LUCASFILM’S JAMES WAUGH AND JOSH RIMES TALK TO STARWARS.COM ABOUT THE UPCOMING DISNEY+ RELEASE — WHICH MAY BECOME A NEW HOLIDAY VIEWING TRADITION FOR FANS OF LEGO BRICKS AND BLASTERS.
Star Wars has always been a genre mashup. Samurai films, Westerns, and Saturday matinee serials are all part of the magic mix of the saga. And over the years, Star Wars has infused everything from monster movies (Star Wars: The Clone Wars’ “The Zillo Beast”) to straight-up gothic horror (IDW Publishing’s Tales from Vader’s Castle series). But now, something new — and definitely unexpected — is inspiring the galaxy far, far away.
“We found ourselves talking about holiday specials,” James Waugh, vice president, franchise content and strategy at Lucasfilm, tells StarWars.com, “and the heritage of sitting down and watching holiday specials every year, and how beloved and timeless those things are. When looking at what to do next with LEGO Star Wars, it kind of went from there.”
That brainstorm eventually led to The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special, coming to Disney+ on November 17 — the day our galaxy observes the now-canonical Star Wars holiday of Life Day. The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special picks up post-Episode IX and finds Rey continuing her Jedi training. She comes upon something mystical in a Jedi temple that sends her hurtling through time, meeting Star Wars legends and visiting places of the past — but still, she must get back home for Life Day. The cast features many returning fan favorites, including Kelly Marie Tran as Rose Tico, Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian, Anthony Daniels as C-3PO, as well as several Star Wars: The Clone Wars vets: Matt Lanter (Anakin Skywalker), Tom Kane (Yoda, along with Qui-Gon Jinn), James Arnold Taylor (Obi-Wan Kenobi), and Dee Bradley Baker (clone troopers) are all back. “We’re particularly thrilled that these great actors from the Star Wars family chose to reprise their roles and came to play in this LEGO sandbox,” Josh Rimes, director of animation development at Lucasfilm, says.
The creative team looked at their own favorite holiday classics, from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, for inspiration. And what they found was that that kind of storytelling was a surprisingly good fit for Star Wars. “I think what aligns so much about these specials with Star Wars is that, at the end of the day, you don’t have a good Star Wars story if you don’t have heart. If you don’t have soul,” Waugh says. “And I think the reason those holiday stories are timeless is because there are lessons. Whether all of those specials are great or not, they are trying to warm you with a theme about being with your family, caring, loving others, being selfless. These are things that are automatically inherent to Star Wars. So we really wanted to anchor this with the idea of, ‘What is Rey missing right now?’ She is so focused on the burden of being the only Jedi in this new era and the duty of potentially passing on that knowledge. She’s missing the point that there still needs to be time to be with your friends and the family you’ve made.”
“She has a nice It’s a Wonderful Life moment,” says Rimes, “as she reflects on her own mistakes, her own teachings, and what it means to be a mentor.”
This kind of story and timeline crossover is uniquely suited to LEGO Star Wars, which has become something of a sub-brand, or sub-galaxy, all its own, proving to be a huge gateway into Star Wars for kids, but also popular with adults. It’s not hard to see why: Building sets are creative exercises, and LEGO Star Wars series and specials are routinely filled with jokes and gags, breaking of the fourth wall, and exciting action, but also respect for the source material.
“We were looking for new creative approaches now that Disney+ was out in the marketplace. We’ve done LEGO shorts and series before so we pushed ourselves to think more broadly,” says Rimes. “And the fact that we’re operating in the LEGO galaxy gave us license to lean into the fun and playfulness that’s critical when it came to thinking about exploring a new take on a Star Wars holiday special.”
“LEGO Star Wars has its own sense of humor, its own style, and creates a special opportunity to share something you love with your kids no matter the age,” Waugh says. “One thing that helped define how we approached this special was actually looking at how kids are playing with LEGO Star Wars. [In the Story Group], we’re in our canonical sense of building stories, which delineates certain characters and vehicles sets across different points of time. And when I’m watching my son play with them, and watching other kids play with them, that’s not the case. It’s more like, ‘I’m dumping all my LEGO Star Wars out, and I’m going to have the AT-AT fight battle droids from the prequels.’ It’s one of the cool things about bringing LEGO sets home. We were talking a lot about that, Josh and I, early on. ‘How do we craft a story that allows for that?’”