wars fill the R2-D2 description of a dutiful, loyal droid with some personality quirks and a penchant for sarcasm, so it is nice to see a different approach being taken for such a character.

Chopper is described as a cat in comparison to R2 being akin to a dog, and the little guy already seems endearing in a rough sort of way. Droids are often relegated to the background, even in-universe, and seldom get much attention or development aside from the aforementioned R2-types, so it will be nice for Chopper to show that even droids have variety in personality.

Meet Sabine, the Explosive Artist | Star Wars Rebels

Sabine Wren is an interesting one to say the least. A Mandalorian graffiti artist is a first for the franchise. It’s not surprising the crew would include a Mandalorian, Boba Fett’s popularity is legendary and who doesn’t think jetpacks are awesome? She seems to be a bit of an oddball even by Mandalorian standards, wearing pink armor and displaying some decidedly unprofessional and goofy mannerisms, hardly the usual traits for a Mandalorian. That’s not a bad thing necessarily, there can only be so many strong but silent armored Mandalorian badasses before it starts to get tiring.

One thing to note is that she is working for a team that cannot have that much in the way of substantial financial resources, and Mandalorian mercenaries either fight for money or honor, and usually the former. Given the sizable reward she would gain by turning in a Jedi AND a Force-sensitive, it will be interesting to see if this creates some tension among the crew. That said, the Empire did not give the Mandalorians much reason to like them and the two factions often clashed during the Rebellion, so it would not be hard for Sabine to have plenty of motivation to fight the Empire.

Meet Zeb, the Muscle | Star Wars Rebels

The development team seems dead set on averting the usual dumb muscle archetype with Zeb Orellios, who is more akin to Chewbacca than Jayne Cobb. As a trained professional and honor guard of his home planet, Zeb is definitely very capable, although apparently quite vulnerable to Ezra’s mischief and Chopper’s intractability. Longtime fans will be reminded of Zaalbar and Mission Vao from Knights of the Old Republic when they see that the interactions between Zeb and Ezra would be a focus for his character. Zeb also evokes Chewbacca in his fighting style, straight down to the move of slamming the helmets of two stormtroopers together.

Unfortunately for poor Zeb, he’s the type of character who will be the butt of many jokes and pranks, and also likely the first to get thrown around to show how dangerous a new enemy is. Also notable is his voice actor, Steve Blum, notable for roles such as Wolverine, Spike Spiegel and far too many other roles to count. The writers have a great deal of potential for depth in Zeb, and hopefully they’ll take advantage of it.

Meet Hera, the Pilot | Star Wars Rebels

Last but not least is the pilot of the Ghost, Hera Syndulla, a Twi’lek who interestingly enough shares a surname with the revolutionary leader featured in The Clone Wars, Cham Syndulla. Whether or not there is any relation remains to be seen, but it is doubtful such a name choice would be unintentional and it would show that the team is going to pay attention to issues of continuity. Hera is said to be the heart of the team, sort of a reasonable authority figure and perhaps a maternal figure as well.

A skilled pilot (those seem to grow on trees in this galaxy), Hera will likely be the more responsible leader figure of the group in contrast to Kanan, who she will likely butt heads with constantly over his reckless methods. Given her possible connection to Cham, it is rather easy to imagine what her issue with the Empire is, and we should expect her to be a driving force for the character development among the crew and their own motivations.

The Inquisitor and Imperial Stormtroopers
The Inquisitor and Imperial Stormtroopers

Also of note is this Inquisitor, mentioned to be a primary antagonist of the series. Not much information has been revealed about him, but he will likely be a dogged pursuer of the crew of the Ghost, much like Vader was for Luke and co. He definitely has the evil Sith look going for him, and some lightsaber duels between him and Kanan are almost a certainty, as well as some attempted conversion to the dark side as well.

It isn’t Star Wars without some lightsaber action after all! Inquisitors were among the many Jedi hunters Palpatine employed in the Empire, so it will be curious to see whether this one will be the only one shown or if we’ll get more glimpses into the organization, which has been left largely mysterious even in the EU.


In summary, there is a lot to be excited about in Star Wars Rebels, which is shaping up to be a Star Wars version of Firefly if executed correctly! The characters are for the most part interesting and all have the potential for great depth and development, which is the backbone for any story in a setting like this one. The early looks we’ve been given already hint at some of the character relationships that will be developing as well as their intent to slowly explore the history and motivations of each character, which is a promising start for the show. Fans of The Clone Wars seem to mostly be very pessimistic and incensed by the existence of this series, and while much of the hate is likely misplaced, there are some things to be concerned about.

