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How Disney pushed Star Wars animation to be more kid-friendly from the inside, as explained by a longtime Disney cartoon writer

Star Wars animation writer reveals the kind of changes that came when Disney took over the franchise

Cropped poster image from Star Wars Rebels
Image credit: Disney/Lucasfilm

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Star Wars is a story of war, family, redemption, and teenage boys using droids as skateboards.

In 2012 Disney announced that it was purchasing Lucasfilm, giving them control of the Star Wars franchise. Some fans had concerns. After all, Disney is known for their family-friendly entertainment (most of the time). Would Star Wars be watered down in the Disney era? According to one animation writer, the Mouse has tried to tone down the franchise in order to appeal to more kids.

Henry Gilroy is an animation writer who can speak from experience. He wrote for Star Wars: The Clone Wars prior to the Disney takeover. During that time, he worked directly with George Lucas. After Disney bought Lucasfilm, Gilroy became a writer for Star Wars: Rebels. He immediately saw the differences in the Disney era.

“When I was at Lucasfilm after Disney acquired Star Wars, we were getting sort of ‘Disney’ notes on Rebels," Gilroy recalled during the 'Writing for TV Animation' panel at WonderCon 2024. "At one point I got in trouble for an email where I said, ‘Look, I’m not concerned about the Disney brand. I’m telling Star Wars stories.’ This of course made no difference, because Disney really wanted to age Star Wars down."

"I had come from Clone Wars, and I knew that if you age it down too much, it’s not really Star Wars, or it’s a different kind of Star Wars. The Star Wars I had come up making was with George [Lucas] on Clone Wars, so you try to straddle that line by making it feel like Star Wars. I mean, ‘Wars’ is in the title. Sorry Disney.”

Ezra rides Chopper like a skateboard
Image credit: Lucasfilm

Gilroy then recalled a particular image that seemed to embody Disney’s philosophy. “There’s a very early Rebels piece of promotional art that was put out where Ezra was standing on top of Chopper, riding him like a skateboard,” Gilroy said.

We’ve tracked down the image and included it in this article. It’s….interesting.

“I think I said, ‘I’m never going to put that in the series anywhere.’ I felt it was disrespectful to the droid, but also, it’s not Star Wars to me,” Gilroy continued.

However, the writer noted that Disney seems to have found a balance.

“I think they found a way to tell those stories by doing the New Jedi Adventures Series, which really is for a younger audience, but it doesn’t feel like it’s canon.” The title is slightly off, but Gilroy is referring to Star Wars: Young Jedi Adventures, a preschool animated series that focuses on a group of Jedi younglings. This series is able to exist alongside adult-oriented Star Wars projects like Andor and The Acolyte.

You probably won’t find anyone using a droid as a skateboard in The Acolyte. If you do, then we can safely assume Henry Gilroy was nowhere near the writers room.

Get ready for everything coming up with our guide to upcoming Star Wars movies & TV shows, dive into the past with our Star Wars watch order, or debate on which was the best with our ranked list of the best (and worst) Star Wars movies.

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