The Clone Wars likely are coming to an end -- at least on Cartoon Network.
Lucasfilm’s spinoff TV version of Star Wars has been a solid performer on the Turner Entertainment-owned Cartoon Network for the past five years, but that run will almost certainly come to an end after the current season in the wake of the deal for Disney to acquire George Lucas' company for $4.05 billion.
Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that Turner, a division of Time Warner, has the license for Star Wars: The Clone Wars only through the end of the 2012-13 season. Each year it has renewed its deal with Lucasfilm, and reps for both companies say they will make a decision on continuing the show around the end of the season.
In reality, Disney is very likely to move Clone Wars to one of its own networks, most likely Disney XD, an advertiser-supported cable TV channel targeted at boys.
In a conference call Wednesday after the sale of Lucasfilm was announced, Disney CEO Robert Iger said he sees big possibilities for Star Wars content on the Disney/ABC owned TV channels. He particularly cited Disney XD as a perfect home for a Star Wars show, although he stopped short of mentioning Clone Wars.
Clone Wars has been one of the highest-rated shows on Cartoon Network, even with a move to Saturday mornings this season. For the month of October, Star Wars: The Clone Wars ranked No. 1 in its time period among boys 9-14 and posted double-digit gains across kids and boys vs. last year -- kids 2-11 grew by 46 percent, kids 6-11 by 34 percent, kids 9-14 by 64 percent, boys 2-11 by 45 percent, boys 6-11 by 36 percent and boys 9-14 by 72 percent, according to a Turner spokesperson.
At times, Clone Wars also has aired on Turner’s TNT network and Adult Swim.
Cartoon Network retains some rerun rights to about 100 episodes that have aired over five seasons, but it is unclear for how long. A source at Turner could only confirm the network has the right to keep running episodes at least through 2013.
A CG-animated series, the 22-minute episodes are created by Lucasfilm Animation and are produced by Lucasfilm Animation Singapore and CGCG Inc., the largest animation studio based in Taiwan.
Clone Wars debuted on Cartoon Network in October 2008 after being launched in August 2008 as an animated feature, which played in theaters briefly. The movie got mostly negative reviews but still grossed about $68 million worldwide (about $35 million in North America). There are also Clone Wars novelizations, video games and toys from Lego and Hasbro and other tie-ins.
The Clone Wars series takes place in the same time period as the Star Wars movies Attack of the Clones (2002) and Revenge of the Sith (2005), the last feature release.
Cartoon Network’s sister company Warner Bros. distributed the Clone Wars movie in 2008 and has been selling past episodes of Clone Wars on DVD and Blu-ray discs. That is another deal that is likely to move in the future to Disney for home video distribution.