First of course, is the issue of continuity. While the Rebellion period is a bit more sparsely populated in the EU, there are some notable events which occur. The events of The Force Unleashed for example, take place in 2 BBY, only a few years later than when Rebels is slated to take place. For those who are unfamiliar with the story, TFU features a secret apprentice of Darth Vader who goes from being his master’s personal Jedi hunter to a founding member of the Rebel Alliance over the course of his journey. What is worrying is that Rebels is slated to explore the origins of the Rebel Alliance, and while many might actually prefer that TFU be wiped from canon it would set a dangerous precedent for fans of the EU. Observant fans likely noted Sabine using symbols similar to the crest of the Rebel Alliance in her graffiti, which is a potential continuity issue since that symbol was adopted at the end of TFU, which took place a few years after Rebels.

In my previous article about the Expanded Universe I mentioned how The Clone Wars had already shown a tendency to overwrite canon even when it wasn’t necessary, despite their assurances that they were taking the EU seriously. As the first officially canon work since Disney acquired Star Wars, Rebels will probably showcase their overall intentions for the future in terms of relations with the EU, and it is definitely a concerning issue as to what they might be. The creative team has once again said they are taking the EU very seriously, and there is far less ground for them to stomp on in the Rebellion period, so the impact on canon should be minimal.

One worrisome thing to note is the tone of the series. Fans of The Clone Wars will remember that interspersed with its mature themes and fantastic storylines were some truly horrifyingly immature and childish ones. I won’t name specific episodes but a good number were definitely aimed at a much younger audience and filled with silliness and superfluous filler that stood in stark contrast to the best episodes of the series. Considering Disney’s history they will definitely want to drive merchandise sales and attract a very young audience, which might lead to some childish tendencies in the show.

The team definitely heard the criticism of fans towards the silly episodes of The Clone Wars, so they hopefully have learned from their experience and know what they need to do to craft a successful show. The overall trend of The Clone Wars was to become more mature the longer the show went on, so hopefully this is a good benchmark for how Rebels will turn out.

We’ll have a better idea once the final season hits Netflix. The Rebellion period will hopefully be conducive to a more mature tone, with the cruelty and atrocities of the Empire on full display, along with their xenophobic and ruthless policies. The Rebellion was a grim time for people like the protagonists of Rebels, as those who fought for freedom were constantly pursued by the Empire’s hunters.

With the crew all stated to have their own reasons to hate the Empire, this hopefully means the tone will be a mature one. All in all I’m personally pretty optimistic about the show; I absolutely adored Firefly and Disney is clearly putting a decent amount of effort into Rebels. I am eager to see the precedent the first Star Wars work under Disney will set, and to be perfectly honest I am always willing to have more Star Wars in my life!

Star Wars Rebels is slated to start airing in Fall 2014, and I’m curious to see what my fellow fans think of the series.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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  1. Zackary

    I enjoyed the Clone Wars series, it was animated however as you watched it more the more you felt that they appeared as there movie counterparts. The Clone Wars was bound by storyline restraints, yet made it drak, funny, political (in terms of the Republic and Seperatist) and was very clever at stringing episodes together. It mixed old characters (Anakin) with the new (Ashoka) and it worked perfectly. Its too early for me judge the Rebels series, however I fear it even looks too ‘cartoony’ , will lack the dark episodes (all the jedi killed off and the empire ruling by an iron fist), and doesnt have enough old characters in it. I personally would like to see what happens to Wedge, Bail Organa, Mon Mothma, Admiral Akbark,maybe even Rex, RD-D2 and C3-PO, Anakin learning to cope as Darth Vader, Ashoka (big ask i know asking disney to acknowledge the CW series). Really fear the Mouse House making a huge mistake with this series, but i will reserve judgement till I have seen a few episodes.

    • Tai Jaekel

      The clone wars series was one of the very best ever made the least they could have done was finish it but instead there making this and im pretty sure it will not make sense in the cannon

  2. Jacqueline Hale

    After watching these trailers, I’m terrified of the path Star Wars is taking with this

    • Nilson Thomas Carroll

      Haha…it’s been a long journey since auteur George Lucas made his first film…god, he must be rich.

      • H. M. Bradford
        H. M. Bradford

        Check out the documentary, “The People vs. George Lucas,” by Alexandre Philippe! It’s got a terrific scope of opinions on the course of Star Wars, from everybody from fans to people who worked on the films. (The film is also dear to me because I happened to attend a pro/anti-Lucas poetry slam that made it into the cut!)

