“Star Wars: Visions” takes fans of the galaxy far, far away into truly uncharted territories.
The series of animated shorts, whose second volume just arrived on Disney+, allows animation studios around the world to interpret the beloved property in a way that stays true to the studios and their culture. And the best of Volume 2 is undoubtedly “Screecher’s Reach,” taken from Irish studio Cartoon Salon (“Wolfwalkers,” “Song of the Sea”). It follows a group of orphans on a backwater planet that is brutally ruled by the Empire. One night, they decide to sneak out but a terrible secret is revealed – that she will encounter a ghost in a cave called Screecher’s Reach and ultimately change her life forever.
The Wrap talks to director Paul Young about how the studio hooked up with Lucasfilm and what it was like working with living legend Anjelica Huston, who voices a mysterious figure who tests our young hero in the most devious ways.
How did this process happen? Did you pitch to Lucasfilm? Have they reached?
Yes. And well, it was fun because I’ve been a producer at the studio for a long time, since we started because I co-founded the studio with Tom Moore and Nora Twomey. And sometimes it’s a joke that I became a producer, simply because I was the first to sit down on the phone. I started answering calls.
But I was an illustrator and animator myself, and then also met people at animation college. Nora and Tom were encouraging me to direct. Around the same time, I was developing the idea for a science fiction feature film that I would direct. And Jackie Lopez from Lucasfilm called all of a sudden and said, “Would you be interested in doing a ‘Star Wars’ short?” That’s really interesting, I’d love to try it myself. And Tom and Nora were very encouraging and really excited about it. And we present ideas to them.
In the end, we had some different ideas. And there was one idea that really we all knew was kind of the strongest idea that had better impact, was the idea that if [it was set in] The cave in “The Empire Strikes Back” where Luke comes face to face with himself. It is absolutely a Hero’s Journey beat. And what if it was actually a test, not just in the mind but what if someone was actually there. that was an idea [writer] Jason was near Tammemagi. Or he may have come to terms with it and come to it the next morning saying, “I had this dream about it last night,” where he had an argument with himself. It was just an interesting hook.
And then there were some other ideas that we were thinking about, like, what if you were in a region of the galaxy far, far away that was actually so far away that nobody there knew anything about the Jedi or the Sith. Won’t do, like, these kids have no idea about this. And they wouldn’t even know who she was. And she can present herself as she likes. We played with this a bit. And there’s also a little sketch on a kid who fails to get a ticket out of a small town. Yes, there is a chance to get out of here. And he’s been keeping a secret from his friends. It’s my relation that I come from a small town, want to go to university and probably don’t want to have some of my friends who don’t, and then be really happy about being able to go to art university in Belfast. It was like a mix of things that I related to, dial in that way, even though it had a very different stamp. But she definitely was hiding some secrets from her friends.
The ending of the short story is really inspiring and dark. Were there any talks at Lucasfilm about making this a happy ending?
No,not at all. There’s been a little bit of go around about it not having to be an uplifting ending, and we’re moving along well, maybe when she finally turns around there’s a little bit of hope and maybe hope that she’ll be there to see you Will come back Friend. And even within my own crew, some people are pissed off, ah, no one will like her, they’ll think she’s horrible, leaving her friends, but from the beginning because I understood it. Yes, I could sense the beats. I knew that people would understand that she had been given this thing, but not until she passed the test. Does she really know what to do? And then there’s the pressure of him actually going.
I think people can have some sympathy for him that he has been given somewhere to go. Do you take it or are you satisfied with waiting? He was cheated a bit. And she’s stuck in the moment and she’s got this awful thought i can take my friends with me, I think she knows she can’t do it.
A kind of test is the testament – If I pass this test, I’ll be out of here. And she already asks, look, have you ever done it? You know, he has this kind of hypothetical question in mind, if you were ever given a chance to leave, would you? And of course, he allows her. And if you go, it’s like, well, she’s kind of sly and asking permission. So she’s a little sly, because she’s lying to her friends a little bit, but there’s a little bit of adventure going on as well. And she doesn’t know at all what’s going on.
And yeah, I think it’s kind of interesting, like the twist we played on it. It was framed without the knowledge of his friends. In Ireland, these are religious medals that most Catholics around the world will be familiar with, like small religious medals, maybe people give you, maybe parents or grandparents give you to protect you. Some people have these small medallions of the Virgin Mary or Mother Mary. We love to play on that finance. Because, the way we wanted it to feel coming out of the starship, that would make the kids feel like we’ve never seen anything like it. We wanted to present her as if she was some kind of angel. This proud mother is coming down to pick up one of the children who are orphans. why won’t you go And then maybe that’s why she presents herself that way – like she’s some kind of religious symbol.
Can you talk about casting Anjelica Huston?
When we were talking about artists, we tried out a few people here in Ireland. But I really thought that oh, if an accent isn’t Irish, this is it… I thought it was really cool that we could just cast Irish voices. That was another matter.
It’s like, we have this one “Star Wars” movie out there in the ether, it’s got some Irish kids in it, plus a little bit of an Irish flavor. For foreigners, usually all the bad guys are English. He cast English actors. We said the bad guy has to be American. It’s interesting enough, just a different tone.
But then I think someone actually mentioned it on a call with an agent who was also Angelica Huston’s agent, saying, “Maybe we should think about Angelica, she might like it.” And it seemed like the most obvious thing, then, you know, because he also has ties in Ireland. His father was a huge champion of Irish film, he lived here for a long time and shot a lot of films here and helped the government set up a good film program and things like that. And I think he spent most of his school years in Ireland. So yeah, there’s a definite connection there, which was great. Unfortunately, I didn’t really get much time to hang out with him and have a cup of tea or anything because it was all done on Zoom.
“Star Wars: Visions” is now on Disney+.