The "Star Wars" universe, already substantially rendered by computer generated imagery, is giving in all the way to animation.
"Star Wars: The Clone Wars," an animated film, will open in theaters Aug. 15 and be followed by a TV series of the same name, to air on the Cartoon Network and TNT this fall.
"I felt there were a lot more `Star Wars' stories left to tell," said "Star Wars" creator George Lucas in a statement. "I was eager to start telling some of them through animation and, at the same time, push the animation forward."
Produced by Lucasfilm Animation, both the film and TV show will be distributed through Time Warner Inc., which owns TNT, the Cartoon Network and the film's distributor, Warner Bros.
Lucas, who serves as executive producer, is also planning a live-action television series spinoff of the franchise, which he began working on last fall. The animated series has long been in the works, though the theatrical release was only announced late Tuesday.
The movie and subsequent series takes place between the ground covered in episodes II and III of the "Star Wars" films: "Attack of the Clones" (2002) and "Revenge of the Sith" (2005). It will include cartoon versions of many familiar characters, including Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Padme Amidala and General Grievous.
A new character named Ahsoka, Anakin's padawan, will be the first female Jedi to be a character of focus.
"It turned out to be an idea that George wanted to explore," said Dave Filoni, director of the "Clone Wars" movie and supervising director of the series. "Henry Gillroy (a writer on the series) and I very much wanted to have a female Jedi in more of a lead role because you've had all the boys."
More than 30 episodes are planned, though Filoni declined to say exactly how long the show will run. He acknowledged it's a finite timeline before encroaching on "Revenge of the Sith" story lines.
Though the "Star Wars" films have been extraordinarily lucrative, the force won't be expected to be as strong in cartoon form. The film and series are clearly aimed at younger viewers, though Filoni hopes to also entice the many "Star Wars" die-hard fans.
"An animated series always appeals more to a younger audience," said Filoni. "But at the same time, we've tried to do some sophisticated things and ensure that we are going to satisfy the broad spectrum of `Star Wars' fans."
Though Lucas farms out various "Star Wars" projects in what's known as the "`Star Wars' expanded universe," Filoni says that Lucas ensured "The Clone Wars" has "that `Star Wars' feeling."
Fans will also remember other animated series following the first time Lucas completed a "Star Wars" trilogy. After "Return of the Jedi," the series "Ewoks" and "Droids" ran in the late `80s.
The Cartoon Network also ran an earlier version of a "Clone Wars" animated series for three seasons beginning in 2003.