All nine episodes of Star Wars: Visions landed on Disney Plus Wednesday, bringing anime action with a Force-ful twist to the streaming service. Japan's leading animation studios brought their signature styles to each episode of the anthology series, giving us tales of a lightsaber-wielding Ronin, an android who dreams of being a Jedi and dark-side twins vying for a kyber crystal's awesome power.
Masterminding the series are producer Kanako Shirasaki, whose previous work includes Netflix's Eden, and executive producer James Waugh, who is Lucasfilm's vice president for franchise content and strategy and who previously worked on The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special.
Chatting with me over Zoom ahead of the show's release, Shirasaki and Waugh talked about the potential for elements of Visions to work their way into canon, about releasing all the episodes at once and about their hopes for a second season. Here's a transcript of our Zoom conversation, lightly edited for clarity.
Star Wars and anime are such a perfect mix. Why is now the right time for it? Waugh: I don't think it's a secret that anime has had a huge influence on Lucasfilm creatively. It's an incredible cinematic form that does amazing, inspiring things. So it's something we wanted to do for a long time. I think it was a matter of how and why -- we've been talking to Kanako and [co-executive producer] Justin Leach for years about how we could do this.
What really changed everything was Disney Plus, a platform that allowed us to start thinking about what a Star Wars story is in different ways, and explore things that we might have not done otherwise.
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What made you decide to release all nine episodes on the same day? We're so used to the Disney Plus one-episode-a-week model. Waugh: It felt right for an anthology, since each of these shorts is 13 to 20 minutes. We felt that part of the story here is anthology, and the aggregate of these different tones and styles of anime.
Were are you inspired by that really cool TIE fighter animated fan movie from a few years ago? It's phenomenal. Waugh: I don't know if we're inspired by it, because it was something we wanted to do anyways, but it's a great piece of work. I watched it over and over and over -- it really hits all the Star Wars notes.
Could elements from Visions be brought into canon? Some episodes feel like they should slot into the existing continuity pretty smoothly. Shirasaki: Not immediately, but it might influence the next generation of creators.
Waugh: That's right -- every piece of Star Wars influences future Star Wars storytellers in some form or the other. So are there plans to integrate Visions into the timeline saga storytelling? Not currently, but I have no doubt that we will see things that were in Visions become part of the fabric of Star Wars over the next decades.
Right now you can continue the storytelling -- there's a novel [Star Wars: Visions: Ronin] coming out by Emma Mieko Candon, who's a really talented author. Like everything Star Wars, we'll want to build an ecosystem of storytelling around Visions and these characters. We'll have to see what people fall in love with.
Do each of you have a favorite episode? Shirasaki: All nine shorts are precious to us, so it's really difficult to say. Whenever you watch it, your favorite may change depending on your mood. So I just recommend everyone to watch it again and again, to find new surprises in the stories that you may not have been impressed with before -- you may find some different perspectives.
Waugh: Yeah, they're all great for different reasons. And that's part of why they were selected in this diverse way. But I want to see more of the band [from Tatooine Rhapsody], because I like a good rock song.
Shirasaki: Do you have a favorite?
The Elder. I thought it was super cool -- what a great mood it had. Waugh: I love that master-student story, it just feels so in line with the values and themes that Star Wars has really touched -- passing knowledge onto eager youth, working with the more experienced master, and what that eagerness can lead to. It's just a great lesson.
There's an economy of storytelling within these shorts -- I think The Elder is 16 minutes. How do you think the animation studios build up such strong emotional connections in such a short time? Shirasaki: It's all from the directors and writers, their animation and pacing choices. They carefully crafted all the shots to tell a very powerful story.
Can we expect another season? Waugh: I think we would love to do more Star Wars: Visions, we'll have to assess the reaction and what the fandom wants. Kanako and I are probably incredibly biased; we love these shorts and really do think that this is such a great framing for Star Wars.