Hidalgo described Lothal as a frontier type planet where the Empire has swept in and started recruiting and taking advantage of natural resources. At first, they seem like the good guys and like they have the best interests of the people of Lothal in mind. In fact, that's felt throughout the galaxy. Hidalgo pointed out that the Clone Wars left the galaxy unstable and the Republic was declining and leaving people disillusioned; many thought the Empire was a welcome change. They pushed into the "unruly outer rim territories" and started gathering forces and installing Stormtroopers.
Speaking of, Hidalgo took the opportunity to settle a debate long argued by some Star Wars fans. Clone troopers were produced on Kamino; they age at accelerated page. Stormtroopers are volunteers who join the Empire - as are TIE Fighter pilots, etc. That comes directly from George Lucas. "The lab grown clone troopers actually exhibited too much individuality to be of use to the Empire and that you find better uniformity in patriots who volunteer for service."
The Empire has a variety of transport vehicles and starships present on Lothal, and several pieces of concept art were shown. Here are a couple of images from Hoth Bricks:
They so much want to replicate the vibe that Joel Aron, CG Effects Supervisor, has looked at the original trilogy film stock to get the look as close as possible. The art department went to the Lucasfilm archives to look at the original paintings to understand brush strokes, paper, line weights - everything. So yes, it will be distinct from The Clone Wars, so much so that they can't re-use any of the existing animation models. Everything has to be created from scratch.
Simon Kinberg will write the hour long premiere of Star Wars Rebels which will air on Disney Channel next fall; it will switch to a half hour format on Disney XD for the remainder of the season. The show will progress in chronological order and follow the same basic group of heroes.
Filoni introduces the crew and the Inquisitor in the video below:
During the panel, I thought I spotted George Lucas and he is in there but they are clearly looking at The Clone Wars and not Rebels.
Finally, some TIE Fighter pins were handed out at the end of the panel and the copyright notice was for Sienar Fleet Systems. Interesting.
Are you excited about the new series?