‘Star Wars: Visions’: Volume 2 Expands Beyond Anime

Aardman, Cartoon Saloon, and a host of other international animation powerhouses join the Disney+ anthology.
"Sith" from "Star Wars: Visions Volume 2"
"Sith" from "Star Wars: Visions Volume 2"
Lucasfilm Ltd.

Disney+’s acclaimed “Star Wars: Visions” anthology series from Lucasfilm moves beyond anime with “Volume 2.” The nine shorts in this second season tout a broader range of styles and techniques while showcasing the Star Wars franchise’s cultural impact throughout the world.

“We believed in this potential from the start when we expanded out more globally,” executive producer James Waugh told IndieWire. “We really thought we could show the world just incredible animation that’s being done out there and incredible cultural voices out there from different countries. Each one of these creators had something they wanted to say. They are such masters of their craft. And then we got to see the fun of watching all their different animation techniques and styles brought to life in ‘Star Wars’ in ways we never quite experienced before.”

The studios tapped by executive producers Waugh, Jacqui Lopez, and Josh Rimes include Aardman from Bristol, England (“I am Your Mother”), Ireland-based Cartoon Saloon (“Screecher’s Reach”), El Guiri from Madrid, Spain (“Sith”), France-based Studio La Cachette (“The Spy Dancer”), Punkrobot from Chile (“In the Stars”), South Korea-based Studio Mir (“Journey to the Dark Head”), 88 Pictures from Mumbai, India (“The Bandits of Golak”), and South Africa-based Triggerfish (“Aau’s Song”). Rounding out the sophomore season was a collaboration between Japan-based D’Art Shtajio and Lucasfilm (“The Pit”).

Among the highlights are “Screecher’s Reach” (2D), directed by Cartoon Saloon CEO Paul Young (“Wolfwalkers”), about a young girl looking for an escape from her rural workhouse who gets seduced by the dark pull of a haunted cave; “Sith” (CG with a hand-drawn look), directed by El Guiri’s Rodrigo Blaas (“Trollhunters: Tales of Arcadia”), in which a former Sith apprentice finds happiness as a painter until her mentor returns; “I Am Your Mother” (stop motion), directed by Aardman’s Magdalena Osinska (“Share the Orange” Alzheimer’s U.K. Research campaign), about a bickering mother and daughter who join a family race; and “In the Stars” (stop-motion/CG), directed by Punkrobot’s Gabriel Osorio (the Oscar-winning short “The Bear”), about two sisters in hiding who fight back against The Empire.

When you start getting in designs, just to see it rendered in a cartoon style — or, of course, everything Aardman — but I remember with Rodrigo, how excited he was designing a droid in ‘Star Wars,’ and he animated it himself with two eyes rolling and coming up like a crab,” Lopez said. “I remember reading that pitch about a painter and we said, ‘Let’s do it.’”

Waugh recalled Blaas telling them that “Sith” was inspired by his daughter not listening to his advice and deciding to follow her own path. “From that, he extrapolated this whole idea about duality and needing to express your voice,” he said. “And so it’s a great metaphor, I think, for a life experience, and how you can expand The Force across many things.”

"I am Your Mother" from "Star Wars: Visions Volume 2"
Aardman’s “I am Your Mother” from “Star Wars: Visions Volume 2”Lucasfilm Ltd.

For “Screecher’s Reach,” Young borrowed the Irish Banshee folktale with a screaming ghost in the cave and transformed it into a bittersweet “Star Wars” work about leaving your friends behind to pursue a new destiny. “I remember him taking that myth and thinking back to ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ and Luke going into that cave on Dagobah and facing Darth Vader,” Rimes said. “It’s really a story about a girl who has to choose the best way forward for herself, even if it’s the wrong path.”

The cultural pull of each “Stars Wars: Visions” short turned out to be the most satisfying aspect of “Volume 2.” This was intentional, because when they approached each studio, they asked the directors to lean heavily into the myths, colors, and textures associated with their countries.

“You see that with Cartoon Saloon and the Banshee story, and they pitched it as such,” Waugh said. “And you see that in the Patagonia richness of Gabriel’s story about The Empire taking land and resources from the native species. Or Julien Chheng’s ‘The Spy Dancer,’ where they brought the French Resistance from World War II and Madame Curie, who spied on the German soldiers in the cabarets. This Studio La Cachette lives and breathes within that place every single day that it feels a little bit more honest.”

Meanwhile, the comedic aspect of Aardman’s mother-daughter story and competitive race was set against an oppressive backdrop that’s very “Star Wars.” “We needed that wonder story,” said Lopez. “It’s also one of those things that really fits with the [personal]. Magda was born in Poland and came to the U.K. feeling like a fish out of water. In the story, she’s embarrassed by her mother but learns the importance of the things her mother gave her. So the artist and the story are clearly interwoven in many ways.”

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