The first batch of Star Wars: Galaxy of Adventures episodes were released last Friday on the Star Wars Kids Youtube channel, and they are absolutely terrific.
This first batch features six animated shorts and three additional fun facts videos, and we’re promised more on the way in 2019. That’s good news, because the animation on these is terrific, the music and voice lines used fit perfectly, and the minute-long shorts are remarkably informative.
We’ll break down each one of these nine shorts here, but my main takeaway is this: these are awesome, kids are certain to love them, and I want more!
Luke Skywalker – The Journey Begins
In this first short, we re-live the scene in which Luke Skywalker is given his father’s lightsaber by Obi-Wan “Ben” Kenobi. As Luke gets the lightsaber, however, it cuts to a montage of him swinging the lightsaber around, while the Jedi Steps theme plays. It’s done really well, and it’s quite cool to see a young Luke Skywalker freely swinging around the saber, without any training or knowledge or anything like that. He’s just a young kid, suddenly given the weapon of a great Jedi Knight, finding himself confronted face-to-face with his destiny.
Some will wonder where this scene fits into A New Hope, and the easiest answer is that it takes some storytelling liberties. It’s possible that after leaving Ben’s house, that night, Luke played around with the saber a bit, but it’s far more likely that this is something he’s imagining. We know that’s not a foreign concept to Luke Skywalker; he spends time staring out over a binary sunset on Tatooine, wishing that his life were different. Wishing that he was flying. Wishing that he was off that desert planet. Wishing that he were in the Imperial Academy, or anywhere, living his dreams. So it’s entirely plausible that, when Kenobi hands Luke the lightsaber, he begins imagining what he could do. A user on Twitter captured this idea perfectly:
Darth Vader – Power of the Dark Side
This short is the horror scene in Rogue One, when Darth Vader shows up aboard the Profundity attempting to retrieve the stolen Death Star plans. He slaughters his way through the Rebel soldiers standing in his path. This time, though, there’s slightly different music (the Imperial March plays at one point), and we get two lines from Vader that come from other films: He says “You don’t know the power of the dark side” as he prepares to fight, and he says “All too easy” as he has won and strikes down the last Rebel.
Surprisingly, this scene is still rather dark, with Vader killing Rebels, though admittedly the violence is toned down and with the animation and feel of the short it’s a bit different than the film version. I at first thought it was a bit of a strange choice to animate for kids, but at the same time I think it does make some sense: it takes a dark scene and makes it a little more bearable for young kids, it highlights Darth Vader’s character, and it makes it clear that Vader is the bad guy. There are times in which Vader is treated almost like he’s the good guy by some Star Wars fans (because he’s awesome), but Lucasfilm has managed to maintain that level of awesomeness while at the same time making it clear that he’s a villain. Showing kids that scene, with animation toning it down a bit, introduces us to Darth Vader but makes it clear that he’s the villain.
Luke vs. the Wampa – Cavern Escape
This is the scene from the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back, with Luke Skywalker captured by the Wampa. The music from this scene is the same from the film, but as Luke concentrates on using the Force, we hear Ben Kenobi say, “stretch out with your feelings.” That’s a really nice touch. Luke calls the lightsaber to himself, cuts off the Wampa’s arm, and escapes.
This one went pretty much accordingly to the movie, but there were a couple of minor changes. Firstly, we hear Kenobi tell Luke “stretch out with your feelings.” That’s something he actually told him in A New Hope, but it fits so perfectly here, and it’s not at all a stretch to imagine Luke reflecting on that teaching here. Secondly, as Luke leaves the cave, he cuts a support to cause the cave to collapse a bit, and he is flung out. He lands in the snow, and we see him take a sigh of relief before letting out a smile. I loved that little touch at the end, with Luke sighing and smiling after having escaped the Wampa. It’s another minor yet beautiful touch that these animated shorts can and do provide.
R2-D2 – A Loyal Droid
At the beginning of A New Hope, Leia Organa hides the Death Star plans in R2-D2 and sends him with a message for Ben Kenobi. We hear a part of Leia’s message playing while we see her giving the plans to R2, and then C-3PO arrives. R2 takes off as the Star Wars theme blares, and he and 3PO manage to evade plenty of blasterfire and stormtroopers in the halls of the Tantive IV. They head down one hallway… only to stop as they watch Darth Vader walk by, ignite his lightsaber, and proceed to kill some Rebels (we hear their cries off-screen). The droids turn and head toward the escape pods and get in, blasting off.
This was a fun little short, with R2-D2 getting the chance to be the hero as he navigated through the battle, while C-3PO was apprehensive and frightened, as usual. That happened in the film, too, but obviously it’s exaggerated a bit in this short. And in the film they never encounter Vader, but that’s a funny little twist here. They stop in the hallway as they hear Vader’s breathing, watch him go by and ignite his lightsaber, and then turn the other way. While it’s unbelievable that Vader wouldn’t see or sense these very familiar droids standing in the middle of a hallway that he passes, it makes for a funny little bit on the scene that conveys the background to children. Since these shorts are designed for kids who haven’t seen the films yet, this addition helps them realize that Vader is the one chasing the Rebels and the data R2 has. I think that’s important to recognize: with these clips being about a minute or so long, they have to fill in some of the gaps to give immediate context, and they do that very well.
Chewbacca – The Trusty Co-Pilot
In this short, Han Solo and Chewbacca are piloting the Millennium Falcon, trying to avoid an Imperial Star Destroyer. Their hyperdrive isn’t working, though, so they spend time trying to fix it. There are a number of brief sequences of them working on it, with various bits of dialogue from the films mixed in. Just when they think they’ve fixed it, though, the hyperdrive stalls… but Chewbacca slams the dash of the Falcon, and it kicks in. They pull the lever together and the Falcon jumps to hyperspace, escaping the Empire.
