When The Mandalorian was officially announced in the Fall of 2018, the reveal was accompanied by word that Dave Filoni would be making the jump to live-action. The creator had spent over a decade working in animation, initially serving directly under George Lucas during The Clone Wars and then spearheading Star Wars Rebels when Disney acquired the company.
The first news to ever drop regarding The Mandalorian was that Jon Favreau would be the showrunner for the first ever live-action Star Wars series. At the time, fans immediately began wondering if Filoni would get the opportunity to try his hand at directing an episode for the show. Little did they know, Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy had the same idea when Filoni expressed interest, and she linked him up with Favreau.
As Favreau has shared many times, the two originally met in 2008 while he was doing sound mixing for Iron Man and Filoni was wrapping up work on the first season of The Clone Wars. They both became the first people to see the other's respective projects, and a friendship was forged that continued when Filoni invited Favreau to voice the character Pre Vizsla.
Working together on The Mandalorian was a seamless process for the two given their history and shared passion for Star Wars. Favreau has stated that Filoni always has veto power on anything written in a script, and Filoni in turn looks to Favreau for directorial guidance. Big Star Wars fans know Filoni likes to doodle, and a new book has revealed how that habit became a part of the duo's creative process for the series.
The Mandalorian's Transition From Page to Design
In The Art of The Mandalorian: Season 2 book obtained by The Direct, executive producer Jon Favreau discussed the importance of the design team to his writing process:
"I've leaned on the art department since the beginning [of the series]."
There's a particular handoff of the baton that's developed between Favreau, executive producer Dave Filoni, and art director Doug Chiang:
"As I would write, I would show Dave. Dave would sketch, and then we'd start sending Dave's sketches over to Doug. [The art department] would start doing fully formed versions of [those sketches], and that would get me writing more."
Much like George Lucas, Favreau would also feed ideas to the design team that would inspire his writing:
"Sometimes I would even say to Doug, 'Hey, I haven't written this yet, but I'm thinking of a location like this, and this is what's going to happen there,' and then let the drawing inspire the scene. They make it more exciting for me to write it. Or I'll get ideas from the visuals that I'll use in the script."
Filoni has generally taken over writing duties for the episodes he's directed, and in the case of "Chapter 13 - The Jedi," he was stunned by the trust Favreau had for him:
"It was pretty astonishing, I've got to say. Jon let me go in there and write this episode about the Child, which includes his backstory. He told me the kid's name, because he named him. Jon knows that I'm very protective of Ahsoka and her history and what she's about."
The roles were reversed for that episode; Filoni was the one doing the writing, with Favreau providing oversight and feedback:
"We went through a couple rounds where I'd write a bunch and then he'd look at it and give me his take - that perspective becomes really valuable for me to then communicate this character that maybe the larger audience doesn't know but the fans do. And get at the root of what makes her special."
The Magic of a Team
It's no surprise that The Mandalorian has been received so well. The reverence that Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni have for Star Wars, and the care and respect demonstrated to the fans, have been key factors in making the show the success that it is. After all, the main rule Favreau had for anyone he would bring on board for the series was that they had to be a Star Wars fan, first and foremost.
This is really the first time a tag team has overseen something so big in the galaxy far, far away. There have been many films written by various people and directed by someone else, but the bulk of the influence stops there. The closest things got prior to this point was Phil Lord and Chris Miller directing Solo together, but they were ultimately fired midway through production.
Favreau and Filoni are both writers and directors, though they bring different levels of experience to different arenas. Filoni proved long ago that he's a capable and writer and can oversee an animated project, but even he wasn't convinced that he could direct live-action. It was the partnership with Favreau that gave him the confidence to do so, and there have been notable steps forward in each episode he's tackled.
With Filoni being the walking Star Wars encyclopedia that he is, Favreau deferring to him on story and character elements is further proof of the respect he has for his partner. The Mandalorian is Favreau's baby, but his willingness to take feedback from Filoni and alter things as needed has made the show stronger. And, to his credit, Filoni doesn't seem to override many things - like the helmet rule Mando's covert has, which was previously unseen among other Mandalorian groups.
Grogu has become a special character in the franchise, one that Favreau excels at crafting story and humor around. The core of the show is the relationship between Grogu and Din, and that's served as the strongest hook for audiences. Ahsoka is an equally beloved member of the Star Wars family, and the recognition that Filoni and Favreau have for what their creations mean to them and the fans enables the duo to create stronger stories for the characters.
There seems to be a perfect system the creative team has going for the design process. Filoni has been doing sketches for characters and sequences since the Clone Wars days and can produce impressive work in a short amount of time - like the little drawing he did of Mando during the series' panel at Star Wars Celebration Chicago. To take the ideas written by Favreau, give them a visual foundation through Filoni's sketches, and then allow Chiang and his team of concept artists to flesh things out is a recipe for success.
And the inspiration Favreau takes from the art department is a familiar process. George Lucas frequently gave his designers broad ideas for things he wanted to incorporate into the prequel trilogy and let them go to town. A few sessions of inspection would transpire, where Lucas would give a literal stamp of approval for things he liked, and the official design would be decided upon.
For many writers, things aren't working if they can't see them play out in their minds. A general idea of what they're going for can work, but when there's a team of artists as talented as the ones at Lucasfilm at Favreau's disposal, letting them do their thing can only improve how settings impact the stories and characters. It takes a village to create a Star Wars project, and The Mandalorian team is functioning as a well-oiled machine.
The Mandalorian Season 3 will debut on Disney+ in late 2022.