It’s time to strap in, buckle up, and prepare to jump into hyperspace because the second volume of Star Wars: Visions is here in time for May the 4th, 2023. Just like the first edition that dropped in September 2021, Star Wars: Visions Volume 2 brings together an incredible group of international animation studios and creators in a collection of animated short films, each around 15 minutes long.
The nine studios featured in Star Wars: Visions Volume 2 are El Guiri (Spain), Cartoon Saloon (Ireland), Punkrobot (Chile), Aardman (United Kingdom), Studio Mir (South Korea), Studio La Cachette (France), 88 Pictures (India), Triggerfish (South Africa), and D’art Shtajio (Japan). D’art Shtajio, in particular, made their short in collaboration with Lucasfilm Ltd. (United States). Although officially non-canon, these new shorts range in how serious they take Star Wars lore, either doing their best to exist within the world established by Lucasfilm while adding their own spin, or going hog-wild, kicking the rules to the wayside.
As is the nature of anthologies, Star Wars: Visions is inherently hard to evaluate as a collective whole. With nine different, wildly unique stories, there’s a lot of “vision” on full display here with a little bit of something for all Star Wars fans to enjoy, no matter which part of the series you find most appealing. From comedy to horror to drama, this Disney+ original anthology series establishes itself as Star Wars’ variety show and sometimes outshines even its most sacred texts, à la “canon” creations from George Lucas, Dave Filoni, Jon Favreau, and the like. While this newest volume of Star Wars: Visions may not include quite as many hard-hitter episodes as its first, there’s still a lot to love this time around.
This anthology series’ strength continues to be its visual variety. In branching out from the first season’s anime-strict theme, Star Wars: Visions expands its animated horizons in building a collection of shorts that showcases the medium’s brightest, most exciting voices. This volume also departs the world of 2D animation altogether, bringing in 3D CGI and classic stop-motion animation into the mix. These new realms are a welcome addition to the Star Wars galaxy not just for the sake of visual diversity, but also that of tone and theme – there’s something about stop-motion’s tangibility oozing from every plasticine figure and fuzzy imperfection that feels right at home in these smaller scale adventures.
Eagle-eyed viewers and die-hard Wallace and Gromit-heads will clock Aardman’s short from a mile away – a fun and jubilant little joint about a mother-daughter racing duo, cheekily titled “I Am Your Mother.” Starring the vocal talents of Charithra Chandran (Bridgerton), Maxine Peake (The Theory of Everything), and Wedge Antilles himself, Denis Lawson, Aardman’s short is a breezy watch that still holds narrative heft, if coming across a bit formulaic. None of the nine shorts are particularly “mature,” but this is among the series’ most family-oriented installments, feeling like moving play-toys while never quite teetering into “made for babies” territory. There’s also a mini ship-mounted Death Star that shoots like a laser turret, so it is admittedly pretty silly.
On the other end of the spectrum, Cartoon Saloon serves up an all-time classic in “Screecher’s Reach,” a horror-oriented short that sees four young friends escape from work to venture into a legendary haunted cave known for a mysterious presence. In what may be the series’ crowning achievement, Oscar-nominated filmmaker Paul Young directs a short n’ snappy script from writers Will Collins and Jason Tammemägi with charming wit and gripping gravitas. Known for visually stunning films like Wolfwalkers, The Breadwinner, Song of the Sea, and My Father’s Dragon, Cartoon Saloon brings their Star Wars tale to life with their signature painterly look. The style is not only utterly captivating in its own right, but also serves a greater purpose within the story itself.
The harsh pencil lines, unique representations of shape and form, and rustic-feeling colors build a warmly cautious atmosphere that aids an eventual shift chock-full of haunting imagery in “Screecher’s Reach”. For an anthology series full of “coming-of-age with a twist” shorts, Cartoon Saloon doesn’t shy away from the archetypes but instead takes the bull by the horns with their instantly recognizable touch. With a lively voice cast featuring newcomers Eva Whittaker, Alex Connolly, Noah Rafferty, Molly McCann, Niamh Moyles, and the one and only Anjelica Huston, “Screecher’s Reach” is some of the best thirteen minutes in all of Star Wars.
Cartoon Saloon’s short draws heavily from Irish folklore, and its protagonists’ endearing accents won’t let you forget it. Even in a galaxy far, far away, it’s nice to feel grounded in some connection to something real. Other highlights from Star Wars: Visions Volume 2 include “The Spy Dancer” by La Cachette, “The Pit” by D’art Shtajio/Lucasfilm, “Journey to the Dark Head” by Studio Mir, “Sith” by El Guiri, and more. Each studio from across the globe brings their own fresh perspective to the franchise. Even when certain episodes come up short in visuals or plot, it’s these new, yet familiar takes and traditions that keep Star Wars: Visions totally engaging – and push Star Wars to unforeseen heights altogether.
In the current state of the Star Wars brand, Star Wars: Visions continues to prove itself as the place where Lucasfilm should be focusing its attention and resources. Where many of the franchise’s other ventures continue to cannibalize its established iconography for hollow nostalgia and never-ending “content,” Star Wars: Visions provides the most talented creators with a blank canvas to express themselves in bold new ways within the confines of Lucasfilm’s beloved universe. Additionally, it also introduces these exciting filmmakers to new, loving audiences on a platform as huge as Disney+.
In the pursuit of exciting stories to further expand the mythos of Star Wars, Lucasfilm should look no further than the imaginative minds at work here. As we first saw in the fan reaction to the first volume of Star Wars: Visions, these stories are strong enough to be even bigger than what we see here – and they’re good enough to warrant that expansion.