All nine episodes of Star Wars: Visions air on Disney + on Wednesday, September 22. Below is a spoiler-free review.
Every Star Wars property is made up of the same basic ingredients: a touch of Western flair, a bit of influence from Japanese history, and all of the intricate mechanics that build a sci-fi world. Visions uses many of the same building blocks, just rearranged in a new order. The collection of nine episodes – each featuring an independent story and design style from six different animation studios – is the Star Wars we all know and love, but one that offers a refreshing new experience for viewers like me, who are looking for something different.
My only major criticism of the series is that after nine episodes most of the stories started to blend together. While each are perfectly enjoyable on their own, the overwhelming amount of similarities – like lightsaber duels led by brave heroes – began to wear me down. Don’t get me wrong, I love the incredibly choreographed swordfights as much as the next person, but after a while there were few instances in the series where I found myself enjoying the repetitive duels. The world of Star Wars is big and after some of these episodes I wanted to see more stories for ordinary people living in the universe and less epic battles between good and evil, Jedi and Sith.
Star Wars: Visions Images
The good news is, there’s a simple fix: don’t watch them all in a row, despite Disney + ditching them all at once. Much like Disney’s Fantasia movies, the best Visions viewing experience isn’t a marathon but one at a time, with a wiggle room in between. In this format, episodes are allowed to shine for what they are and not get lost among others, suffering by comparison.
In a franchise that has seen an explosion of new content in recent years, it was a pleasure to watch something that felt essentially unique, reinforced mainly by the breadth of visual styles. As a graphic designer and illustrator here at IGN, animation design is one of my favorite topics of conversation and Star Wars: Visions delivered over and over again in this area. While there were some episodes that didn’t take my breath away, they are all outstanding examples of design in animation.
For a series made up of thumbnails instead of an overall narrative, I thought it was better to break it down episode by episode. I promise I’ll do it quickly!
1: The Duel
- One of my favorite episodes and a great start to the series.
- I loved that it takes place in a Star Wars setting heavily inspired by feudal / medieval Japan, a theme that can be seen in almost every episode that follows; it seemed like a smart way to mix mainstream cinema and sci-fi cinema in a way that stayed true to the franchise.
- Top marks for amazing costume design (check out these stormtroopers!)
- Rating: 9
2: Tatooine Rhapsody
- This episode really stood out as the kind of story we hadn’t seen told in this universe yet. An intergalactic rock band embarks on an impromptu adventure to save one of its members; it’s both fun and bouncy, drawn in a style that fits the story perfectly.
- It’s one of the only thumbnails in the series to feature established characters from the Star Wars franchise, which came as a surprise.
- A complete change from the previous episode, its storytelling and light visuals helped make this one unique.
- Rating: 8
3: The twins
- This episode is another of my favorites; I enjoyed it so much that I would have liked it to have been kept for the final. In the end, I wanted a whole series with these characters.
- The artistic choices in this one were amazing. Orange stormtroopers, a dark red background, and contrasting perfectly circular blue stun rings evoke a feeling of graphic novel. The animation of the fight was amazing and the last shot of the episode made me audibly clap.
- Rating: 9
4: The village bride
- This episode gave me the vibe of Avatar the Last Airbender, with a village in the throes of an evil that must be stopped by an unpretentious hero. I appreciated that this episode revolves around a small planet and their specific customs; one of my favorite aspects of the Star Wars universe is exploring the eccentricities of different planets and cultures.
- The art as a whole didn’t surprise me, but it wasn’t lacking at all.
- Rating: 7
5: The Ninth Jedi
- Like in the previous episode, the art of this one didn’t blew me away. Even though there was nothing particularly wrong with it, it just didn’t grab me like the others did.
- The story followed a similar sentiment. I love the idea of someone forging lightsabers for a new generation of Jedi during Empire rule and the chaos that ensued, but I found out that I preferred the tea-drinking droid to the tea-drinking droid. ‘plot itself.
- Rating: 7
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- If you’ve ever wondered what Astro-Boy would look like in Star Wars, I have good news for you: it’s this episode and I mean it in the best possible way.
- This one was so nice to watch. The visuals were soft and sweet like a marshmallow, and it warmed my cold heart.
- In contrast, the story seemed to unfold at a breakneck pace. There’s a lot going on in this short episode – a lot of character development, a lightsaber battle, massive time jumps – but I still enjoyed every minute of it.
- Rating: 8
7: The old one
- This is the only vignette of the group that does not take place during the Imperial era. I like the juxtaposition of a sweet, sweet padawan and their master “cool guy”, but the pace was a bit slow.
- The duel in this one was skilfully choreographed and the choices of the animators made me enter the scene.
- Rating: 7
8: Lop and Ocho
- The story was solid, but not surprising, and the same can be said of the visual style. This vignette suffers in its place in the series; after seven episodes all ending in lightsaber battles, it offered nothing new.
- This episode, with its anthropomorphized bunny lady main character, is for someone, but that someone isn’t me.
- Rating: 6
- This episode as a standalone piece is amazing, but as the latest entry in the series, it was a bit of a letdown.
- I loved how different the art style was in this episode; it reminded me of the Wolfwalkers from Cartoon Saloon. In particular, the way the faces of the characters were drawn and the colors used were really different from everyone else. I especially liked how the protagonist’s visions looked almost painted, which added to that wobbly nature of the rest of the designs. All of the characters were drawn so smooth and simple as opposed to the aggressively angular styles used by many of these shorts.
- It should have been Episode 8 instead of 9. Or better yet, watch it on your own.
- Rating: 8
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