[Hero image courtesy of Lucasfilm Ltd.]
This Fourth of July weekend, Anime Expo Lite took place as a virtual experience, standing in for the in-person gathering from years past. Despite the event’s unusual formatting, there was no shortage of exciting news to come from it.
Headlining the lineup was the Lucasfilm panel covering Star Wars: Visions. Visions is an upcoming anime-inspired anthology television series, consisting of nine original short films from top Japanese animation studios.
Hosted by Chastity Vicencio, the panel included Lucasfilm executive producers Jacqui Lopez, James Waugh and Josh Rimes. Joining was Qubic Pictures’ co-executive producer Justin Leach and producer Kanako Shirasaki. Each producer showed equal enthusiasm for the project and all are hopeful that fans will love it as much as they do.
Anime and Japanese films, specifically Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress, have had a major influence on Star Wars and George Lucas himself, the producers revealed. The anime genre and the world of Star Wars do very closely align, as pointed out by Jacqui Lopez, describing the meshing of the two as “perfectly logical”. Anime, like Star Wars, often focuses on the conflict between good and evil and how to use your power for good, Lopez reflected. “The combination is like peanut butter and chocolate,” Waugh laughed as he described the journey to Visions.
Anime and Star Wars television have, in a way, “grown-up” together in American culture. Anime started having major Western influence in the 1960s but became a solid household staple around the mid-2000s. Star Wars: A New Hope debuted in 1977, but its first television series, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, didn’t debut until 2008. Both have made massive strides in the industry and are among the most-watched series on television.
This isn’t the first time Disney has tapped into the anime sphere. Walt Disney Studios has had a hand in producing about 20 anime films and shorts, and it has long been questioned if Disney+ will soon carry an anime library. The question was not answered in the panel, but the success of Visions may help determine this on an executive level.
It was not just Lucasfilm who was excited about the project. Just as the creatives at Lucasfilm are fans of these studios and their work, these studios are huge Star Wars fans and absolutely leaped at the opportunity to be part of it, said Lopez.
The show does not fit into any specific Star Wars timeline, giving each studio creative liberty with their respective films, and will each follow a vignette. “All SW stories seem to fit together, but we wanted to be as authentic as possible to the studios, and this is their ‘vision’,” Waugh described. It’s assumed, then, that the show is not canon, perhaps adding to the audience’s ability to lean in and enjoy each story for what it is.
After weeks of anxiously waiting, we finally know the studios the films will be coming from and a small bit about each:
- Kamikaze Douga: “The Duel”
This (mostly) black and white film is described as a “love letter to Star Wars,” debuting a Samurai-style Jedi and a straw-hat droid.
- Geno Studio (Twin Engine): “Lop and Ochō”
This story highlights the collision between natural beauty and industrialization, showcased through the Empire, and debuts an adorable new bunny-humanoid character named Lop.
- Studio Colorido (Twin Engine): “Tatooine Rhapsody”
This Chibi-style rock opera follows a band and will feature established Star Wars characters like Boba Fett and Jabba the Hutt.
- Trigger: “The Twins”
A brother-sister relationship will be highlighted here, following twins born into the Dark Side (featuring a super cool co-joined Star Destroyer!).
- Trigger: “The Elder”
A traditional Star Wars master and padawan story of growing up and passing the baton.
- Kinema Citrus: “The Village Bride”
A more poetic take on the Star Wars universe: a fallen Jedi observes a village and a bride deciding to save her people. Australian composer Kevin Penkin will be orchestrating.
- Science Saru: “Akikiri”
An expressionistic story with The Hidden Fortress influence following a princess.
- Science Saru: “T0-B1”
A cute and fun story about a droid who dreams about being a Jedi, inspired by Astro Boy.
- Production IG: “The Ninth Jedi”
The daughter of a lightsaber smith seeks truth and clarity about Jedi, while the eight Jedi need to come together and trust each other.
This has been in the works for over a year, Kanako Shirasaki confessed. While the original intent was for Lucasfilm creatives to fly out to Japan to work with each studio and have each do their sound mixing at Skywalker Sound, COVID-19 restricted in-person collaboration. However, remote mixing has been accomplished, and each studio will have authentic Star Wars sound, Lopez reassured. Each short will have an original score and will be incredibly unique, with “different styles and tones,” said Josh Rimes.
The series will tie into the upcoming Emma Mieko Candon novel Star Wars Visions: Ronin, which is expected to come out October 12th, 2021. More information on the book will be available closer to release.
To close out the panel, we finally got a release date: Star Wars: Visions will release on September 22nd, 2021 on Disney+. Star Wars fans are ecstatic to see what the studios cook up and what sort of doors this may open for future projects.