Exclusive: Former Lucasfilm Publicist Reveals First Live-Action Ahsoka

in Star Wars, Walt Disney World

Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein) in 'Tales of the Jedi'

Credit: Lucasfilm

Ahsoka Tano’s First Appearance at Disney World and Galaxy’s Edge recently caused a stir. But fans weren’t always so in love with the character, and a former Lucasfilm publicist recently shared photos from the very first live-action Ahsoka.

Ahsoka Tano is one of the most beloved characters in the Star Wars franchise, but she wasn’t always so popular. When she first appeared in the animated film Star Wars: The Clone Wars in 2008, many fans were skeptical of the young Togruta Jedi Padawan, who was assigned to Anakin Skywalker as his apprentice. Some thought she was too childish, too annoying, or too irrelevant to the saga. However, over time, Ahsoka won over the hearts of audiences with her courage, loyalty, and growth. She became a key figure in the Clone Wars TV series, the Rebels TV series, and most recently, the live-action series The Mandalorian, where Rosario Dawson portrayed her.

But did you know that Rosario Dawson was not the first actress to play Ahsoka in live-action? In fact, another actress donned the orange makeup and white headpiece before her, and even before Ashley Eckstein, who voiced Ahsoka in the animation. This actress played Ahsoka at a Disney park before Disney even owned the property.

We are referring, of course, to the very first appearance of Ahsoka at a Disney World’s Star Wars Weekend at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in June 2008, two months before the premiere of The Clone Wars film and 5 months before the series would air. Dave Filoni appeared at the park June 27-29th of that year to promote the movie, but Ahsoka would make her first appearance before then.

This surprising revelation was made by John Singh, a former publicist at Lucasfilm who worked on launching The Clone Wars. He recently shared an old picture on Facebook of the cast member who played Ahsoka at the Star Wars Weekend event, which took place at the Premiere Theater, ironically where Galaxy’s Edge is now. He explained that this was Ahsoka’s first appearance anywhere before The Clone Wars movie came out in August 2008.  John tells us exclusively, “The picture was June 5, 2008, and the first public appearance of Ashoka was June 6, 2008, in a show I hosted with Warwick Davis in the Premiere Theater at Disney Hollywood Studios.”

The first live-action Ahsoka Tano, Kelli Rae Eckert at Walt Disney World Hollywood Studios , June 2008 Photo: John Singh

Star Wars Weekends featured various activities when they were the only representation of the trilogy in the park outside of the Star Tours. Some of the events activities included: “Behind the Force,” a look at the making of the films; “Padawan Mind Challenge,” that allowed kids to test their wits before a Jedi; “Legends of the Force,” a motorcade that featured Star Wars actors and characters; and “Jedi Training Academy,” where young Padawans could learn lightsaber techniques and test their newfound skills against Darth Vader or Darth Maul. Some of these activities and shows still happen now that Star Wars has become such a large fixture in the parks.

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Star Wars celebrities were on hand each weekend for photos, Q&A, and autograph sessions. All four weekends, Star Wars actor Warwick Davis served as celebrity emcee and host of the event. A role that Clone Wars actress Ashley Eckstein would eventually take over. But Ahsoka would debut thanks to actress Kelli Eckert. A cast member Disney selected and Lucasfilm approved.

Singh told us more about the weekend and their efforts to promote The Clone Wars, “Dave Filoni appeared later in the month. This was part of our effort to establish that The Clone Wars was entirely different but was very much Star Wars. Since the movie didn’t premiere until August and the series didn’t premiere until October, and it had been three years since the last Star Wars movie, this wasn’t the most well-attended or buzzed-about event of Star Wars Weekends, and the auditorium wasn’t always full. Those things would probably not be true today. ”

John Singh and Warwick Davis Introduce Kelli Rae Eckert’s Ahsoka Tano to… well… the world.

Disney and Lucasfilm picked Kelli to play Ahsoka, but Singh noted that there were few requests to get photos with her at the event, as many fans were still unfamiliar with or uninterested in Ahsoka yet.

“The Clone Wars” film was initially conceived as four TV series episodes stitched together into a feature-length edit. George Lucas decided to release it theatrically as a way to introduce Ahsoka and the show to a broader audience. Singh’s team faced some challenges in marketing the film, which was distributed by Warner Bros., not 20th Century Fox, making it the only Star Wars film not to be distributed by Fox before the Disney acquisition.

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Singh’s post has received many likes from friends, fascinated by his insider perspective and nostalgic memories. Some fans also expressed their appreciation for Ahsoka, as the character has won over the fan community with how much she has grown as a character over the years. Ahsoka has evolved from a naive and impulsive learner to a mature and independent leader and become one of the most iconic and influential characters in Star Wars lore, as she has appeared across mediums and eras. 

If you are one of those fans who admire Ahsoka and want to emulate her style, you might be interested in getting your own Ahsoka costume. Many options are available for adults and kids, ranging from simple hoodies and masks to elaborate outfits and headpieces. You can find costumes inspired by Ahsoka’s Mandalorian outfit or her new outfit in her eponymous series. You can also find accessories like lightsabers or masks to complete your look. Whether you want to dress up for Halloween, cosplay, or for the fun of it, you can find an Ahsoka costume that suits your taste and budget on Amazon.

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From fandom outcast to beloved Jedi outcast, Ahsoka has gone from unknown and overlooked in her first Disney World appearance to a character that caused overcrowding in Galaxy’s Edge when she appeared. In his post, Singh tongue-in-cheekily asked for thank yous for his efforts in bringing Ahsoka to life, saying that he was proud of being part of her journey. He said that he hoped that fans would enjoy seeing more of Ahsoka in the future. Well, thank you, John, and company. You, Dave Filoni, and the rest of the team at Lucasfilm began laying the groundwork for the future of Star Wars in more ways than one with your efforts to bring Ahsoka to life.

What do you think of this revelation? Did you know that there was another live-action Ahsoka before Rosario Dawson? How do you feel about Ahsoka as a character? Let us know in the comments below!

in Star Wars, Walt Disney World

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