Ever since the words “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” first flashed up on cinema screens in 1977, the world has been captivated by the expansive universe crafted by visionary filmmaker George Lucas. Transcending the bounds of science fiction, Star Wars would become far more than just another series of films set in space. Drawing deeply from mythological structures and ancient storytelling traditions, Lucas’ creation would go on to become a widespread cultural phenomenon without parallel or precedent.
Even now, some 46 years on, the stories which come from the Star Wars universe continue to amaze and enthrall. Depicting tales of heroism and villainy, the balance between the forces of light and darkness, of hope and despair, the appeal of Star Wars has gone on to cross generations and span continents. Harkening back to some of humanity’s earliest and most potent narratives, at their heart the themes which make Star Wars great are both timeless and universal.
Now Lucasfilm is truly taking the Star Wars brand abroad, with the latest volume in their animated anthology series Star Wars: Visions offering fans a glimpse of nine unique and captivating international takes on the beloved franchise. Ahead of the season’s release on Disney+, we caught up with Executive Producers and Lucasfilm Vice Presidents James Waugh, Jacqui Lopez and Josh Rimes to talk about the new episodes and what viewers can expect.
“We were kind of blown away by the success of Volume 1,” Waugh admits, “and I think with Volume 2, we wanted to explore what else Visions could be and we wanted to see if we could create that same phenomenon of the uniqueness of a cultural voice affecting new storytelling and giving us new stories in unexpected ways.”
Featuring contributions from animation studios based in Chile, France, Japan, India, Ireland, Spain, South Africa, South Korea, the U.K. and the U.S., Star Wars: Visions Volume 2 marks a significant departure from Volume 1’s focus on Japanese animation. Described by Waugh as “a global tour of animation”, fans can look forward to an eclectic array of animation styles from noted studios such as Chile’s Academy Award-winning PunkRobot Studio and even Wallace and Gromit’s Aardman.
“There were studios right off the bat that we knew we wanted to approach,” Lopez reveals. “I mean, we all are big fans of animation and big fans of a lot of these studios. So, you know, we also wanted to make sure there was a variety of the big well-known ones. Like Cartoon Saloon [Ireland] and Aardman [U.K.] were on our wish list. But we also are fans of La Cachette [France] and Triggerfish [South Africa]. 88 Pictures [India] we had some conversations about working together in the past.”
Of course, one of the things which sets Star Wars: Visions apart from other shows in the franchise is the creative freedom imparted to its assorted creators. Whereas other films and television series set within the Star Wars universe must adhere to a strict continuity meticulously overseen by Lucasfilm’s official “Keeper of the Holocron” Leland Chee, the stories in Visions have the benefit of being afforded the ability to break with established lore in service to the story.
Waugh suggests that while Lucasfilm did not impose strict rules or guidelines on what they wanted to see from each studio, they did promote the idea of each story drawing directly from the culture of the creatives responsible for creating it.
He says when they first approached creatives, they told them to “lean into the fundamental aspects of the country you’re from and see that manifested in Star Wars”.
He continues, “Strip away all the Star Wars, what’s the human experience you’re conveying in this story? And how does it feel? How does it culminate in a kind of catharsis? We really are looking at it from that perspective.”
No strangers to the animation game themselves, Lucasfilm also supports its own in-house animation team responsible for the hugely popular Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels. Rimes, whose tenure as Vice President of Animation Development and Production includes oversight of this group, suggests the studio’s in-house animators were curious to see what other teams had produced and supportive of their efforts.
“We all cheerlead each other,” Rimes tells. “Dave Filoni has seen early cuts of all these [new episodes] and has been thrilled and is one of our biggest cheerleaders. As is Kathy [Kennedy] of course, and so it’s all a team effort. And I think the great thing is everybody is inspired by everyone else.
“I think that goes back to George Lucas and one of his favourite quotes that Dave keeps bringing up – ‘Dare to be great.’ And it’s like, how do you keep pushing yourself? How do you keep raising the game of innovation and animation and everything we do in storytelling?”
Fans can experience everything that Star Wars: Visions Volume 2 has to offer as all nine episodes begin streaming on Disney+ this Star Wars Day, May 4th.
May the Fourth be with you!