New 'Star Wars' film due Aug. 15

Times Staff Writer

First "Indiana Jones," and now "Star Wars" -- this summer is turning out to be the season of George Lucas.

"Star Wars: The Clone Wars," a new stylized, computer-animated feature film, will open Aug. 15 in theaters and set the stage for a tie-in television series with the same name and mode of artwork that will begin airing as a 30-minute weekly series in the fall on the Cartoon Network and TNT.

The film and series will center on the wartime tales of Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi and feature Padme Amidala, Mace Windu, Count Dooku and the other characters introduced in the second trilogy of live-action "Star Wars" films that began in 1999.

For casual fans trying to keep track of the timeline, this film and series would take place after the events of the 2002 movie "Attack of the Clones" and right before those in the grimmer 2005 installment "Revenge of the Sith," which shows Anakin succumbing to the dark side of the Force and donning the black cape of Darth Vader.

"I felt like there were a lot more 'Star Wars' stories left to tell," Lucas said in a Tuesday press release. "I was eager to start telling some of them through animation and, at the same time, push the art of the animation forward."

There already was a 2-D animated series called "Clone Wars" that centered on the conflict between the Jedis of the Republic and separatist groups and their battle droids, but this new film and series will be later in the continuity and have a dramatically different look that melds photo-realistic battle sequences (think of an enhanced, top-flight video game) and stylized characters that sometimes resemble marionettes.

Lucas has also said that he is working toward a live-action television series based in the "Star Wars" universe but that it would not feature the central characters of the iconic franchise, which has grossed $4.3 billion in theaters worldwide. "It's about minor characters," the filmmaker told The Times in October. "It has nothing to do with Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader or any of those people. It's completely different. But it's a good idea, and it's going to be a lot of fun to do."

The other famous franchise associated with Lucas is swinging back this year as well. "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" arrives on Memorial Day and brings the feisty archaeologist of the title back to theaters for the first time since 1989. Lucas, who created the character, is executive producer and shares writing credits with David Koepp. Steven Spielberg returns as the franchise's director.

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