We went to meet James Waugh and Kanako Shirasaki, the producers of “Star Wars: Visions”, to talk about the new original Disney Plus animated series!
How did the idea for this project come about?
James Waugh (Executive Producer): Anime has always had a big influence on the Lucasfilm crews. The aesthetics and cinematic aspect of these works have inspired us for a long time, and we always wanted to find a way to be able to connect the universe of Star Wars to the Japanese animation studios.
It was necessary above all to find a way to offer the best field of expression to these creators of stories, but also to leave their hands free to explore their imaginations without having to respect the chronology of the saga. opened up perspectives in terms of creation, leaving the possibility of imagining new forms of stories to be told.
It was then Kathleen Kennedy who took charge of the project, she is a huge fan of Hayao Miyazaki’s films but also of Japanese culture. Very quickly, we were able to meet the studios that we admire the most; They are huge Star Wars fans, but also passionate people with great ideas.
The problem we then encountered was to choose from among all these amazing studios, to retain only the most innovative and surprising ideas. Disney + allowing us to free ourselves from the constraints of form, we therefore opted for an anthological series to offer a broader spectrum in terms of narration and animation style.
Did you impose constraints on the Japanese studios, or did they have complete freedom on the content of their episodes?
James Waugh: We go to great lengths to support the vision of our creators, and with this particular series, we have seized the opportunity to be able to do through animation things that we have never been able to see before. in Star Wars movies and series.
But it is true that there have been internal discussions about what is or is not allowed to be done in a Star Wars work. And the reception of the concept art of Tatooine Rhapsody, one of the first episodes developed, was like a test for us. A space rock opera, is it going too far?
But very quickly, we realized that this is something really cool and one of a kind, which then made it easy to accept the other episodes that were submitted to us by these studios: sabers -lasers that change color, rock operas, this Pinocchio robot dreaming of becoming a Jedi and all that…
How did the exchanges with the Japanese teams go?
Kanako Shirasaki (producer): Production on the series began after the outbreak of the Covid, so discussions were done remotely via Zoom from the start. Exchanges around stories, storyboards and ideas could be done through this, but also by emails, and as soon as we needed to “see” each other, it was enough to connect to Zoom.
It was always a pleasure to find out what the studios were sending us, to follow the progress of each project; Obviously we would have preferred to be able to travel to Japan and chat in person, but unfortunately that was not possible. But technology has nevertheless enabled us to be able to exchange daily.
In the same way that George Lucas drew a lot of inspiration from Japanese culture to create Star Wars, many artists and Japanese in turn drew a lot from Star Wars for their respective works.
Was it obvious for you to go back to the foundations of the Star Wars franchise, which was greatly inspired by Japanese culture?
James Waugh: From my point of view anyway, it was a real pleasure. It was amazing to witness this exchange of ideas between Western and Asian cultures. What’s also cool is what you rightly point out: Star Wars is hugely influenced by the Kurosawa films and the jidai-geki (Japanese period films, editor’s note). George Lucas was so inspired by all these films that it almost seemed to us that the series was like a homecoming of the saga.
Kanako Shirasaki: In the same way that George Lucas drew a lot from Japanese culture to create Star Wars, many artists and Japanese in turn drew a lot from Star Wars for their respective works. This mixture of cultures was a fundamental element in their approach to the series. By exploring the saga through their vision, these episodes were both conceived as tributes to Star Wars, but also as real Japanese animes.