It took Star Wars decades to fully branch out into animated storytelling. But once it did, it quickly became clear the franchise would never be the same.

3D animated television as a whole has progressed significantly in the past decade. Characters and the places they visit look more realistic on our screens than they ever have before, making the stories these visuals tell even more immersive for children and adults alike. 

But one part of the creative process of developing an animated show remains the same: It all begins with an idea. And then, soon after, a sketch or two. Or dozens.

Star Wars art books are known for their stunning visuals and elaborate collections of concept drawings, guiding readers through various stages of behind-the-scenes development from the earliest spark of an idea to the final product.

Because Star Wars Rebels is a show that was always intended to serve as a bridge between one animated television show and another live-action film within the Star Wars universe, its sketches and finished drawings rely heavily on concepts from a variety of sources -- from original Ralph McQuarrie art to animated Clone Wars character models and more.

For anyone who loves knowing behind-the-scenes information about how Star Wars is made, The Art of Star Wars Rebels provides a colorful glimpse into the development of fan-favorite characters and locations from the animated show. Its unique setup transforms the book into a story in itself, starting off before the show began and taking readers on a completely new adventure from the very first page.

A Star Wars Reference Book That Tells Its Own Story

Image credit: Youtini

Not all Star Wars reference books are the same. Some focus heavily on lore, as dictionaries, in some cases, feeding straight information to anyone who wants it. This book ultimately accomplishes the same goal, but in its own creative way.

The Art of Star Wars Rebels is divided into four sections, each focusing on its own season of the show. This doesn’t just keep the table of contents organized and make things easier to find. It also allows author Dan Wallace to show how -- and why -- various changes were made to the show’s cast of characters as the story progressed.

The most captivating elements of this 200-page reference book, in fact, are the ones that touch on the characters fans know and love, particularly when using captions to connect designs to important story elements. 

When showcasing varying designs for Ezra in season 3, for example, the written caption explains that the changes made to his character design were meant to represent his growth as he takes on a bigger role in the fight against the Empire.

It certainly helps that the book begins with a note from series creator Dave Filoni, explaining what the earliest developmental stages of Rebels looked like. His forward explains how important he felt it was to create a unique art style that combined and expanded upon elements from previous live-action and animated projects.

“Most importantly we wanted to maintain the legacy of the Star Wars saga and that of its creator, George Lucas … We all did our best to make sure that the lessons he taught us were ever-present in how Rebels was created.”

The text that appears in this book’s pages, both within Filoni’s message and alongside the various drawings, takes you by the hand and leads you on an adventure through the show’s uncertain beginning to its heartbreaking, yet satisfying, end.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars Characters in Rebels

Watching the show, each season brings new versions of familiar Star Wars characters to its audience. Captain Rex, Ahsoka Tano, and even Maul are all characters we’ve seen in animated form before. But at the time Rebels takes place, they’re significantly older. Someone had to make changes to their designs to reflect that.

This book shows you the original sketches of each of these characters and places them alongside the character models used as a baseline for updating each character. 

The A New Hope-era version of Obi-Wan Kenobi, though his appearance in the show is brief, serves as just one example of this. The book shows, through sketches, how the show’s artists used images of his various appearances throughout Star Wars films and TV shows to create his unique look in Rebels.

Looking at the final versions of these characters compared to the originals changes the way you look at them, and truly heightens your appreciation for what goes on behind the scenes to take an idea from concept to screen.

The Art of Star Wars Rebels Belongs on Every Fan’s Shelf

Image credit: Youtini

If you’ve never picked up a Star Wars reference book, or you usually skip the art books specifically, you might want to make an exception for The Art of Star Wars Rebels.

With a delightful forward by series co-creator and executive producer Dave Filoni and the vibrant prose of Dan Wallace, it feels less like a collection of lore and references and more like a personal guide through each season of the show’s creation.

This book isn’t just for fans of Rebels, though seasoned viewers will appreciate it on a much deeper level (plus, there are major spoilers!). It can appeal to any Star Wars fan who wants to learn more about how different stories within the universe connect, both in the stories themselves and behind the scenes.

As an added bonus -- whether you settle for the reasonably-priced version or the deluxe limited edition complete with illuminating lightsabers on the casing -- it will look great on your shelf alongside your other collectibles.

Something great about Star Wars art books is that once you own one, you have the freedom to consume as much or as little of it as you want. If you’re not interested in character art but want to look at breathtaking images of Lothal and other locations the characters visit in the show, you can skip right to those. If you have no interest in looking at art from Season 1 but want to flip right to Season 3, you can do that too. 

A reference book packs all available information between its front and back covers. You get to choose which pages to explore.

Star Wars Rebels may be over, but the story and the characters within it live on in books like these. Flipping slowly through these pages feels like reuniting with long-lost family again. 

If it’s been a while since you’ve fully immersed yourself in this show’s universe, The Art of Star Wars Rebels is your next logical step to returning home.

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