    • Tai Jaekel

      Disney is going to drive it into the floor as soon as they suck it dry for money with crap like this my only hope is that episode 7 does not suck they already took the clone wars away and star wars 1313 soon star wars will be awful and it makes me so sad to watch one of my favorite things ever get ruined for some extra cash and from Disney of all people.

    • Be very afraid.

  3. Earl Bryan

    The ship designs are all really good, and with them not going for puppet looks, the show has more room for improvement as it goes. clone wars looked awful untill halfway through season 3, but still kept that puppet look. These characters all look very disney, which im ok with because disney movies are usually very well drawn or animated. I do like how the planet featured looks a lot like the old original concept arts, I just wish the characters so far didnt look so generic and lame, why not use a female lead? I mean, its starwars, males will watch it anyway, a female lead would bring in the female viewers, and also not put women in their usual place as damsels in distress, lucasfilm needs to watch some miazaki films lol

    • Mentioning Miazaki and Star wars in an animated form in the same sentence??? That just got me dreaming. But i better stop now. Don’t want to hurt myself

  4. I really hope Disney doesn’t fuck this up for real people like they do with everything else. They are one of those companies that needs their stock messed up so they can finally see what they are ruining. It’s fine do do kids stuff, but make things for adults too.

    • Tai Jaekel

      They already fucked up by cancelling star wars 1313 and the clone wars which became such an amazing show i spent hours of every day just watching it until it ended without an ending and now were getting this crap instead of what the fans wanted

  5. Bibi Pereira

    Great first look. I hope there some maturity in this show.

  6. ardith mouldin

    i bet it will be dumb just by the sling alone something tells me this show will be like every other kid show.the enemy will be dumb and the hero will be a carefree happy go lucky kid who luckily gets through everything

    • Tai Jaekel

      your right the clone wars had politics, war and even death all these things that made the show amazing even if it started off ok it became one of the greatest shows i have ever seen but now were getting a generic cast of “heroes” with enemies who are dumb and the kid is going to “outsmart” them with the dumbest plans that are always going to work

  7. DignaRosser

    I’ll admit, I’m not super sold on the animation yet. However, Clone Wars took a pretty long time (in my opinion) to hit it’s stride, both in animation and even more importantly in terms of the writing and characters. I’m still very willing to give this show a chance–and even if it doesn’t start fantastically, I’m still willing to give it a bit to improve. Though, if they don’t introduce a good female character, along with a few aliens, I’ll admit to being more than a little disappointed. Ahsoka, being both and alien and a female, was a good step in terms of diversity and character creation for Star Wars, and I don’t want that to be lost in a sea of human dudes as we go forward into Disney era Star Wars.

    • Nick Hwang

      Fortunately it looks like you’re covered on both female and alien characters on the main crew with Hera, Sabine and Zeb. Hera even fills both categories!

  8. Leigh Ammons

    Wow the amount of flame this has had on the internet. Just like how nerds on the internet assumed Clone Wars would suck, then Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And then they were wrong.

    What is it? Where does this negativity and unwarranted cynicism come from? F–k. There is far too much talent behind this to signal anything other than a great show; or is following the people actually making this just too much work to bring into your opinion…

    • Tai Jaekel

      The clone wars took awhile but turned into one of the greatest shows i have ever seen not so much for ninja turtles though but this show is going to have mediocre everything its a pathetic cash in from disney and they even took away the clone wars and star wars 1313 so they could drive the series into the floor until they sucked it dry for money.

  9. I think the lead character should have been female. boys will watch the show regardless, because its star wars, but a female lead would have brought a lot of female viewers as well. Kanan seems like he’s gonna be a very boring character, and could easily be replaced with, well, anyone (personally i think its boring that the main character is gonna be a jedi again anyway). With clone wars, the character models were pretty damned ugly until halfway through season 3, when EVERY aspect of the show was suddenly improved.

  10. It’s a shame that this is replacing The Clone Wars. I enjoyed that show a lot and I don’t think that this will be half the show that it was. (But hey, Disney could pull it off… maybe)

    • Tai Jaekel

      Disney is not going to make this show half as good or even a quarter though they might get close to a quarter theres just no way its going to be as good plus its on disney xd its going to suck everything is going to be generic all the plans are going to come from the kid the troopers are going to be stupid and fall for them and theres not going to be a hint of politics or serious stuff that made the clone wars great.

  11. Is it me or is this animation a step back from the Clone Wars? Especially in the later seasons. It seems to me that this is a bit bland and cartoony in comparison, especially for the texture of the characters. I know, I know, TCW had years to perfect itself. But this show should build on what TCW did, not avoid it for the sake of that whole ‘new era of Star Wars’ bs. Don’t fix what isn’t broken, Disney. Ultimately the writing is what will sell this show, so I’ll wait and see, but animation wise, I’m disappointed.

