Tag Archive: Ashley Eckstein


Review by C.J. Bunce

Even if you couldn’t muddle through the first six seasons of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, which aired from 2008 through 2014, fans of the Disney+ series The Mandalorian now have one reason to take a look back at the animated series.  Earlier this year executive producer and creator Dave Filoni presented a fill-in-the-blanks, seventh and final season of The Clone Wars for Disney+.  Last week on The Mandalorian, Katee Sackhoff (Longmire, Battlestar Galactica) reprised the character Bo-Katan, a Mandalorian she voiced in 2012 and 2013 on the series, with a reference to fan-favorite spin-off character Ahsoka Tano, voiced by Ashley Eckstein in the animated series, and soon to be played by Rosario Dawson (Marvel’s Luke Cage, Men in Black II) in The Mandalorian.  If you want to see some interesting connections between the past in the Star Wars movies–the prequels, the animated series Star Wars Rebels, and more–and the current happenings on The Mandalorian, it’s time to revisit the 2020 season of The Clone Wars.

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The Ninth Doctor, Darth Vader, Superman, James Bond’s Q, Lt. Cmdr. Data, Ahsoka Tano, Ariel-The Little Mermaid, a Mythbuster, a slate of characters from the CW Arrowverse, Stranger Things, and The Karate Kid, and more are heading to Kansas City

For twenty-one years Planet Comicon Kansas City has been one of the Midwest’s biggest comic book and pop culture conventions and that was no less so in 2014 when it became the largest attended event in the history of the Kansas City Convention Center.  And it’s only gotten bigger.  Last year’s show featured guests including Henry Winkler, William Shatner, John Wesley Shipp, Cary Elwes, and Joonas Suotamo, and this year more of the most memorable names from TV and movies from the past and present are slated to attend.  Leading things off, The Doctor is In–The Ninth Doctor to be exact–Christopher Eccleston, star of Doctor Who who also played villains in Thor: The Dark World and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, will make his first appearance at the annual event, which takes place at Kansas City’s convention center at Bartle Hall, March 20-22, 2020.

Fan-favorite nerd, cosplayer, builder, and either your first or second favorite Mythbuster, Adam Savage will be making his first appearance at the show.  Making their second appearances at the event are star of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (and Guardians of the Galaxy and Harry Potter universe actor) Darth Vader actor Spencer Wilding and Star Trek legend–Data himself (and Dr. Soong, Lore, and B9)–beloved actor Brent Spiner.  After several appearances of past Superman actors, Midwest native Brandon Routh is finally coming to PCKC.  He’ll be joined by other CW Arrowverse actors, Rachel Skarsten (in her second Kansas City convention appearance), plus Katie Cassidy, Kevin Conroy, Jes Macallen, Courtney Ford, and Caity Lotz.

Two Yutes?  My Cousin Vinny, The Outsiders, and Crossroads star Ralph Macchio is making his first appearance at PCKC.  Joining him are his co-stars from The Karate Kid and Cobra Kai, Martin Kove and William ZabkaStranger Things fans can meet stars Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, and Gabriella Pizzolo.  To top it all off, formerly James Bond’s Q and Monty Python comedy legend, John Cleese is making his first convention appearance in Kansas City.  And perennial Planet Comicon Kansas City guest, the original Hulk, Lou Ferrigno will be back in town for the event.

–there’s something for every TV and movie fanboy and fangirl at this year’s show.

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It’s easy to argue that the very best part of George Lucas’s Star Wars prequels was Darth Maul.  All of his scenes in The Phantom Menace and especially his “Duel of the Fates” with Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi were spectacular, a cut above the rest of the three films, thanks in no small part to the physical prowess (and facial expressions) of actor Ray Park.  The lightsaber scene is still unsurpassed as the best Jedi-Sith duel of all eleven Star Wars films.  Yet, as we learned for the third time this past December, just because someone knocks you down a vast Imperial chasm, it doesn’t mean you’re actually dead (we should have learned this lesson from Luke in The Empire Strikes Back).  The animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars resurrected Maul, first as a rebuilt man with robotic legs in season four (an amnesiac found on a “junkyard” planet like where Rey is later seen), then upgraded with more human-like cyborg legs.  Maul will return in a new 12-episode seventh season, voiced again by Sam Witwer, where he will have a rematch with The Clone Wars heroine Ahsoka Tano, former Padawan of Anakin Skywalker.  Maul will again be portrayed by Ray Park, this time using motion capture for the animation.

