James Arnold Taylor (Obi-Wan Kenobi), confirms and reflects on Star Wars: The Clone Wars cancellation.
Last Friday was a red letter date for me as the actor that has had the honor of portraying and bringing voice to one of the most well known characters in not just Star Wars history, but film and televisions as well, Obi-Wan Kenobi, for well over a decade. Red letter in a way that brought both happiness and great sadness.
I just returned from a tour of my one-man stage show “Talking to Myself” for the USO in Tokyo and Okinawa, Japan; where I was recognized by thousands of American military and their families for my work as the Master Jedi. I signed autographs on posters, action figures, t-shirts, hats, took pictures and even did a few messages in his voice on a smart phone or two... All this could seem routine after eleven years of providing his voice for everything from the hit Cartoon Network show “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”, the micro series of Clone Wars, to video games, apps, toys, Disney shows and attractions and more. Obi-Wan has allowed me to be the host of world-wide events from Disney’s Star Wars Weekends yearly to hosting the biggest Star Wars convention, “Celebration VI” last year, sharing the stage with the likes of Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Jeremy Bullock, Seth Green and the Emperor himself Ian McDiarmid. Yes, the Jedi Master has become a part of my life and I through him have been fortunate to be a part of the Star Wars universe and connect with tens of thousands of it’s fans through the years, but while all this seemed to be coming to a great crescendo upon arriving back home from Japan, I got a phone call while collecting my luggage at LAX that seems will change my life yet again...
A call from Clone Wars Producer Cary Silver and our Supervising Director Dave Filoni, letting me know that for all of us, the Star Wars journey would be coming to an end. After nearly a decade of production and five seasons on the air, “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” as a television show, has been cancelled. My heart sank. After those difficult words, we spent the next few minutes reminiscing about the last eight years and how much the show has meant to us all. How when Dave and I first met, I had just come home from adopting my daughter from China, and how since then her entire life has been filled with Star Wars and Obi-Wan and Plo Koon... About the truly amazing group of voice-actors, writers, artists, editors, designers, producers, and staff that made The Clone Wars a one-of-a-kind production that will be impossible to duplicate. I heard kind words of praise from my Director for my work and the impact my presence has had on fans. And I got to tell him how much his vision, direction, professionalism and genius has inspired and entertained us all. We spoke about this coming summer and Disney’s Star Wars Weekends, as I’ll be hosting and no doubt a visit from Master Filoni should be in order, giving us a chance to still live out some Clone Wars adventures with my cast mates, including the host of the “Behind the Force” show at the event, Ahsoka Tano herself, Ashley Eckstein. We thanked each other, said our good-byes for now, and then I felt a bit like old Ben Kenobi after Alderaan was destroyed... hopeless and sad. A great loss, an end to a fantastic journey. And the worst for a person who makes his living with his voice... Silenced.
This was a call I had hoped would never take place, especially after such an awesome experience as touring Japan and seeing the impact the show has had on fans on the other side of the world. To that fact, as I checked my bags at Tokyo’s Narita airport and I thanked my translator for her help on the tour, I gave her an autographed picture of Master Kenobi and as I did, the young Japanese woman behind the ticket counter that was helping us saw it and said the only English I would hear from her, “Obi-Wan!?” Needless to say I gave her an autograph too! How glad I am I didn’t know the news then, as it would have made the next 16 hours on airplanes and waiting in terminals on the long journey home unending.
Now as a voice-actor in Hollywood who has been able to live out my childhood dreams being the voice of iconic characters like Fred Flintstone, Wile E. Coyote, Huckleberry Hound, to original ones like Johnny Test and Wooldoor Sockbat, to super heroes such as Spider-Man, Green Arrow, The Flash, Thor even The Silver Surfer... I’ve been a part of just about all of the biggest TV, film and video game franchises from the last 3 decades from Back to the Future to Transformers, Pirates of the Caribbean to Shrek, Scooby-Doo to the PowerPuff Girls. I’ve voiced the lead characters in video games series such as Final Fantasy X to Ratchet & Clank, heck I’m even a Strawberry Mini Wheat! In other words, I’ve seen a lot of shows and characters come and go, but Star Wars was always the top of the heap, “A-Number 1”. You get used to shows ending, but this one was different, for many reasons. Star Wars is not just another show or film, it is a part of history and the stuff of legend. It’s characters and story lines evoke in us excitement, passion, romance, action, adventure, and pretty much any other adjective you want to insert here. Star Wars is just plain awesome, and I was fortunate to experience it from both sides of the spectrum, first as a fan, seeing “A New Hope” at the age of seven, and then as an actor getting to say the timeless line, “May the Force be with you.”. I got something few get; to play Star Wars as a child and an adult... although as a kid I always played Han Solo, never dreamt back then of Obi-Wan being as cool as he is now (thank you Mr. McGregor!). It’s now going to be hard to imagine my life without getting to speak in the famed tones of Obi-Wan and I am still trying to figure out what it all will mean to fans, fellow cast mates and my family and me.
For those that watched and followed the show you know how much it means to the overall picture of Star Wars and it’s universe. It bridged a gap between the first three films and the second three (and I’m sure will affect the upcoming trilogy), it gave us back story on characters that were sometimes only seen and not heard, it had the essence and romance of episodes 4, 5 and 6 and the fast paced intricate story lines and action of the prequels, without going over the top or playing to any one age group or audience. It brought families together on Friday nights from everyday folks to big name celebrities that told me they watched religiously with their kids, it gave the first generation of Star Wars fans the chance to share their love of the franchise with their children, making new generations of fans, it regenerated past characters we’d thought we’d never see again (sometimes to this Jedi’s displeasure) and it even brought us new characters and new depths of understanding to our favorite ones. It was and is a crucial piece of the Star Wars universe and it will be greatly missed by myself and thousands upon thousands of fans across our galaxy.