    • Madie Cardona

      Remember when clone wars started it was terrible compared to its later seasons. i think the same thing will happen with this series. Their are new art styles that they have created and will take some time to perfect.

  12. kendall weekz

    Well as good as Clone Wars was I could never really get 100% into it for the simple fact it was based on the prequel era which I absolutely loathed, now this is at least based in the Star Wars universe we all know and love. Stormtroopers, Tie Fighters, The Rebellion! How can you not be pumped!

    • Because it’s Disney and they already mentioned it’s going to be family friendly without any dark and mature story lines.

      • Tony Soliz

        They said they will show the cruelty of the empire and some darker backstories, but for the most part it will be fun and character-driven story. The cruelty of the empire is given, it’s suppose to be a government in total control environment and harassing the citizens. I’m skeptical how much of that they will show. I doubt any of the characters will really have anything dark about them. This show does not look as if it’s going to have anything mature in it. It’s meant for a new younger generation of kids who don’t know what Star Wars is.

  13. This looks really exciting. I love anything Star Wars, but I especially love when side stories and groups are explored in depth. The fact that they are including different races has me looking forward to it immensely, and hopefully it can be like the Firefly of Star Wars.

  14. H. M. Bradford
    H. M. Bradford

    As a fellow Firefly fanatic, I definitely like the parallels they seem to be making, especially if it happens to raise interest in Firefly again…
    I also loved your Expanded Universe article, and it made me wonder: who maintains the canon? When it comes down to inclusion or exclusion of certain stories, who has the final say of what qualifies for canonicity — is it Lucas himself? An executive who owns rights? Or is it some prevailing majority of fans?

    • Nick Hwang

      It used to be a tiered system where movies and tv series would trump anything else, but otherwise everything was regarded as canon, and anything said by Lucas was also given precedence. It’s not completely clear what is going on in this transitional period but Lucasfilm has created a group responsible for maintaining the canon. They have yet to make any official statement as to what changes are being made.

  15. Yea I think most people are just bummed about clone wars (And rightfully so) but I will still give this show a chance. However, I would be disappointed if they negated Starkiller’s story line. That story was nearly as good as KOTOR.

    • Osvaldo Razo

      There is a few reasons I believe. 1- It’s the internet, people love being negative on the internet. 2-There are still people who are pissed that The Clone Wars was cancelled and they hold it against the show. 3- They want Star Wars to only be how the view it. 4I’m not saying that they are right, in fact it annoys me but that’s why I think some are like that.

    • Kowalski

      When I heard David Filoni and his crew were going to be involved and he’s actually the show runner I knew it would be Great I have faith in them they are huge Star Wars fans and did an amazing job with Clone Wars.

  16. Leo Bass

    Okay, now I’m excited. I still don’t like the way the young hero looks, but overall the world looks straight outta the OT. Heck yeah! Seeing those Tie Fighters got my blood pumping!

  17. Mcfarlane

    I’m really excited for Star Wars it’s my fav but you can’t help but look at this and see Disney thinking ” these will make great toys” Star Wars needed to be taken on by a company with balls , ie the manga style youtube clip that was fan made it believe was 10000000 times better and more exciting than this , and it annoys my because I’m still going to throw my money at it .

  18. Babette

    I’m crossing my fingers on this show….

  19. I think this is looking good and seems to be goingsin the right direction as far as I’m concerned.

  20. StevenMichels

    The bar is high and low at the same time.

    Continuing the franchise is certainly daunting, but so long as Episode VII is closer to Sith than Menace, fans will be pleased. It’s going to be a pretty good movie, but it’s impossible that it could be a classic.

    The greatest difficulty, I believe, is to avoid having the storyline too closely mirror Episodes I and II.

    And regardless of the storyline, it’s pretty clear than Han Solo is going to die–sooner than later.

  21. I must say that I am fairly excited for this show! It has a lot to live up to but I think the show can hold its own! Those characters have LOTS of room for development. I just hope that the Disney starts solidifying what is Star Wars canon and what isn’t!

  22. Seriously, I loved the first episode and totally cannot wait for the second! The introduction of old characters from the Clone Wars edition like Ahsoka made such a nice twist to the entire plot and it made me really excited. Furthermore, the combination of classic characters such as Darth Vader and the emperor really spices up the whole storyline by a ton! Next episode will see the return of old Clone troopers and I can’t wait for the whole story to unfold! so exciting!

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