Canon Fodder

Clone Wars 2003: The best Star Wars series is finally on Disney+

Everything you need to know about the hand-drawn animated show.

Originally Published: 
star wars clone wars 2003
Cartoon Network

This article about the 2003 animated series Star Wars: Clone Wars was originally published on November 28, 2019 and updated on May 3, 2021 following the release of the series on Disney+. Read on for the original article, with some new changes to reflect the latest updates on this topic.

The early 2000s was a dark time to be a Star Wars fan. The prequels made it difficult to defend the franchise, Emperor Palpatine manipulated the galaxy into civil war, and Jar Jar Binks may or may not have been a Sith lord in disguise. Grim stuff. But within all the Dark, there was a glimmer of Light. We're talking of course, about Genndy Tartakovsky’s 2003 animated mini-series Star Wars: Clone Wars, which is thankfully streaming now on Disney+ after being absent from the service for more than a year.

What’s so great about Star Wars: Clone Wars (2003)?

Sorry Baby Yoda, 2003's Clone Wars is still the best Star Wars show.


In a word: everything. Created by the same animation genius behind Samurai Jack, Dexter’s Lab, and the recently released Primal, Genndy Tartakovsky’s short-lived cartoon filled in the blanks between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith with a focus on the Separatist War, Jedi battles, and general badassery.

Before we go any further, let’s make one thing clear, this isn’t the mediocre CGI Clone Wars series that ran for six long seasons — plus Season 7 on Disney+. This is the 2-hour limited series made up of 25 short episodes released throughout 2008. Where the CGI version packs in lots of heavy-handed Star Wars lore while leaning heavily on ugly computer animation and off-putting voice acting (why does Anakin sound like that?), Tartakovsky’s hand-drawn cartoon focused almost exclusively on high-concept action. Some episodes didn’t feature any dialogue at all.

That might sound like a drawback, but as you can see in the video above, it only makes Star Wars: Clone Wars better. Tartakovsky essentially takes the best part of Samurai Jack with its stoic hero more interested in kicking butt than making quips or unloading exposition and replaces the samurai with various Jedi, Sith, clone troopers, and robots.

Why wasn’t Star Wars: Clone Wars 2003 on Disney+?

We don’t know for sure, but we have a theory: It’s because Tartakovsky’s cartoon isn’t officially considered Star Wars canon. When Disney bought Lucasfilm and relaunched the movies, it meant reclassifying much of the “Extended Universe” of books, comics, and TV shows into the non-canonical “Legends” category. Tartakovsky’s cartoon became Legends, while the CGI series stayed in Star Wars canon.

Why did one cartoon stay canon while the other didn’t? Again, we’re not sure, but we have a feeling it’s because George Lucas and his disciple, David Filoni, were directly involved in the CGI The Clone Wars cartoon, which expands the Star Wars universe in some pretty weird and interesting ways. So it makes sense that Lucasfilm would keep the CGI show and ditch the edgier, less plot-heavy Tartakovsky cartoon.

It’s also possible this could simply be an issue of ownership rights. A quick look at Wikipedia reveals that Cartoon Network produced the Tartakovsky cartoon in association with Lucasfilm, while the CGI Clone Wars was strictly a Lucasfilm production. Maybe it simply took an extra year for Disney to secure the rights to stream this animated series.

How can I stream Star Wars: Clone Wars 2003 online?

Thankfully, we can answer this one pretty easily now. Simply go to Disney+, select “Star Wars,” scroll down to “Star Wars Vintage,” and select “Clone Wars.” And once you’re done with that, be sure to check out Ewoks: The Battle for Endor too. It’s surprisingly hardcore.

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