STAR WARS ANIMATION
THE HISTORY OF
By Lee Parham
As Star Wars: Visions hits Disney+ this week, we look back on the strange history of animated projects in a galaxy far, far away.
While the Star Wars saga has largely been known for its advancements in live-action filmmaking, Lucasfilm has been exploring animation for over four decades.
Star Wars’ first animated piece was in 1978 during the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special. While the majority of the special had live-action segments loathed by fans, the animated section stood out.
The animated part became the only well-received piece of material from the Holiday Special, and it introduced the world to fan-favorite character Boba Fett two years before The Empire Strikes Back.
This slight success in animation gave Lucasfilm an opportunity to move forward with animated TV series after the conclusion of the original Star Wars trilogy.
Two different Star Wars cartoons dropped in 1985. The first was Droids, a series focused on the adventures of C-3PO and R2-D2, with Anthony Daniels reprising his role as the former.
The second show was Ewoks, which tried to capitalize on the popularity of the cute and fuzzy characters from Return of the Jedi.
Droids was quickly cancelled after one season and a TV special, and while Ewoks fared slightly better, it ultimately suffered the same fate after the conclusion of its second season.
After the underperformance of their first animated series attempts, Lucasfilm steered away from the medium for nearly two decades until the height of the Star Wars prequel trilogy.
This era inspired the original run of Star Wars: Clone Wars, an animated micro series from the creators of Samurai Jack, and it had a similar animation style. The show lasted 3 seasons.
The popularity of The Clone Wars spawned a movie and then a spinoff series of the same name in 2008. The new version of The Clone Wars was the first Star Wars cartoon to be rendered in 3D.
Despite a rocky production and changing networks multiple times, The Clone Wars eventually lasted 7 seasons, including a 12-episode run on Disney+ to give the series a proper conclusion.
The popularity of The Clone Wars led to the creation of a spinoff series called The Bad Batch, which expanded the stories of Clone Force 99 and their adventures after the Republic fell.
A number of additional Star Wars animations have been added to the catalogue from there, including a large influx after Disney acquired Lucasfilm in 2012.
Disney created a number of other Star Wars shows, including Forces of Destiny, focusing on the heroines in the series, and Resistance, a show about hotshot Resistance pilots.
Forces of Destiny
Most recently, Lucasfilm looked to pay homage to the samurai stories that originally inspired Star Wars with Visions, an anthology series made by Japanese artists in an anime style.
From strange animated shorts in the 70s to short-lived kids cartoons in the 80s and a plethora of contemporary animated content in the 2000s, the history of Star Wars animation is fascinating.