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    "Star Wars" Downsizes

    Got the Boba Fett blues now that George Lucas has wrapped his final Star Wars movie installment?

    Fret not, Force faithful, there is a new hope.

    Jedi master George turned up over the weekend at Celebration III, a mega-gathering of 30,000 Star Wars geeks in Indianapolis, where he announced plans to move his space opera to the small screen.

    For his first appearance at a Star Wars convention in 17 years, Lucas made a big splash. During a Q&A session, he announced that he is going to produce a 3-D animated action series expanding on the Cartoon Network's Emmy-winning Clone Wars. Then he dropped a bigger bomb, confirming a live-action Star Wars spinoff series is in the works.

    Does that mean we'll get to see Darth Vader duking it out with the Donald on the next Apprentice?

    Not quite.

    According to Lucas, both shows will take place during the period between the end of Star Wars: Episode III--Revenge of the Sith and the original Star Wars (aka Episode IV--A New Hope), when the Emperor became all-powerful and started hunting the Jedi down.

    Lucas said the live-action series is the more ambitious undertaking, attempting to translate the magic of the Star Wars universe to the small screen via supporting characters that fans have only briefly come to know from the movies. The filmmaker added that the show will also be similar in tone to the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, the TV adventures inspired by his other mega-franchise.

    "We're probably not going to start that for about a year," Lucas said. "Like on The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, we want to write all the stories for the entire first season all at once. I'm going to get it started and hire the showrunners and all of that, then I'll probably step away."

    It is not known whether the two TV projects were the basis of a highly publicized Internet rumor a few months back speculating on future Star Wars adventures.

    Lucasfilm has yet to make an official announcement on the new shows. The company doesn't even have a deal in place with a network to air either series because it's been marshalling all its minions for the hugely anticipated May 19 release of Revenge of the Sith, the final prequel.

    This isn't the first occasion Lucas has packaged Star Wars for the boob tube. First, there was the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special in 1978, which Lucas has disowned. Then, after 1983's Return of the Jedi, he hatched two made-for-TV spinoffs, 1984's The Ewok Adventure and 1985's Ewoks: Battle for Endor, both of which were largely derided by Star Wars fans for focusing on the relatively tame deeds of the furry critters at the expense of action-packed escapades of cooler characters.

    Lucas' infatuation with Ewoks continued with the Ewoks cartoon series, which was paired with another kiddie-themed 'toon, Droids, focusing on the mishaps of R2-D2 and C-3PO. Those shows ran from 1985 to '87.

    It's expected that the new standalone animated series will showcase the same kind of epic battles as seen in the more action-oriented Clone Wars series of shorts--with the added benefit of adding potential new Star Wars enthusiasts and giving merchandisers the chance to sell even more action figures.

    In some related Star Wars news, premiere fan site TheForce.net quotes Lucas telling people backstage at last weekend's event that he's prepping yet another box set--this one will include all six films, plus a possible seventh disc featuring deleted scenes from the original trilogy. He says he doesn't expect to make any more tweaks to the films as he did with the last box set.

    And lest you think you've seen the last of Darth and the gang on the big screen, think again. Lucas appeared at last month's ShoWest exhibitors convention in Las Vegas and announced that, starting in 2007, he'll rerelease all six episodes, beginning with the original Star Wars, in a 3-D digital format pioneered by a company called In-Three Inc.

    "When you see some of this test footage, it's shockingly good, and you can see how people would want to go see it," Lucas said at the confab. "It means we can repurpose a lot of old movies, and at the same time it really gives a whole new dimension to the movies we're making now."

    Meanwhile, the usually media-shy filmmaker is gearing up to make his own splash on the small screen. He's scheduled to guest star as himself on the May 12 episode of Fox's The O.C.. The plot: Lucas becomes interested in a graphic novel written by Seth (Adam Brody) and invites him to dinner to offer some sage advice. Seth is forced to choose between taking Summer to the prom or hanging with George.

    Let's hope the Force will be with him.

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