There is a new season of Star Wars: Visions out on Disney Plus — which means we are ready to break down each short by how many stars, wars, and visions is in each one.
I did this last time around, when the first season of Star Wars: Visions came out. This time, nine different animation studios from around the world participated with nine completely different shorts. While the first season really focused on the Jedi-Sith of it all, this new season reaches to the far corners of the galaxy far, far away and looks at many different facets of the Star Wars universe. Bring on the stars, the wars, and, most importantly, the visions.
Studio: El Guiri
Stars: The bulk of this one takes place on a distant planet outpost, so we don’t see too many stars. However, the final moments involve Lola, the main character, blasting away into space, the full expanse of the galaxy unfolding before her.
Wars: Lola’s old Sith master finds her and hunts her down with a group of Sith cronies. It’s not a full-on war exactly, but it is a very heated battle.
Visions: The art style in this one is gorgeous. Lola is a painter and she manipulates her paint (presumably using force powers). The style looks handpainted and renders the Light and Dark sides of the Force with such vivid colors — so damn cool. The showdown between Lola and her former master is especially triumphant, when Lola finally wields her lightsaber and embraces both the Dark and Light of her own power.
Does it work? The visuals in “Sith” are incredibly evocative from the very beginning, when Lola wakes up in an almost stark white room. At the beginning of the short, it’s unclear where the Sith fit in, since Lola just appears to be a painter determined on finishing a mural. The darkness creeps up here — quite literally as Lola can’t quite get rid of the darkness in her paint. “Sith” uses every bit of its visuals to push the story forward. And painting using the Force? Amazing, talented, wonderful, just plain awesome. I want more eclectic uses of the Force!
Studio: Cartoon Saloon
Stars: Once again, most of the action is centered on one planet, so we don’t really get a big space travel montage or anything. However, the four teens speed across the planet to find a mysterious cave and the starscape above them is expansive and beautiful — a flex from Wolfwalkers studio Cartoon Saloon to show off striking backgrounds.
Wars: Daal, the girl who’s been most bent on finding the cave, has a brief faceoff with the mysterious ghost in the cave. But other than that, it’s pretty light on the war end of things.
Visions: Cartoon Saloon’s house style just really says “young people chasing the truth of a myth and facing some hard truths along the way.” The story itself is bittersweet and the visuals — from the gorgeous starscape to the tight, claustrophobic cave encounter — only augment it.
Does it work? This is the type of emotional, poignant storytelling I want more of from Star Wars! And we get a lot of it in this season. This is just the first of three shorts revolving around Force-sensitive kids who need to make some tough choices. All of them are good, but this is probably the most devastating one for various reasons: One, it’s not actually clear if Daal’s possible new master is a Sith or a Jedi; two, the friends she leaves behind are still going to be working in a factory for probably the rest of their lives; and three, even though her best friend urges her to take a chance and never look back, she does and... ow.
“In the Stars”
Stars: Well, it’s right here in the name! The alien species native to the featured planet believes that their deceased comrades become stars. So the two remaining survivors, a little girl named Tichina and her older sister Koten, try to look at the stars in order to see their dead mother. However, the Empire’s big mining facilities spew smoke that clouds the night sky, while the traditional paintings of these people need starlight to glow and will otherwise fade away. Even if this story takes place entirely on a planet, it’s still very much about stars.
Wars: The Empire colonized this planet and almost completely wiped out the indigenous population, save for two young survivors. While Koten is mostly focused on surviving, Tichina believes that they can fight back against the Empire.
Visions: Seeing these two girls struggle to survive in the ruined wasteland of their beloved home really hammers home the brutality of the Empire’s imperialist conquests. The animation is done in this cool stop-motion — except for the sick cave painting sequences which glow like the stars above.
Does it work? Is there anything more Star Wars than standing up to the Empire against increasingly unlikely odds? “In the Stars” is ultimately a triumphant story, though man is it a harrowing journey to get there. Koten and Tichina are desperate when the short begins, which makes their eventual victory all the more fulfilling.
“I Am Your Mother”
Studio: Aardman Animation
Stars: No stars here! This one takes place on a metropolitan planet, so it’s all city buildings and narrow streets instead.
Wars: Instead of an actual war, the conflict comes from a race! Well, it’s also a lot about mother-daughter relationships and sticking it up to the posh mean girl at pilot school, but mostly a cool race through the city.
Visions: This is a charming almost slice-of-life story that has more to do with being a teenager with an embarrassing mother than it has to do with the Force, the Empire, or any other big powerful Star Wars thing. And it’s refreshing as hell!
Does it work? Known for Wallace and Gromit and Chicken Run, Aardman Animation excels at big goofy expressions, physical humor, and just generally using the stop-motion medium to its full potential. You wouldn’t necessarily think Star Wars could lend itself to a sweet and hilarious story about a girl and her mom, but “I Am Your Mother” pulls it off.
“Journey to the Dark Head”
Studio: Studio Mir
Stars: The journey in question does involve a fair bit of space travel. The stars, however, are not super highlighted. Instead, the big visuals come from the forgotten temple where the final battle takes place.