So now will come all the questions. All the comments, posts, blogs, tweets, etc. But I’d like to think about the show in the same way I’ve thought about it for the last eight years of my life... as a unique and awesome time and experience. What will I remember most? Too many thoughts come to mind...
The time we spent as a cast and crew recording are the most significant to me. I remember everything with vivid images, my first record session for the show (which turned out to be for the film) to have a battle of words and wit as Obi-Wan with the lethal and yet somehow lovely, Asajj Ventress, voiced to perfection by the talented Nika Futterman. The first time I met and recorded with Matt Lanter as the new voice of Anakin Skywalker and the beautiful Catherine Taber as Padme and thought, “Wow! These two are true actors and will raise the bar on this production and bring new layers to these characters.” I remember Dave Filoni directing myself and the late great Ian Abercrombie (Palpatine), T.C. Carson (Mace Windu), and Matt (Lanter) through fierce battle scenes with blistering intensity, all the while we laughed to almost tears when one of us flubbed a line. There was shock, endless emotion and conversation when the multi-talented Sam Witwer walked in to voice Darth Maul the first time, and even more shock and indeed tears when Maul took the life of a character I grew to love as a Jedi and a fan, the Duchess Satine, voiced by the fantastic Anna Graves. At every record session I watched and listened in awe of my co-star Dee Bradley Baker as he not only voiced every clone in the Clone Wars, bringing a unique spin to each, but to experience his vocal creations of creatures and characters that go beyond acting and become artistry for the ears. We laughed unending with joy at Ashley Eckstein’s energy and excitement she brought to Ahsoka and her signature laugh that our recording engineer Cameron Davis had on a sample button to play like a rimshot to a classic punchline. We marveled at the vocal wizardry of Corey Burton as he switched seamlessly from Count Dooku, to Cad Bane to Ziro the Hutt in a single breath. And we of course could not have done any of it without the wonderful vocal stylizing of Master Jedi Tom Kane in multiple roles of Yoda, Yularin, and the show’s Narrator.
We were always happy when our Master Sound Designer Matt Wood joined us for a session as General Grievous and the battle droids with his expertise of sound and Star Wars history. I was beside myself to walk into a sound booth and shake the hand of the likes of Jon Favreau voicing a recurring guest character like Pre Vizsla. I was ecstatic when my friend, the indelible, Clancy Brown won the role of the ominous Savage Opress or to spend time with a voice-acting legend like Jim Cummings and watch him ad-lib his way through a character like the fan favorite Hondo. I watched with glee Star Wars veteran Daniel Logan reprise his role of Boba Fett, and the wonderfully funny and talented Ahmed Best do what only he can with the infamous Jar-Jar Binks. Sweet and sinister voices and tones brought life to many Star Wars alumni through lovely and talented on-camera actress like Jaime King (Aurra Sing), Meredith Salenger (Barriss Offee) and Olivia d’Abo as Luminara Unduli. And just recently was beside myself to have master thespian Tim Curry, who would be taking over the voice of Palpatine/The Emperor, sit and watch me record dialogue, after which I was introduced, told him I was a fan of his work, and he said, “Likewise, I’m a fan of yours too.” All the while on the other side of the glass in the studio was our ever present Producer (and truly one of the nicest guys in the business) Cary Silver, watching the clock along with Dave Filoni’s amazing assistant Meagan Finnerty, and laughing with us all the way. Laughter and joy was the most prominent part of the record sessions and all because of a love for something that brought us together a long time ago in a studio far, far away.
Thousands of lines of dialogue recorded, over a hundred episodes and yet it still seems like we have said too little and that there’s so much more to add. And from what we can tell there will be more to come. Clone Wars will have a future, although we’re not entirely sure where or when, there are still stories to tell in what I consider the best animated program television has seen thus far. I only wish the show had been more recognized within our industry with awards to the writers, artists, and of course our greatest proponent and visionary for it, Dave Filoni. Dave’s love of Star Wars and story telling far surpassed what any of us as a cast could have imagined and it is because of his ability to craft and create along side, the master creator Mr. George Lucas himself, that we all can stand eight years later with so much new history and legend to add to the Star Wars universe. So with that I say my greatest thanks would be to Master Dave Filoni and his crew, for allowing me to not only take part in history but to be a part of something each and every one of us longs for... Family. I am not only a part of the Star Wars family now, I am a part of The Clone Wars family, and that, in my humble opinion, has had the greatest impact on what Star Wars brings to families all over the world. From here in the states to my new friends in Japan to perhaps even galaxies far, far away. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to say again in the voice of my favorite Jedi Knight for anything Star Wars related but I say it to you now and mean it more than I ever have...
“May the Force be with you all... always.”
Thank you for letting me be your Obi-Wan Kenobi.
All my love to my cast mates, crew and fans of TCW!
James Arnold Taylor AKA Obi-Wan Kenobi
Taylor originally began voicing the character in the original Star Wars: The Clone Wars way back in 2003. He along with Tom Kane, Corey Burton, and T.C. Carson, were all retained for the 2008 series.
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