I’m the father of a five-year-old, and, like many parents, my wife and I have recently had to grapple with an age-old question: when is it appropriate to introduce your kid to Star Wars? Today, Disney made this question a lot easier to answer by announcing that it will launch a new series of kid-friendly animated shorts called Star Wars Galaxy of Adventures that will re-create classic moments from the film franchise. The first six shorts will launch on November 30th on a new website and YouTube channel dubbed Star Wars Kids.
The venture is clearly aimed at the youngest potential Star Wars fans. My first-generation iPad has gotten a lot of use over the past few years as a dedicated cartoon tablet for my son, and I’ve observed that he’s far more interested in shows with shorter episodes that run anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes. As a Star Wars fan, I’ve made some attempts over the years to get him interested in watching the live-action film franchise, only for him to shrug and wander off to one of the cartoons that holds his interest a bit more firmly. This new series looks to be calibrated just right for the attention span of the three- to five-year-old demographic.
James Waugh, Lucasfilm’s vice president for franchise content and strategy, tells StarWars.com that the initiative is designed to be a “kid-friendly” introduction to the franchise. “Over the years, I’ve had so many of my friends who are parents tell me how much they wanted to introduce their kids to Star Wars but didn’t feel that their kids were quite ready for the movies yet,” he says. As the trailer for the series demonstrates, the episodes will repurpose some of the dialogue and scenes from the original films, utilizing an animation style filled with wild, exaggerated motion and action to better entice younger viewers. Waugh also notes that the bite-sized shorts will “really drill into moments, to tell simple stories, unencumbered by the needs of a traditional narrative structure.”
While some segments of the Star Wars fan base have grown increasingly resistant to projects that take the franchise in new or different directions, one needs to keep in mind that not all of these offerings are designed to appeal to the aging fans who saw the original Star Wars 30 times in a theater. The 1997 Special Editions introduced an entirely new generation to the franchise, while the prequel trilogy and subsequent animated shows like Rebels have also acted as new entry points. This also isn’t the first time that Disney has created animated shorts targeted at children: it released the Forces of Destiny series last year as part of a larger initiative to focus on the franchise’s female characters.
The launch of Star Wars Kids is also a reminder of how important the overall property is to Disney, despite the slowdown on the feature film front. The company is producing two live-action TV shows destined for the Disney+ streaming service, as well as the newly released animated show Star Wars Resistance. (The pilot episode is also available on the new YouTube channel.) Galaxy of Adventures is yet another way for the studio to indoctrinate incoming audiences, and to make sure that they’re well aware of who Darth Vader, Princess Leia, Han Solo, and Luke Skywalker are for the coming decades of movies, shows, theme parks, and merchandising it has planned for the franchise.
I appreciate the business logic that seems to be at play here. Young kids will eventually be older kids, and somewhere down the line, they’ll have their own discretionary money to spend on all things Star Wars. But while these new shorts may be able to offer a fresh perspective on some well-worn scenes and characters, I can’t help but feel that they’re also missing the point. The original films that these shorts are condensing were the entry point for fans. They were thrilling, exciting, and even scary in ways that didn’t pander to their audience, and they are still the connective tissue that links all of the disparate bits of the franchise together. Serving up a number of kid-friendly remixes may deliver the main story beats to children as efficiently as possible, but at the same time, they’ll inevitably strip away what has made the films such great bonding experiences for families. I appreciate what Disney is doing with Galaxy of Adventures, but I think I’m going to stick with my plan to introduce my son to the films the same way that I saw them. Maybe we’ll check out these new shorts after we’re done with the films.