Posted by Eric on March 11, 2013 at 12:09 PM CST
Lucasfilm has announced that the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars will not return for a sixth season, thus ending the series' televised life after five years on Cartoon Network.

After five highly successful and critically acclaimed seasons of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, we feel the time has come to wind down the series. While the studio is no longer producing new episodes for Cartoon Network, we're continuing production on new Clone Wars story arcs that promise to be some of the most thrilling adventures ever seen. Stay tuned for more information on where fans can soon find this bonus content. In the video below, Supervising Director Dave Filoni offers a peek of what is to come in Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

Lucasfilm also announced that it was postponing the release of its other animated series, Star Wars Detours, "until a later date."

As stated above, the Lucasfilm announcement includes a video message from Dave Filoni regarding the fate of existing TCW Season 6 material. Click through to to watch it. "It's not over yet," Filoni said regarding the forthcoming bonus content. "The best is yet to come." The video includes a two-minute clip of previously unseen material, including a clone trooper killing a Jedi Knight in the middle of a pitched battle against the Separatists.

The decision to end The Clone Wars is part of a shift in direction for Lucasfilm Animation. The announcement began with the following tease:
Lucasfilm has decided to pursue a new direction in animated programming. We are exploring a whole new Star Wars series set in a time period previously untouched in Star Wars films or television programming. You can expect more details in the months to come.

The Clone Wars premiered on October 3, 2008, following the August 15, 2008 theatrical release of an animated film of the same name that introduced the world to Ahsoka Tano, Anakin Skywalker's Padawan, voiced by Ashley Eckstein. The fifth and final season ended just over a week ago on March 2. In the intervening five years and 108 episodes, the series explored a diverse set of topics, locations, and characters, some familiar to movie fans, others drawn from the Expanded Universe, and still others created out of whole cloth, often with major implications for the Star Wars galaxy.

While there is no definitive proof that the decision to end the series was made by Walt Disney Company executives (or by Lucasfilm executives prior to but in light of the Disney deal), there are reasons to believe that Disney's $4.05 billion purchase of Lucasfilm played some part in today's announcement. Regardless of who actually pulled the trigger, the biggest question that the acquisition raised was one of priorities: Would Disney continue producing an animated series that might detract from the publicity and attention surrounding Episode VII? Some fans believed that allowing the show to air right up until the release of the first sequel would be a good way to keep high-quality on-screen Star Wars material flowing to fans in the otherwise empty countdown to Summer 2015. Others expected Disney to prioritize Episode VII as it neared the point where it could begin announcing more details about the film.

Cost was another concern when it came to The Clone Wars. The show's astounding production quality certainly came across on screen, but as a result, it was reportedly much more expensive to produce than other animated shows. If Disney had continued the series, it would almost certainly have moved it from Cartoon Network to its own channel Disney XD in order to have greater control over distribution. But in doing so, it would also lose a key revenue stream: the money that Lucasfilm had previously made by licensing the series to Time Warner, Cartoon Network's parent company.

While the show's expenses are not new, the corporate hierarchy overseeing the show is. George Lucas, who had been deeply committed to the series since its inception, is no longer in a position to spare it from the chopping block. If it's true that the costs were proving untenable, Disney's purchase of the franchise and Lucas' departure could not have boded well for The Clone Wars. Once Disney started calling the shots at Lucasfilm and looking at its new subsidiary's various projects from a budgetary perspective, fans felt that the series' days were numbered.

Even though we've been promised more material, this news is indeed very sad. For five years, The Clone Wars kept Star Wars alive on-screen and brought in legions of new fans. It undoubtedly altered the landscape of the franchise, introducing us to new characters, expanding on the darkness of the Prequel era, and breaking boundaries in animated television thanks to the hard work of Lucasfilm Animation and Skywalker Sound. Over the past few years, I've met many of the talented people whose voices and other talents brought The Clone Wars to life. I've also had the pleasure and the privilege of reviewing the show for TheForce.Net since 2009. I will miss it very much.

Here's to the future of the Star Wars saga as we say goodbye to one very important part of its past.
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