From USA TODAY: 'Star Wars' goes animated tonight By Mike Snider, USA TODAY George Lucas' Star Wars saga blasts off again tonight ? not in theaters, but on the Cartoon Network. The Star Wars gang is back and the force is with them. Cartoon Network The first of 20 animated Star Wars: Clone Wars episodes, each about three minutes long, premieres at 8 ET/PT. A new episode of the Lucas-approved series airs each weeknight through Nov. 20, repeating at midnight. Another 10 will air next spring. Although the Star Wars empire has spread into comic books, novels and video games, Clone Wars marks the first animated series to involve any of the saga's leading characters. Lucas has finished initial filming on the final Star Wars movie, the untitled Episode III, due in theaters in 2005. The Clone Wars cartoon series bridges the time gap between Episodes II and III, and picks up after the first battle of the wars, where Episode II: Attack of the Clones left off. Lucas chose Samurai Jack creator Genndy Tartakovsky to be the force behind the series. "(Lucas) said to stay between (Episodes) II and III and stay away from the love story, and that was it, to just focus on the wars," says Tartakovsky, whose other credits include creating Dexter's Laboratory and directing The Powerpuff Girls. Initially, the Moscow-born animator, 31, was offered just one-minute segments, but he convinced Lucasfilm that more time was needed. After editing some Samurai Jack episodes into short nuggets, "I realized you could really do something (in three minutes)," Tartakovsky says. Lucas' vision for the clone wars goes back to the 1977 original when Obi-Wan tells Luke Skywalker that his father (Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader) died during the conflict. Attack of the Clones ends with the first battle of the Clone Wars. The first wave of episodes delivers fast and furious action. "My son Jett (age 10) and I sat down to watch Clone Wars one weekend, and we were blown away by it," Lucas says. "I've always loved Samurai Jack, so I was curious to see what Genndy could do with Star Wars. ... It complements the movies well." Fans are eager to return to the Star Wars realm if the buzz on unofficial Web sites is any indication. "I love the look and feel of it, though I was very skeptical when I initially heard how short the episodes would be," says Philip Wise of Star Wars fan Web sites theforce.net and www.rebelscum.com. Chapters will be available nightly at 8:20 ET on the Star Wars online service Hyperspace ($19.95/year; go to www.starwars.com), and on starwars.com and www.cartoonnetwork.com the next day.