Simon Kinberg looks like what you would expect a lifelong fan of all things “X-Men” and “Star Wars” to look like – that is, like a successful writer-producer in a buttoned down blue pattern shirt and grey sneakers. That is just a cover, he says, for the “Star Wars” fan underneath.
“If I wasn’t lucky enough to be doing this for my job, if I didn’t get to be a writer for a living, I would be at home writing Star Wars fan fiction every day,” Kinberg confessed. “I love this world.”
Sitting in a meeting room at the San Diego Hilton, he is discussing the first of his Star Wars projects to take fruit, “Star Wars Rebels,” a new animated series on Disney XD. The slight grey at his temples is the only clue that he’s old enough to have seen the original films at the theater when they came out, but that reality has definitely led his view on how “Rebels” should be.
If there’s one thing Simon Kinberg and the folks behind “Star Wars Rebels” want to make clear from the get go, it’s that the new series from Lucasfilm Animation is primarily concerned with aping the look and feel of the original “Star Wars” films rather than anything from the recent past (to the point where almost all of the design was lifted from original Ralph McQuarrie designs for the first Star Wars). Kinberg and his cast repeat some variation of that statement a dozen odd times during the “Rebels” panel at San Diego Comic Con.
“It’s not quite like X-Men where there are stories you definitely want to do. I always wanted to do Dark Phoenix and Days of Future Past and I got to do both, and one of them I’m really proud of. Star Wars is more of a universe and you can go anywhere and do anything so it was more about playing in an era, and for me that was the era of the original films. About finding out about what came before A New Hope. Not way before, but right before, as that story begins in the middle. And it stays fresh because that’s a big story to tell. We know the destination of it, but that’s a long way off.”
SHH: How far before the first Star Wars does “Rebels” take place?
Kinberg: Oh, I don’t know if I can… I will say that that question will be answered in the series. It’s a few years. And one of the great things about having original characters is that they could even continue on having adventures concurrent with the original trilogy, if people like them enough to keep watching them that long.
SHH: Fingers crossed. And you have an arc all planned out that goes from the pilot until at least the first Star Wars?
Kinberg: We do. We’ve planned out that arc. We were hyper focused on the first season, but we have a very clear sense on where the series links to A New Hope. And we’ve got an opportunity to bring in worlds and characters from other elements, like going to Kessel (which is featured in the pilot) which we’d heard about but never seen.
Kinberg, with supervising director Dave Filoni and story editor Greg Weissman (who Kinberg describes as the shows three parents) highly focused their attention on more classic adventure such as watching young thief/Force student Ezra evade Stormtroopers in a rooftop chase before leaping into a stolen TIE fighter with shipmate Zeb (Steve Blum) they must quickly figure out how to fly in a bit that swerves between action and comedy frequently. Much of the pilot (which I’m not allowed to talk about) is like that, but the classic Jedi moments do still spring up.
SHH: Speaking to that point, one thing “Clone Wars” had was much of the time it was following characters, main characters, from the films and it was tied together that way. In “Rebels” you’ve created all new characters, without the baggage but also without the connection. Is that more difficult or freeing?
Kinberg: Both. You don’t have the automatic connection with characters everyone already knows, but as an artist and a writer you get to build an entire identity for a character, which for a writer is the most fun thing. It’s kind of why I got into writing.
It might not just be prequel and “Clone Wars” characters finding new homes as Kinberg hinted some of the new “Rebels” characters could make their way into live action via the various spinoff films currently under development, some under Kinberg’s watch.
Kinberg: There is a lot of synergy right now between animation and live action at Lucasfilm.
SHH: Okay, here’s my tough Star Wars fan trip up question.
SHH: What’s you’re favorite prequel?
Kinberg: It’s funny, I was having this conversation last night, some were saying “Clones” last night, but for me, for a nostalgic Star Wars fan, because we got to see the beginning of Vader and Luke and Leia. And honestly the last five minutes of the film, I was bawling in the movie theater. I thought there was great things in all of the movies, I thought the action in “Clones” was spectacular, but for me it was Sith.
SHH: It’s a very generational thing, and the generation you’re writing to is very much of those films, of “Clone Wars,” and now you’re bringing this new thing to them.
Kinberg: Which is why we’re creating these new characters, it’s a lot easier if we’re presenting them to them right from the beginning, for them to grab ahold.
SHH: Last question, off the beaten path, I understand you got a new tattoo recently.
Kinberg: Not yet! I haven’t gotten it yet. I made a bet or an agreement with Bryan Singer that if “Days of Future Past” crossed a certain [box office] threshold that we would get matching tattoos. They’re not going to be matching, but I’ve never backed out of a bet. So I’m going to get probably the smallest, tiniest X in the world, that will look a lot like a freckle.
SHH: I heard there were multiple bets at multiple levels.
Kinberg: No, no, just the one. But I did say, when it looked like we wouldn’t make it, that I would go double or nothing on the next one, but that’s not going to happen.
SHH: No giant A tattoo then.
SK: No, no.
“Star Wars Rebels” will debut on Disney XD this fall.