alive-action ahsoka backlash

Why ‘Star Wars’ animation fans have mixed feelings about live-action Ahsoka

Ahsoka's upcoming Disney+ show awakened a debate about whether animation is undervalued as a medium.


Gavia Baker-Whitelaw

Internet Culture

Posted on Apr 11, 2023

In a franchise with as many offshoots as Star Wars, there can be some tension between the core canon and the more tertiary spinoffs.

A lot of old-school fans are still invested in the status of the vintage Expanded Universe (now known as Star Wars Legends), which was declared non-canonical in 2014. Some characters like Grand Admiral Thrawn have been grandfathered into the new Disney canon, while others (i.e. Luke Skywalker’s wife Mara Jade) are officially unofficial.

Meanwhile, the recent animated shows like Star Wars Rebels and The Clone Wars occupy a more complicated position–as evidenced by the mixed reactions to Ahsoka, an upcoming live-action show about Ahsoka Tano.

Voiced by Ashley Eckstein in The Clone Wars and elsewhere, Ahsoka started out as Anakin’s Jedi apprentice; a character with a devoted fan-following and a major role in the animated shows. Rosario Dawson introduced a live-action version in The Mandalorian (2020) and The Book of Boba Fett (2022), and the trailer for her solo series arrived last weekend. Like the rest of the Mando-verse TV franchise, Ahsoka is co-produced by Dave Filoni; a lead writer on Rebels and Clone Wars, and Ahsoka Tano’s original co-creator. But some fans still have qualms about Ahsoka making the jump to live-action.

Most of the time, we see fans campaigning for secondary characters to be included in higher-profile corners of a franchise, like Daredevil and Agents of S.H.I.E.LD. fans wanting their faves to appear in the MCU. But the complaints about live-action Ahsoka direct their ire in the opposite direction, rooted in longstanding conflicts over the value of animation as an independent medium.

From Star Wars to Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio Oscar campaign, animation is often positioned as a scrappy underdog compared to live-action. We’ve seen this conflict play out with numerous live-action remakes of Disney cartoons and anime movies, where the new versions fail to deliver the same visual flair. Yet many people automatically perceive live-action as a somehow superior (and more mature) form of storytelling.

With Ahsoka, there are several overlapping concerns. Some fans believe that live-action can’t do justice to the character’s physicality and combat style, which were already established in the animated shows. There’s also the question of whether a Mando-verse show can offer meaningful storytelling that satisfies new, live-action viewers and fans who remember years of Clone Wars lore.

And when the show actually comes out, how will that change the perception of Ahsoka among newcomers? Maybe live-action audiences will embrace all that animated backstory—or, judging by the way these things often pan out, some will consider Rosario Dawson to be the definitive version, dismissing the animated precursors out of hand.

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*First Published: Apr 11, 2023, 3:09 pm CDT