Before there could be A New Hope, there first needed to be a glimmer of hope. That's the premise of Disney's Star Wars Rebels, an animated series that bridges the gap between the iconic fantasy franchise's two movie trilogies. Set about 14 years after the Jedi Knights were exterminated by the Galactic Empire in the 2005 movie Revenge of the Sith, the show follows a band of freedom fighters as they begin a movement that will eventually snowball into the full-fledged rebellion featured in the original 1977 Star Wars, aka A New Hope.
"When we looked at the time period, we decided to pick a small group of people who were in a Robin Hood kind of situation — fighting against the Empire began in very small ways," says executive producer Dave Filoni, a childhood Star Wars fan who previously helmed Cartoon Network's Emmy-winning animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars. "And having a former Jedi in their group makes them feel like they've got a little more of a chance than your average group of rabble-rousers."
That Jedi would be Kanan (voiced by Freddie Prinze Jr.), who survived the Emperor's purge and now leads his team on strikes against the tyrannical rule of the Empire. The series is set in the Outer Rim Territories, off the literal and proverbial radar of Darth Vader. (There are no current plans for Vader to appear on the show, but Filoni admits, "I never say never." Fan favorites R2-D2 and C-3PO will, however, make an early appearance.)
When Kanan's Jedi-hood is revealed, along with the burgeoning connection to the Force of his newest recruit, orphaned street thief Ezra (Taylor Gray), the Empire dispatches Inquisitors, double-bladed-light-saber-wielding hunters, to extinguish the threat.
Kanan and Ezra are joined on their ship, the Ghost, by a scrappy inter-species team that includes Hera (Vanessa Marshall), Zeb (Steve Blum), Sabine (Tiya Sircar) and sullen droid Chopper. "The story we tell in Season 1 is really how this team solidifies and comes together," says Filoni. "All of that plays pretty well for a classic Star Wars sensibility that I grew up with." This group may well transform into a Force to be reckoned with.
Star Wars Rebels — which has already been renewed for a second season — premieres Friday, Oct. 3 at 9/8c on Disney Channel with the movie Spark of Rebellion. The series moves to Disney XD for its regular timeslot (Mondays at 9/8c) beginning Oct. 13.