After a special May 4th premiere episode earlier this week, the eight-part documentary series, Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian, settles into its normal release schedule today with Episode 2: “Legacy”. In this Friday’s episode, executive producer Jon Favreau sits down with Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy, Dave Filoni (executive producer), John Knoll (ILM VFX supervisor), Richard Bluff (VFX supervisor), and Hal Hickel (animation director) as they take a look back at what has made Star Wars so special over the years.
The directors from last week and some of the cast have more to say on that topic as well, and as the groups discuss the magic of Star Wars, one man’s name keeps popping up as the driving force behind that magic, and rightfully so. That man is none other than George Lucas, the creator of the franchise, and the continued inspiration for the current storytellers as they set out to continue the magic that he created.
Early on, John Knoll talks about how he got involved with Star Wars, being a young up-and-coming VFX guy in the 90’s working at ILM. He joked about how someone would always bring up Star Wars in their staff meetings with George until one day, he finally started talking about it again, and the rest is history as Knoll and others began work on the prequel films. Knoll’s first experience working on Star Wars was with The Phantom Menace, and he’s been involved with the franchise ever since. Although not mentioned in this episode, you may or may not know that we even have him to thank for Rogue One, as he’s also the man who pitched the idea for that movie to Kennedy.
Moving on, the group takes a minute to talk about what first drew them to the effects industry with movies like King Kong (for Hickel) and Jurassic Park (Bluff) being a couple of standouts. Jurassic Park was the film that changed everything. From that point on, with the advancement of computer-created visual effects, a new era in entertainment had begun. Jurassic wasn’t the first movie to utilize the new technology, but it made a giant leap towards perfecting it.
Not too many years before, the first fully-cgi character had been realized, followed by the pseudopod from The Abyss (1989) and then the T-1000 from Terminator 2 (1991). And the company behind it all? Industrial Light and Magic (ILM). And the man behind the company? That’s right – George Lucas. Whether you like all the Star Wars movies or not, there’s no denying the man is a movie-making genius and the cornerstone of modern filmmaking. He was always pushing the boundaries. Always trying out new technologies. And when the technology available wasn’t sufficient for the job, he and his team created the technology they needed.
Kennedy mentions that when she first started working with George, he had over a hundred patents for new technology just waiting to be unleashed on the world of film. But as Filoni later points out, he’s not just the man behind the magic; he’s the man behind the myth as well. No one gets Star Wars like George Lucas. Filoni talks about how he learned so much from the creator of the saga and how he continues to learn from his experience working with him. Even now, he bounces ideas off of him and really takes to heart the feedback that he gets. As long as Filoni is involved with a Star Wars project, you can rest assured that project is as close to Lucas’ original vision as possible.
There are a lot of great moments in this episode, and this documentary series continues to be a must-watch for any fan of The Mandalorian or Star Wars in general. Although this episode doesn’t focus on the show itself as much as it paints broader strokes across the Star Wars universe, it’s definitely worth your time as it brings to light what should be inherent in every Star Wars story.
A touching reflection on the meaning of the saga from Filoni brings things home at the end of the episode, and it definitely reinforces my belief that this man’s understanding of Star Wars is second only to its creator. Filoni touches on the real reason we love and connect with Star Wars so much. It’s family. No matter the medium, no matter the story, it’s the family dynamic that we connect with.
X-Wings and epic space battles are part of the magic, but at the end of the day, Star Wars is about a boy who loved his father enough to sacrifice everything to save him. It’s about a father who, despite the overwhelming hatred in his heart, loved his son. A father who had to ultimately decide to be the father he never had. In the end, they saved each other. In the end, family is what matters most. This is Star Wars. This is the way.