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How The Clone Wars Made Us (Almost) Forgive Star Wars For the Prequels

This year marks the tenth anniversary of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, which premiered on Cartoon Network on Oct. 3, 2008 after receiving an animated film of the same name two months prior combining several proposed episodes into a feature-length movie. While the series has gone on to become an acclaimed, fan-favorite extension of the Star Wars universe, what may be lost on audiences today is that the animated series first aired on a time when the entire franchise was recovering from the after-effects of the Star Wars prequel trilogy which had received an overwhelmingly negative response from critics and fans alike while creator George Lucas was adamant publicly that there would be no sequel trilogy following 2005's Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.

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The long-running sci-fi franchise was at its lowest point in terms of goodwill among the fans and desperately needed something to win back their good favor while providing the franchise a new direction while its cinematic future was in doubt. Across six seasons and 113 episodes, The Clone Wars accomplished both while expanding the mythos to provide new worlds and characters that have since become some of the most beloved figures in the entire Star Wars universe. It also provided a template for future animated series to come and, with its setting between the events of 2002's Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, it almost justifies the existence of the prequel trilogy in the first place.

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Inspired by a 2003 2D animated series by Genndy Tartakovsky that led directly into the events of Episode III, the CGI series was developed by Avatar: The Last Airbender's Dave Filoni. A lifelong fan of the franchise, Filoni was hired directly by Lucas for the new series depicting the galaxy-spanning titular conflict between Episodes II and III. Impressed by footage of early episodes, Lucas decided to release the first planned episodes theatrically as an animated film, with Filoni at the helm as director.

Released in August 2008, the film introduced audiences to Ahsoka Tano, a Padawan assigned to a reluctant Anakin Skywalker to serve as his apprentice. Leading the Republic clone army, Anakin and Obi-Wan Kenobi lead an attack on the Separatists led by the Sith Lord Count Dooku and his own apprentice, Asajj Ventress, while Ahsoka earns Anakin's begrudging respect.

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While receiving negative reception from critics with an approval rating of 18 percent on Rotten Tomatoes -- the lowest of any Star Wars film to date -- and only being a modest success at the box office, earning $68.28 million on an $8.5 million production budget, the series premiere two months later was the largest in the history of Cartoon Network, garnering 3.99 million viewers.

An instant hit with many of the same critics that had lambasted the feature film, the first season of The Clone Wars earned an approval rating of 83 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, while its third and fourth seasons would go on to earn perfect scores upon their respective releases. The series would win four Emmy Awards during its initial five-season run, among dozens of other nominations, while maintaining strong ratings.

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