Chewbacca

The most beloved hairball in the George Lucas universe — Chewbacca, of course! — makes a guest appearance in Friday's two-part season closer of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. The plot finds our gentle Wookiee captured by the raptor-like Trandoshans, who are also having a field day killing off young Jedi apprentices for blood sport. Among the many terrorized Padawan is the show's teen heroine Ahsoka Tano.

"We are definitely going big with this finale," says supervising director Dave Filoni. "It's one of the most intense stories we've ever told." And the most dazzling. The quality and detail of the animation, especially in the action sequences, top anything previously seen in this first-rate series. "We've pushed ourselves beyond any reasonable TV level to give you something you'd only find at your local theater," says Filoni.

Just one problem: Now we're all spoiled! "After George watched the finale," Filoni says, "he turned to me and said, 'So is this how all the episodes are going to look from now on?' In the six years I've worked for him, I don't think I've ever seen him that impressed and surprised. Still, he's always pushing us to go further."

For maximum authenticity, Lucasfilm brought in Peter Mayhew, the 7-foot-3 Brit who wore the Chewbacca suit as Han Solo's sidekick in the original three Star Wars films. Mayhew consulted with the animators on his character's movements, mannerisms and facial expressions, and even recorded the iconic Chewie growl (originally done, according to Lucas lore, by a bear at the San Diego Zoo).

"The crazy thing is, this will be the first time a lot of kids in our audience will meet Chewbacca," notes Filoni. "When they get around to watching A New Hope, they'll be going, 'Hey, that's the guy from Clone Wars!' And that's a really hard thing for some fans to adjust to. But as Obi-Wan so wisely said: 'Many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.'"

Star Wars: The Clone Wars season finale airs Friday at 8/7c on Cartoon Network.

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