Star Wars Explained is our ongoing series where we delve into the latest Star Wars shows, movies, trailers, and news stories to divine the franchise’s future. This entry explores the new Star Wars Kids series, Galaxy of Creatures, and how it encourages a deeper creative excursion.
Luke Skywalker and Han Solo are pretty cool, but are they the reason you fell in love with Star Wars? Darth Vader is intimidating and scary, and that’s badass too, but even he doesn’t get soul credit for your galactic passion. X-Wings and A-Wings and Tie Fighters – now, we’re getting a little closer. Their design inspires wonder and contributes massively to those strange worlds located a long time ago.
But, for me, where my Star Wars love solidified was on Tatooine and inside that wretched hive of scum and villainy. Watching Luke Skywalker and Ben Kenobi wander Mos Eisley’s streets, dodging Banthas and speeders, slipping into the cantina for respite, and only finding more radical critters within was a glorious eyeopener. Here was a zoo that my planet could never offer. And George Lucas refused to dig deeper into who or what these creatures are. I wanted to hang out, but the plot kept pulling me away.
The first Star Wars (you may call it A New Hope, but it will always be just Star Wars to me, the old fogie) sells its countless worlds by gifting glimpses of those weird beings that populate it. We see a walrus man, and we wonder, “What’s his deal?” Only through the film’s incredible, unprecedented success are we ever allowed further details. At first, it comes through toys. Then a novel here and there. Role-playing modules pop up. Eventually, an army of writers and artists fill in the gaps, and we learn that walrus man is Ponda Baba, a dangerous criminal who certainly deserved to have his arm detached from his person.
Very few IPs can afford such expanded exploration. One can look at it cynically as studio suits ponder infinite ways to separate you from your dollars. Or, you can embrace the madness. The pool is bottomless. It looks warm and inviting. You might as well dive in and swim as far in whatever direction your fancy takes you.
Only Star Wars Could Afford Its Own Audubon Society
More than forty years after its introduction, fans can consume Star Wars through various methods. And age doesn’t matter. Only this franchise could afford a Lego Halloween special a few days after unveiling an alternate anime universe and a week before dropping a new YouTube kids adventure. Maybe you could grumble if they stunk, but in actuality, they’re all reasonably delightful.
Star Wars: Galaxy of Creatures is an ultra-silly tour through the weird worlds we already know, and each episode spotlights a different alien beastie. With micro runtimes that don’t crack two minutes, Galaxy of Creatures races through its landscapes and lessons, jamming as many quips into its temporal borders as it can. For the most part, they work, eliciting geeky smiles.
The first season features twelve episodes, with two dropping every Thursday. So far, we’ve had a trip to Tatooine where we learn how the Tusken Raiders keep their Banthas clean (it involves a deep hole filled with water and a lot of elbow grease), and a stopover at Ahch-To where stubborn Porgs refuse to learn new tricks. Guiding us through these endeavors is the droid SF-R3, aka “Aree.” Like C-3PO, he believes he’s more competent than he is, but he makes up for what he lacks in ability in enthusiasm.
As a member of the Galactic Society of Creature Enthusiasts (Star Wars’ answer to the Audubon Society), Aree’s mission is to catalog the galaxy’s wildlife. After each successful or unsuccessful encounter, he rattles off what he’s learned, and the series throws in a few last-minute giggles. For instance, Porgs, like crows, when gathered, are called “a murder.” Chewie best watch himself.
From here, Aree will hit the stars, hunting down Blurggs, Charhounds, Kowakian monkey-lizards, Mynocks, Nexu, Rancors, Tauntauns, Tooka Cats, Voorpaks, and Wampas. It’s an easy, minor time commitment to join him on his quest, a chance to revel in decades worth of imaginative design. These two-minute bursts are high-fives to those that originally birthed them, and hopefully, for the young and the curious, it will kickstart the next stage in their Star Wars obsession.
The Mos Eisley Miracle
One of the first books I purchased due to my Star Wars fandom was a too-thin behind-the-scenes, backstage pass to Return of the Jedi. I don’t remember the actual title, but I definitely remember the photos within. There was that classic image of George Lucas standing amongst his many puppets and models. And, more importantly, there were pictures of Phil Tippett, Dennis Muren, and Ben Burtt.
My love for Wampas and Rancors brought me to their true masters. As I pressed below the line, I greatly appreciated the cinematic miracles that initially caught my attention. From Tippett and Muren, I discovered Rick Baker, the makeup effects legend who cobbled together the critical creature inserts that pushed Mos Eisley to its legendary status.
George Lucas was unhappy with the cantina sequence. He wanted more monsters, and Stuart Freeborn, the main man responsible for Chewbacca and the first wave of cantina guests, was ill and unavailable to produce last minute. Enter Rick Baker, a pal of Dennis Muren. Together, they whipped up thirty extra aliens, none of which were as elaborate as he would have liked, but they successfully gave the impression of a bustling den of inequity.
Ben Kenobi’s barside duel with Ponda Baba was shot six months previously in England, whereas the cantina band was captured on film during the span of a day in Los Angeles. And if any creatures truly sold that sequence, it was those space jazz hipsters. This revelation fried my little kiddie brain and started my journey into a grander cinematic obsession. In one tiny scene, I understood the power of editing as well as critical detail. George Lucas knew what he was doing.
Creatures Lead To Creation
So, when I watch something like Galaxy of Creatures, I appreciate the opportunity to revel a little longer in such immense imagination. But, I also consider the many other journeys kids, just like me, are about to go on. They’re one thread away from discovering Rick Baker and An American Werewolf in London. And from there, an entirely different universe of weird will be opened.
For the last several years here at FSR, when October rolls around, a small (boo) crew of us carefully curate the #31DaysOfHorrorLists. I can’t speak for every sick mind that contributes, but my horrific relishing began with Star Wars, its monsters, and its monster makers. The Wampa was my first wolfman, sparking a hungry curiosity. We get just a peek of the varmint in The Empire Strikes Back, and once I shook off the shivers, I went looking for more in whatever available auxiliary material. When that didn’t satiate this lust, I went scrounging through other tangential genres.
Since 1977, Star Wars has been the gateway drug for nearly every child. It’s their first experience with science fiction, horror, myth, and myth-making. All it takes is one extra inquisitive tug, and a limitless creative arena will become available to them. Star Wars is not a Galaxy of Creatures but a galaxy of creation. Look under every rock. Never stop exploring.
Star Wars: Galaxy of Creatures is now streaming on YouTube.