Celebration Japan: The Lair of Takeuchi

Pablo Hidalgo | July 20, 2008

“One of the things we wanted to do in The Clone Wars is bring a new look, something different to Star Wars,” says director Dave Filoni. “George Lucas talked early on about having an anime influence. Well, rather than just have an influence, we flew all the way to Japan and worked with Production I.G., bringing one of their really great artists, Atsushi Takeuchi, right into The Clone Wars.”

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Atsushi Takeuchi is a renowned mechanical designer and anime director, having worked on such high profile projects as The Sky Crawlers and Ghost in the Shell. Early on in the development of The Clone Wars series, he took on some key character, ship and mechanical designs. “Immediately, I wanted Takeuchi-san to do all kinds of things,” says Filoni. “One of them was designing General Grievous. He has such an amazing ability to break something down mechanically and show all the insides and outsides and parts and pieces.”

“It’s been a dream come true, and thanks so much for the opportunity,” says Takeuchi. In addition to design, Takeuchi was given directorial duties on one of the series most atmospheric and creepy episodes.

“In the series you’re going to see many many different types of stories,” explained Filoni. “Some episodes get quite dark, others are more of a very exciting adventure. We have some episodes solely on the clones and clone troopers, And some, like Mr. Takeuchi’s episode, they deal with the villains and their backgrounds.”

In the episode, “The Lair of Grievous,” Kit Fisto follows a homing signal to the Vassek moon, where the Republic believes a recently-escaped Nute Gunray fled to avoid re-capture. Landing his delta fighter in the misty spires of the moon, Fisto is joined by his former Padawan, the Mon Calamari Nahdarr Vebb, as well as several clone troopers. They find an entrance to a dark, creepy lair filled with statues honoring a powerful warrior. Before long, the Jedi realize they have uncovered the sanctuary of General Grievous.

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“Takeuchi-san boarded his entire episode in a very short amount of time,” says Filoni. “He is so economical with the line he uses and what he chooses to show in each frame and how thorough he is in describing what’s going on. ”

After storyboarding the entire three-act, 22-minute show, Takeuchi sat with George Lucas and went through, shot-by-shot, as to what his vision was and combined that with Lucas’ ideas and notes. “When I came to the Lucasfilm Animation Studio, I couldn’t believe I was actually here,” said Takeuchi. “I was a little nervous and also very surprised that Mr. Lucas was so enthusiastic and so passionate. Mr. Lucas tweaked a lot of my drawings. Usually, when you change things on the fly, the story suffers, but all his changes made sense. I was amazed by his skill. He’s a director but he can also see a movie as just a regular viewer.”

Takeuchi was also impressed by Lucasfilm Animation’s sprawling campus at Big Rock Ranch, adjacent to Skywalker Ranch. “Basically, it was huge,” he said. “I’ve never seen an animation company that had its own fire truck and vineyard! The space that I was using there, that space in Japan would have had 10 people in it.”

In working with Lucas, both Takeuchi and Filoni described it as a master class in filmmaking, learning from the creator of Star Wars himself. “I was very surprised by how he could edit so quickly on the spot. It was really very impressive,” said Takeuchi.

“It was a really great collaborative session,” said Filoni, “and a really excellent episode came out of it. It’s a very dark episode. Really Takeuchi-san did a great job at keeping it mysterious and yet giving the audience a big thrill with this villain that they know very little about.”

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As an exclusive treat for fans in attendance at Celebration Japan, Filoni then screened the first act of the episode.

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