Somebody at Disney must know we love Darth Maul (we’re thinking The Clone Wars original director Dave Filoni, back again for this final season) because of Maul’s return in Solo: A Star Wars Story, revealed in the film’s climax as the ultimate villain behind the curtain.  Was Emilia Clarke’s Qi-ra intended to be Maul’s Sith student?  Was she about to be?  Will we ever find out?  Oddly enough, we didn’t/couldn’t learn the answer because the film Solo was made toward the end of Star Wars Rebels, which ended its run years after the events in Solo, although it takes place before the events in Solo.  What we do know is Darth Maul is still around for Star Wars Rebels, where he tricks the young series lead Ezra into being his student, and ultimately Daul dies at the hands of… Obi-Wan Kenobi, who is hiding Luke on Tatooine, something that could also be addressed in the forthcoming, yet-to-be-titled Obi-Wan Kenobi live-action series.  Confused yet?  This ordering might help:

  • The Phantom Menace
  • Attack of the Clones
  • The Clone Wars
  • Revenge of the Sith
  • Solo: A Star Wars Story
  • Star Wars Rebels
  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
  • Star Wars/A New Hope
  • The Empire Strikes Back
  • Return of the Jedi
  • The Mandalorian
  • The Force Awakens
  • The Last Jedi
  • The Rise of Skywalker

Understanding The Clone Wars’ other fan-favorite character, Ahsoka Tano, voiced again by Ashley Eckstein, pretty much requires another viewing of both The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels to get fully caught up.  Originally she was destined to die at the hands of her Jedi Master, Anakin aka Vader, but then in Star Wars Rebels there was some time travel and parallel world business that prevented her death, plus the return of Emperor Palpatine… even before The Rise of Skywalker.  Tano is considered by many fans to be one of the strongest heroines of the Star Wars saga (along with Leia Organa, Jyn Erso and Rey), appearing in a number of novels and comics outside the TV series.  Her spirit voice can be heard in the battle between Rey and Palpatine in The Rise of Skywalker, where fans learned she must have died off-screen sometime before the events in that film.

First disclosed at San Diego Comic-Con last summer, Disney/Lucasfilm is bringing 12 new episodes of The Clone Wars to pay streaming channel Disney+ beginning next month.  The series appears to follow the older, original series animation style versus the updated, more realistic characters and environments of Star Wars Rebels.  Here’s the first trailer for the series, followed by an earlier preview:

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Perhaps it is in part because of the influence of Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy, but it looks like finally, after decades of 100 male Star Wars action figures for every one female figure for kids to play with, times may be changing.  It was sad for two generations of girls–and boys–that you could quickly list all the named women characters of Star Wars, both from the original trilogy: Leia, Aunt Beru, and Mon Mothma, and only a few more with the prequels: Padme, Shmi, Adi Gallia, Zam Wesell, Dorme–and Beru again–with even fewer made into toys that would allow kids to see themselves in Star Wars characters.  Disney was surprisingly slow to integrate Daisy Ridley’s Rey into all the various toy lines early last year, but recent announcements indicate the franchise is trying to catch up.  A new line of 11-inch format dolls from Hasbro looks to be a step in the right direction.

One of this weekend’s Star Wars Celebration 2017 announcements is Disney and Lucasfilm’s Forces of Destiny, a series of animated shorts highlighting the heroism of the women of Star Wars.  Although it would seem adding the women of Star Wars to each of the other toy lines in the franchise also makes sense, Forces of Destiny attempts to bridge action figures and the traditional Barbie-type 11-inch doll.  The release announcing the new doll line made clear that these toys aren’t about make-up, mirrors, and dresses.   “Star Wars Forces of Destiny is for anyone who has been inspired by Leia’s heroism, Rey’s courage or Ahsoka’s tenacity,” said Kennedy.

The toy line is also taking a cue from a successful G.I. Joe toy series, calling the toys “Adventure Dolls,” which will feature hands that can hold weapons and feet that aren’t pointed like traditional dolls (that were intended to allow for high heels).  The Forces of Destiny dolls will be anchored by a web series of animated features in July, followed by an eight-part series on the Disney Channel this Fall that will include the voices of the actual Star Wars film actresses, including Daisy Ridley (The Force Awakens’ Rey), Felicity Jones (Rogue One’s Jyn Erso), Tiya Sircar (Star Wars Rebels’ Sabine), Ashley Eckstein (Star Wars Rebels’ Ahsoka) with narration by Lupita Nyong’o (The Force Awakens’ Maz Kanata).

Here is a preview for the new Star Wars Forces of Destiny:

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Only Yesterday

One of our favorite anime films out of Studio Ghibli is the film Whisper of the Heart, a romantic drama written by the great Hayao Miyazaki, based on a 1989 manga.  The 1991 Japanese hit Only Yesterday has been compared to Whisper of the Heart in its theme and more mature target audience.  Only Yesterday is a groundbreaking anime film, a realistic drama for adults, centered around women characters, unique for the time and the medium.   And now after twenty-five years, for the first time American audiences have access to the film with its U.S. release this week on DVD and Blu-ray.

Fans of Star Wars: The Force Awakens star Daisy Ridley who can’t wait to see what’s next for the young actress will want to jump on the new release, as Ridley voices the lead role.  Other actors dubbed into the 2016 version include Dev Patel (Chappie, The Last Airbender, The Newsroom) and Ashley Eckstein (Ahsoka Tano in Star Wars Rebels).

Only Yesterday clip

Only Yesterday is surprisingly slow to arrive as an English version particularly since it is a stand-out among Studio Ghibli films.  Only Yesterday was the #1 highest grossing movie in Japan in its first year of release, netting nearly $2 billion.  Miyazaki served as a producer, and the film was directed by the Academy Award-nominated Isao Takahata.  With this week’s release Studio Ghibli completists can add the only remaining film from the studio to make it into their home viewing collections.

Check out this preview of Only Yesterday:

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