Star Wars: Visions is back for Season Two and with it comes a whole host of new short animated movies set in the Star Wars universe, created by an array of animation studios from all over the world.
Animation studios featured in the second series range from Cartoon Saloon in Ireland, to Punkrobot in Chile, to D’art Shtajio in Japan and, closer to home, Aardman Animations in the UK.
From award-winning director Magdalena Osinska, Aardman Studios’ Star Wars: Vision episode is entitled ‘I Am Your Mother’ (we see what they did there…) and tells the story of young pilot Anni, who is embarrassed by her sweet, but clingy mum, must team with her for a madcap family race at the academy. Along the way, their relationship is tested by the elements, their old ship, other racers…and each other.
We spoke to Osinska about combining Star Wars and Aardman, working with stop motion animation and whether there will be any Aardman easter eggs in her episode…
How did everything begin for you with working on Star Wars: Visions Season Two?
So Star Wars/Lucasfilm approached Aardman two years ago and asked to pitch an idea of Star Wars meets Aardman. And Aardman asked a lot of creative directors and writers to pitch their ideas. I presented about three ideas but this idea was the very first thing that came to my head.
How would you describe ‘I Am Your Mother’?
I would describe it as a love letter to all the mothers. I’m a mother and when I was pitching, my son was four years old and now he’s six. I constantly think about myself as a mum, I constantly analyse myself. I was thinking that there aren’t that many films actually about mothers or mother/daughter relationships or that specifically concentrate on this.
In Star Wars a lot of mums are killed or they die… There are some great mothers in Star Wars but I wanted to have a positive spin on the ‘I am your father’ line and on mother/daughter relationships. So it’s a love letter for the mums because I think that they are quite often overlooked in films.
How did you go about combining that distinct Aardman vibe with the Star Wars universe?
The thing about Aardman is that it is about relationships, and Star Wars is about relationships as well. So I could find a common link in there. But also I was very excited about stop motion.
Just imagining the Star Wars world in stop motion – the original trilogy had the AT-ATs and the Tauntans. So this idea of bringing back this feel, the very tangible and handmade feel of the originals really excited me. So besides the story, I thought that, visually, this is going to be a perfect marriage.
What were your inspirations for the look of ‘I Am Your Mother’?
It was a combination of Star Wars and Aardman and my style as well. We were trying to find a perfect balance between all of these.
We’ve done things a little bit differently than we usually do in Aardman, because in Aardman we often use plasticine and maybe bolder tones of colour. But I really love the Star Wars universe and the detail of the textures, so I wanted to approach the puppets and the whole world that way.
What is your favourite thing about working with stop motion animation?
The best thing is that when you’ve got a puppet, it’s an object. It doesn’t move and you can hold it. So it’s very tangible.
Then the animators are working in their units (they work in darkness for a day or two) and they are just pouring their soul and heart into the shots to give life to these characters. Then when I see these characters now moving, it’s like real magic. That feeling is amazing. And it’s unlike any other. I’ve tried different animations and I love all sorts of different animation styles, but this is very unique, very unusual.
What are your biggest challenges with working with stop motion animation?
With stop motion, if something goes wrong with the animation, you can’t really go back and correct it.
Once the animator goes for the shots, they are in the zone. They are in the unit and they’re animating. And when they finish, that’s it pretty much.
Because it was quite a tight schedule [on Star Wars: Visions], there was not much time to reshoot things, so I really had to be very precise on how to brief the animators and how we prepared the shots.
So we would do live action rehearsals and film each other. Then we’ll look at their videos and decide ‘oh, this is a nice moment, let’s bring this into the animation’.
One of the most challenging sets was the tunnel because it had to feel like it was quite long. We couldn’t build this massive never-ending tunnel, so we had to film one part of it, then move it forward again. So there were a lot of technical tricks, and challenging things that we all actually enjoy doing. There were lots of problem-solving every day!
Now, did we spy the robot cooker from A Grand Day Out in the episode…?
Yeah! The robot cooker is there and the orange rocket from A Grand Day Out is in the kitchen area in the beginning.
Also, the Gammorean pigs, which are one of the alien species in Star Wars, are suspiciously similar to the Shaun The Sheep pigs.
There are lots of Star Wars easter eggs as well…
What do you want audiences to take away from the episode?
To appreciate the sacrifices that mums make and that actually they teach us a lot. I think we often forget about that and we just take it for granted. This is what Anni the character learns, and I wanted people to have a feeling of ‘oh yeah, my mum taught me this and that as well!’.
Star Wars: Visions—Volume 2 streams exclusively on Disney+ beginning 4 May.