This scene is likely based off of The Empire Strikes Back, and it sort of combines a number of lines from Harrison Ford as Han and Chewie work to fix the ship’s hyperdrive. It’s handled really well, though, as these scenes are spliced together quickly, and there’s a cute, humorous moment when Chewie is electrocuted by Han accidentally and has his hair all sticking up. So this scene isn’t directly adapted from the films, but it does stay very true to the plot of ESB with Han and Chewie flying the ship, albeit in a minute-long short. It’s well-done, like all the others.
Darth Vader – Might of the Empire
In this short, Darth Vader arrives on his shuttle, greeted by legions of Imperial troopers. As the Imperial March blares, Vader makes his way to the bridge and looks out over the massive Imperial fleet, saying, “This will be a day long remembered.”
Of all the shorts, this one is the one least adapted straight from the films, as we do see Vader arrive at times but not presented like this, where he then goes to overlook the entire fleet. and then, of course, the line “this will be a day long remembered” comes from A New Hope, referring to the imminent destruction of the Rebellion. It’s kind of snippets of different parts and scenes, adapted together, but it works really well. In all honesty, it actually evoked memories of the comics for me just as much as the movies, as we get that great shot of Vader standing overlooking the Imperial fleet when he finds out the boy’s name who blew up the Death Star. It’s really cool to combine a number of different elements into one short clip like this while staying entirely true to Star Wars, to Darth Vader, and to the films.
Luke Skywalker – Star Wars Galaxy of Adventures Fun Facts
In this fun fact video, we get the brief story of Luke Skywalker from the original trilogy, told in just 60 seconds. Using animated bits, moving images, and actual shots from the films, we learn of Luke Skywalker’s humble beginnings, learning about the Jedi from Ben Kenobi, his connection with Leia Organa, Han Solo, and Chewbacca, him blowing up the Death Star, him training to be a Jedi, him fighting Darth Vader, and him getting a rematch with Vader.
Basically, this video is like a mini-biography of Luke Skywalker for kids. Remember, these are geared most specifically toward kids who haven’t seen the films, and this does a brilliant job of distilling the major information about Luke into a minute-long video that is very engaging, easy to follow, and understandable. It’s as brilliantly done as one could imagine. Yet one of the things I was also impressed with was the fact that the video didn’t reveal the major twist – that Luke’s father is Darth Vader. It simply revealed that Luke fought the Dark Lord of the Sith, and then got a rematch aboard the second Death Star. That twist is obviously best left for the films, and they didn’t spoil it in this. I like that a lot.
Darth Vader – Star Wars Galaxy of Adventures Fun Facts
Like the Luke Skywalker fun facts video, this is essentially a minute-long biography about Darth Vader. It doesn’t just recount his deeds from the original trilogy, though, but actually spends a significant portion of time in the prequels. The video explains that Vader is a master with a lightsaber and of the dark side, second only to the Emperor, and that he commands the Empire’s forces. That’s all true, but we then learn that Vader was once a great Jedi Knight. Using animation, moving images, and clips from the films, we learn that Vader turned to the dark side and rebelled against the Jedi, but Obi-Wan Kenobi stood up to him and left him burning in lava. That resulted in Vader becoming part machine to stay alive.
Once again, just like with the fun facts video about Luke Skywalker, this is a terrific mini-biography of need-to-know information about Darth Vader, distilled wonderfully into a minute-long short. It conveys important information in a very understandable and engaging way. I also appreciated that it gave us a look into Vader’s days as a Jedi, covering material from the prequels as well. Additionally, the thing that I noted about the Luke video applies here too: never is it stated that Vader’s real name is Anakin Skywalker. They simply say that Vader was once a great Jedi Knight, and that’s it. There’s nothing wrong or misleading about the video, but it saves that big reveal for the films, however parents and kids best want to approach it.
Starfighters – Star Wars Galaxy of Adventures Fun Facts
This fun facts video uses animation, moving images, and clips from the films just like the previous two fun facts videos did, but this one is different in the sense that it’s not a mini-biography but rather an informative video about different kinds of starfighters. It covers X-Wings, TIE Fighters, A-Wings, Naboo Starfighters, and Jedi Delta-7 Starfighters.
It’s honestly remarkable how much information they were able to fit into a minute-long video without getting too overloaded with information or too fast. They covered Luke Skywalker’s call sign as Red Five during the Battle of Yavin, and they explained that the Resistance flew slightly updated X-Wings. They explained the different kinds of TIE Fighters, that Vader sometimes flew with them, and that the First Order introduced the new Special Forces TIE. They mentioned the A-Wings from The Last Jedi, Naboo Starfighters from The Phantom Menace, and Jedi Starfighters from Attack of the Clones. Obviously they were only able to scratch the surface regarding the different fighters, but it’s a terrific introduction – not just for kids, but for more casual fans wanting a very quick, need-to-know guide.
Overall, I found these videos incredibly entertaining and well-done. The animation is absolutely awesome, the music and voice lines from the films are great, the narration is well-done but not distracting or overused, and the fun facts videos are incredibly informative. Given the fact that these shorts are only a minute long, it is truly remarkable just how much information they are able to convey. To be honest, my only complaint about them is that I’d love to see them be a couple of minutes long, like the Forces of Destiny shorts were. I am totally all on board for seeing more of this kind of stuff in this animation style, and the first batch of episodes were absolutely fantastic.