With the 20th anniversary of the LEGO Star Wars license being celebrated this year, it's fair to say that the footprint LEGO had at Star Wars Celebration, held at the McCormick Center in Chicago this April, was much bigger than usual and the variety to the programme had something for all - including an hour-long LEGO Star Wars Animation Panel.
Held on the Fan Stage (in room W470AB) on Saturday morning was a seemingly insignificant sideshow where fans of LEGO Star Wars animated shows The Freemaker Adventures and All-Stars filled the room to catch host Steve Dunk interviewing the format’s leading lights
We say "seemingly insignificant" because the panel had a couple of surprises up its sleeve.
The talk lead off with an amusing - and cheeky - sizzle reel that started with a series clips from The Freemaker Adventures and All-Stars before morphing into a clip show of milestones in the development and production of the two most recent LEGO Star Wars animated TV series, before Steve brought on executive producers Bill Motz and Bob Roth.
The conversation opened up with a recounting of how the concept of The Freemaker Adventures was created, how the storyline was devised to sit within the grand Star Wars story arc and how the LEGO brand values - imagination, creativity, fun, learning, caring and quality - would be incorporated into the show.
In explaining the birth of their two TV series, Bill and Bob went to great lengths to impress upon the audience both of their recent LEGO Star Wars projects were the fruits of their fandom and labours, and not commercially driven projects devised by Lucasfilm, Disney or LEGO. It was at this point that Leland Chee (Senior Creative Executive at Lucasfilm) and Jason Cosler (Senior Manager of Content Development at LEGO) were brought on stage. Both walked on with a casual smile and their hands in the air, as if to say “it had nothing to do with us.”
The audience was then taken on a tour of the early storyboarding stages, which Bill and Bob still did on simple index cards, much to the amusement of Jason and Leland, who joined the crew to make sure that the developing story would keep to canon as much as possible but without breaking the Star Wars universe. This collaboration allowed Bill and Bob the opportunity to write their own chapter of Star Wars lore that was faithful to the movies but still maintained the characteristic LEGO whimsy.
Jumping from The Freemaker Adventures to All-Stars, the creative duo explained the character creation process and why R0-GR, a robot who could be rebuild/recreated over the duration of the mini-series, was brought in to deliver continuous narration of the Saga. It was at this point that surprise guest Matthew Woods, the Skywalker sound engineer who voices R0-GR, arrived to pitch in with his appreciation and experiences of All-Stars, arrived. The attending crowd were given a second treat when Leland Chee confirmed that R0-GR was now considered official canon in the Star Wars universe.
Continuing with the surprises, host Steve Dunk announced that the team at Wilfilm, the Danish production company that animated The Yoda Chronicles, Droid Tales, a number of LEGO Star Wars television commercials as well as The Freemaker Adventures had sent over a video congratulating - in a rather eccentric style - Bill and Bob on their success.
Adding to the string of revelations a second video clip was played. It revealed Emperor Palpatine’s last words, as he fell to his alleged death in the core of the second Death Star, to be “Freemaker?” but being the most contentious attempt to break canon it was not ultimately approved by Lucasfilm. This was surprisingly relevant given the big The Rise of Skywalker teaser trailer revelation that Palpatine was returning in the next Star Wars episode.
Closing the panel, Dunk questioned Bill and Bob and the ultimate fate of Rowan, Graballa the Hutt, Naare, Durpin and Plumestriker whose extended storeis gave the panel's patrons a good chucke and the talk ended on a cheer.
It was easy to read that all the participants were very casual in each other presence and that contributed to the ambience of the room. Overall the panel was charming and intimate, and had the feel of being a cosy fireside chat rather than the over-polished and rehearsed interview that many of the Celebration guest panels were.