Wars: This one is set against the backdrop of a war — it’s not clear which one, but if there is one constant in the Star Wars universe (besides stars) it is wars. As a child, pilot Ara was raised in a temple on a distant planet, which used the trickling rainfall from two towering statues to channel visions. Ara senses that one of these statues belongs to the Dark side, and she believes that beheading it will tip the scales on the side of Light. Meanwhile, the Jedi assigned to her mission, a young man named Toul, has some unresolved baggage with the Sith who killed his master.
Visions: I simply love a Star Wars story that plays with the notion of the Dark Side and the Light Side not being totally opposite. The climactic fight at the battle is truly epic, with some fantastic set pieces and lightsaber moves.
Does it work? “Journey to the Dark Head” is probably the most traditional Star Wars of all these shorts, starting with a prophecy, set in the midst of a war, and ending with a big battle between a Jedi and a Sith. Still, the characters themselves are refreshing — the broody young Jedi and the scrappy pilot just have a lot of spark on their own and with each other — and that alone is enough to really carry the short.
“The Spy Dancer”
Studio: La Cachette
Stars: Not a lot here since 95% of this short takes place in a towering dance hall. Think that scene in Revenge of the Sith where Palpatine and Anakin talk about Darth Plagueis (and also watch Squid Lake).
Wars: The Empire is everywhere in this story. The dance hall is actually run by a spy, who uses her performances to plant trackers on the Stormtroopers. She harbors a vendetta against a certain Imperial officer. The rest of the staff are also spies, working to lure Imperial soldiers with the promise of liquor and a good time so that they lower their inhibitions.
Visions: One of the most intriguing things about this short is the dancing — and how that translates into the climactic fight. Loi’e, the principal dancer and head spy, does an impressive routine using aerial silks. When she fights the Stormtroopers, she uses those silks as weapons. Her protege, Hétis, has a similar balletic fighting style. It’s fun to see a Star Wars fight that doesn’t rely on lightsabers or blasters.
Does it work? Seeing this side of the Rebellion — one relying on subterfuge and reconnaissance instead of fighter pilots and guns — is incredibly fascinating. From the dance hall to the dancers themselves, “The Spy Dancer” paints an evocative picture of how espionage would work in this setting. The characters are also very compelling, especially Loi’e, a seasoned spy who has a personal reason to hate the Empire and a mission she wants to fulfill.
“The Bandits of Golak”
Studio: 88 Pictures
Stars: Once again, this short takes place on a singular planet — and a desert one at that! (Star Wars does love its deserts). Not many stars, even when it turns to night.
Wars: All we really know is that the Empire is conquering this planet and that they are looking out for Force sensitive children to capture. It’s not an explicit war, so much as it is a reminder of the Empire’s omnipresence.
Visions: The animation has this lovely painterly quality, with certain shadows and lighting looking particularly cool. But the best part is towards the end, where a character you would not really expect to be a Jedi whips out a lightsaber and fights the Sith inquisitor who has come to collect Rani.
Does it work? This is the second of three shorts about Force-sensitive kiddos being whisked away from the lives they’ve known. They’re all good and really make you think about the ramifications of the whole Jedi youngling system. This one takes on a specific edge, as it is the only one where the Empire itself poses a great threat by homing in on the relationship between Rani and her older brother, Charuk. Charuk has fought tooth and nail to bring his sister to the place where their father said she would be safe — the place where they will eventually have to part ways. It’s very bittersweet, and the little game they’ve concocted about being bandits in order to motivate them on their lonely travels gets a callback when they say goodbye one last time.
Studio: D’Art Shatjio
Stars: There are some shots of the night sky, but nothing long lasting enough to make the Star score go up.
Wars: There is a vague sense that the prisoners thrown into the pit were probably captured because of the Empire’s conquests. Like with the previous short, there isn’t really an outright mention of war, but it’s felt.
Visions: The best shots of this one happen when the prisoners in the pit look up at the sky above them. It’s chilling, especially when juxtaposed with the more glamorous shots of a nearby city.
Does it work? This one is the darkest of all the shorts, with an on-screen good guy death that is particularly heartrending. But at the same time, because the protagonists are so low (literally: they are in a pit), the eventual victory feels particularly cathartic. Like “In the Stars,” this one focuses on people rising up and triumphantly overthrowing the Empire. Unlike “In the Stars,” there are a lot of characters so it takes on a more macro view, which may or may not work depending on if you like more relationship-driven narratives.
Stars: Even though this short takes place on one planet, there are impressive skyscapes — but it’s a little more on the blue skies and clouds side than stars.
Wars: Very light on the war front here! The focus is on a bear-like alien species that mines kyber crystals for lightsabers. Except, all the kyber has been corrupted by Sith and need to be cleansed by Jedi.
Visions: “Aau’s Song” is done in this wonderful stop-motion style that lends itself to cozy and adorable characters as well as utterly gorgeous landscapes and scenery. Additionally, Aau’s Force abilities being in tune with music and her singing is just really cool to see.
Does it work? The last short of the kids with Force powers saying goodbye to their previous lives! This one is way more optimistic than the others, since there is no looming Empire or even a shitty work house to leave. Aau has a supportive family network who encourage her to harness her powers and take to the sky. Ultimately, it is a deeply hopeful story — a perfect note to end the season on.