Executive producers James Waugh and Josh Rimes reveal never-before-seen concept art and look back at the modern holiday classic.
It was the early days of Disney+. Lucasfilm had the opportunity to tell new stories for the fledgling streaming service, and inspiration could come from anywhere. Even playtime.
“There was a moment with our LEGO partnership where we wanted to reassess all we’d done before and challenge ourselves to see if we could find a fresh new expression of that collaboration, and a way to lean more into the way kids play with their LEGO Star Wars toys — they dump them on the floor and mix and match them. They're not timeline dependent. We wanted to unlock that whimsy and wonder that’s unique to LEGO play in our linear content, and find a way to celebrate that experience in our storytelling,” James Waugh, SVP, franchise content and strategy at Lucasfilm, tells StarWars.com. “With the opportunity to do a special, we really realized that if it's going to be a once a year experience, there's something that just resonates about timeless holiday specials and the idea that, looking back, I think we all have pretty fond memories of specials that we watch every year over and over, that became tradition. We thought how great would it be to do that with LEGO Star Wars.”
The melding of these two concepts would become the LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special, released November 17 (Life Day in the Star Wars galaxy), 2020, on Disney+. The tale follows Rey post-Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, with the young Jedi experiencing some growing pains in her new role as teacher to Finn. But the surprise discovery of a mystical Jedi artifact opens a portal, sending Rey hurtling through time and space; she takes a trip through the biggest moments of the Star Wars saga and encounters classic characters and locales — all the while learning some important lessons as she tries to get back home for Life Day. It’s a heartwarming story and simply fun to watch, and one that has become a holiday favorite among fans. “I think the hope was that it would always become a classic perennial like Rudolph or Frosty or Charlie Brown, any of those holiday specials. And I think we're seeing that. It's always great to see it among the holiday collections on Disney+,” says Josh Rimes, VP of animation development and production at Lucasfilm. "We still hear from families and friends that have made it part of their rotation. I think that's what we set out to do.”
“That was always the hope,” adds Waugh. “I mean, honestly, that really was the goal from day one as lofty as that sounds. One holiday special that could last years and years and years, and be something that you find on Disney+ every year, and it brings people together and you remember the moments and you laugh about them, and they become that enchanting touchstone that makes that holiday time of year feel familiar.”
And Waugh and Rimes have a special gift this year for fans: never-before-seen concept art from the making of the LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special. Check it out below, with Waugh and Rimes’ own commentary.
“This was early on, at the foundational moment before we were able to bring [writer] David Shayne in, who really drove the voice of the special. I think there was an outline that was generated, but a very rough, high-level treatment that leaned into this idea of a Force cave that you could potentially see different visions in and actually have Rey go through the different timelines. So we knew we wanted to lean into Life Day as the framework, like the original Holiday Special, and then have Rey go off on an adventure to this Force cave. We had a document that we were exploring and we were trying to communicate the idea, and then we began to capture moments from it [with concept art] that still leaned into the charm and the frosty, holiday feeling.” — James Waugh
“This gave the designers at Atomic [Cartoons] a great foundational image of the look and feel and tone and whimsy. It was one of the very first pieces of concept art, and it helped define one of the very last elements of the special we actually nailed which was the look and feel of the portals. Going back to this image, you can see the inspiration for that, especially with the colors of the kyber crystals and the cave itself. So this was a really helpful early, early art exploration.” — Josh Rimes
“This is the piece that really anchored the high-level concept of the show. The holiday framework is the timeless aspect, but the fun and play and the shift in how we built our content across timeline was something we wanted to show — how fun that could be. It's one of those early concepted images that was just celebrating the idea of, ‘Look, it's Jango Fett! It's Force Ghost Yoda! It's older Luke!’ They can all live together within this unique LEGO expression.” — James Waugh
“This is one of those [moments] that instantly makes you laugh. And so much of the humor of LEGO Star Wars is Vader and the Emperor, and that fun Michael Scott, Dwight Schrute, The Office-inspired dynamic. We wanted to express that in a fun, holiday way.
“I love working with concept art, because this ends up being aspirational. We knew that something like this just felt right for the special. Even though the specificity of this moment is a little different, this was certainly an inspiration point that probably wouldn't have been in the special in the same way without that artistic vision inspiring the writing.” — James Waugh
“This piece signifies what we were approaching for the B story and what we're cutting back to. It’s the idea that ‘everyone's coming over to the house for the holidays,’ and the question became — how can we portray that very relatable idea through the images of LEGO Star Wars? Very quickly we decided, okay, the Falcon's going to be the home. That's where everybody's coming to meet. So Chewie and Poe and the porgs are going to be decorating the ship, getting ready for the big feast. And really, that becomes the ticking clock: Will Rey be home in time for the big holiday feast?” — Josh Rimes
Concept art credits for the above: Christian Bering Damm (art director), Andreas Rocha and Daniel Walker (artists).
Browse the gallery below for even more previously unreleased concept art.