Star Wars, as a franchise, needs some expansion. This isn’t to say that there aren’t many entries in the franchise, rather that, with few exceptions, they tend to concern the same familiar locations and faces that we have grown accustomed to. Star Wars: Visions Volume 1 pushed some of those boundaries, and I am happy to report that Volume 2 takes it even further.
The series is once again comprised of nine short films, ranging from 11 to 18 minutes. Each film is produced by a different animation house from around the world, so whereas Volume 1 was entirely anime, Volume 2 has entries from Chile, India, South Korea, and others. This wider range of voices serves the series well, offering new perspectives on the themes and vibes that make up Star Wars. There are far more nuanced examinations of light versus dark in some of these shorts than there are in entire Star Wars movies!
This season has several standout entries, including the first episode, Sith, which concerns a rogue force user who exists in a world made of paint – truly one of the most beautifully animated films of the year. In addition, an episode from Aardman (Wallace & Gromit) is predictably wholesome and wonderful, as well as one from Irish studio Cartoon Saloon (Wolfwalkers) which may take some viewers by surprise. Finally, entries like Punkrobot’s In The Stars, Studio Mir’s Journey to the Dark Head, and 88 Pictures’ The Bandits of Golak are all especially stunning and continue to advance the idea that heroes can come from anywhere, last seen in The Last Jedi.
This diversity in studios also means a great variety in animation styles. Every frame of Sith, once again, looks like an oil painting, and Aardman’s I Am Your Mother has their signature clay mated character design, but each film has its own entirely distinct style. Journey to the Dark Head is a great example of the Eastern-influenced style they brought to Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra. If you have seen anything Cartoon Saloon has done before, then you already know that you’re in for some of the most gorgeous – and, in this case, haunting – hand-drawn art you’ll see this year.
Let’s also acknowledge the voice acting! This season has appearances from Denis Lawson (returning as Wedge Antilles), Anjelica Huston, Game of Thrones alum Kate Dickey, Hindi star Lillete Dubey, Oscar-nominee Cynthia Erivo, Tony-winner Daveed Diggs, and many, many more.
Overall, Star Wars: Visions Volume 2, is wonderful. Gorgeously animated, lovingly conceived, and unafraid to explore the themes that make Star Wars great, it belongs alongside Andor and The Last Jedi as one of the great new franchise entries of the Disney era.
Star Wars: Visions, Volume 2 debuts exclusively on Disney+ May 4.