Executive producer James Waugh brought his love of anime into the Star Wars universe with the Disney+ animated anthology series Star Wars: Visions. The series brings together some of the world’s best anime creators to develop new stories taking place in the Star Wars universe with a Japanese influence. The series has been renewed for a second season, which Waugh says will expand outside of Japan, with each episode using different animation studios and drawing influence from different cultural perspectives. Star Wars: Visions is nominated for and Emmy in the Outstanding Animated Program category, with the first episode, “The Duel”, submitted for consideration.
DEADLINE: Where did the idea for an anthology series come from?
JAMES WAUGH: We’ve always been big fans of anime at Lucasfilm. We were all watching a lot of anime and it became sort of a like lingua franca in a way, like shorthand between people in the animation department with the way we referenced it since we loved the medium. We always talked about how we could do that, and how we could honor the creative development processes, which are very different in Japan. I was looking at ways to find an outlet that could let really amazing creators come in and celebrate Star Wars in their own way. There was a book George [Lucas] did where he hired all these incredible artists to do their own unique paintings using Star Wars as an influence. The breadth of cool, interesting looks of Star Wars that came out of that was just really inspiring. None of this would fit into a typical Star Wars story, but without that framework, you wouldn’t have gotten that great art. So, these ideas sort of dovetailed at that point and the emergence of Disney+ really allowed us to experiment in a way. I think a lot of the power of Star Wars storytelling is that integrated timeline, but we asked if there was a way to try out different expressions of Star Wars. So that’s where it came from ultimately.
DEADLINE: Why was the first episode “The Duel” chosen for Emmy consideration?
WAUGH: I think when we look back at the process of developing, there were definitely studios we wanted to work with but we also wanted to keep our framework for getting proposals very broad and let them come to us with any idea. We didn’t want this to be a story that is gonna fit into canon necessarily. If it does, that’s great and we can talk about that, but we really were looking for authentic Star Wars stories with new takes and new expressions using animation. The power of animation is a form to do things that you just couldn’t do in live action.
“The Duel” was one of the first pitches that we got back and there was this arresting image which is just the ronin and this droid with this amazing straw hat, and it just felt so much in line with the cinematic language of all the films that inspired George, all the films we’d watch in film school. It just felt like they were really playing with not only the aesthetic of their inspirations, but also with cinematic devices. In many ways it’s actually a love letter to cinema and a love letter to George. We lucked out and we got an embarrassment of riches, but this one really felt like it encapsulated our vision of the anthology, as an expression of Star Wars that you couldn’t do in live action.
DEADLINE: What’s next for Star Wars: Visions?
WAUGH: We announced that we’re gonna do of Visions volume two. The first anthology is anime because we all loved the style of it, but personally my intention for Visions was to always let it be a more broad palette, because there’s so much great animation work going on in the world. There’s so many interesting voices in all sorts of other mediums that are really focused on animation right now. And we really wanted it to be, in a way, a “sub-brand” that allowed for different creators to come celebrate Star Wars from their own unique cultural perspective. And so Visions volume two is sort of a global tour of some of the most interesting animation studios on a global level. We have studios from Africa, Chile, England, Ireland, France, India… and the guiding light there was that we wanted their storytelling to be a reflection of what Star Wars meant in their culture, but also a reflection of the myths and stories that could only come out of their cultural context. Spring next year is currently where we’re targeting and I think it’s an absolutely beautiful anthology.