The strange history of LEGO Star Wars on the screen

LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special concept art. Photo:
LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special concept art. Photo: /

There is a reason that the union of a mega-popular movie franchise and an equally popular construction toy works so well. That reason is adaptability, much like how you can envision almost anything out of LEGO construction blocks. The folks behind the scenes at the LEGO group can do that very same thing.

We’re familiar with LEGO Star Wars playsets and also the best-selling video game series too. But a sub-franchise as pliable as this can go further still.

Rounding out our history of LEGO Star Wars, today we’re looking at the varied history of what happens when LEGO Star Wars is put on the big (or small) screen.

It’s time to hit the brick screen

Childlike and comedic in nature, it would be impossible to achieve such a feat without filling it to the brim with physical humor. That’s precisely what the cutscenes of the LEGO Star Wars games proved was possible. Iconic moments from the saga are brought down to brick size in order to replace gasps of awe with laughter.

A few notable examples include the memorable scene in the Mos Eisley cantina where the eternal debate over “who shot first” is cast aside to allow Han Solo to shoot Greedo with such velocity that his entire torso is blasted away while his limbs and head remain motionless in true Wile E Coyote style. Another can be seen in the duel between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Maul at the end of Episode I, where after being bisected by Kenobi, Maul’s legs decide to perform a little dance rather than fall to their demise.

It’s moments in the games like this that solidify the comedic stylings and overall tone for the shows and short films that followed.

The first instance of these animations was seen in the five-minute animated “LEGO Star Wars: Revenge of the Brick” special, released in 2005 as part of the marketing for Revenge of the Sith which came out that same year. The animation was of a different quality than that of the recent games but is now fondly remembered by those who recall it and is recognized as being the progenitor for all LEGO Star Wars animation released thereafter.

From this point on, things begin to pick up speed. A few more short films and television specials followed with progressively better animation quality as the years progressed. The first major overhaul, however, would come in the form of “The Yoda Chronicles trilogy” which had an actual plot to be followed throughout the entries.

By this time, voice lines began to be included in the animations. Previously they had simply mumbled gibberish like their video game counterparts.

Now entering into the streaming era, fans were given increasingly episodic content. The most notable example is that of the “Freemaker Adventures” which were an all-new cast of characters specifically designed for this series.

This gave writers the freedom to explore concepts that weren’t just humorous rehashes of the films. Not being tied to canon either gave the series certain creative liberties that had been lacking in previous iterations of the sub-franchise.

In a strange twist, this series would then get its own LEGO sets. Meaning that these products were based on a series, based on a sub-franchise, itself based on a LEGO series… The levels of comprehension necessary to understand how this happened are deep, but the kids didn’t seem to mind.

The Freemaker Adventures spawned a second series as well as a series of companion shorts and a follow up in LEGO Star Wars: All-Stars. However, in January, the main Freemaker series were removed from the Disney+ streaming site without warning or comment from either Disney, Lucasfilm or the LEGO group. The shorts were spared this removal for some reason.

While the Freemaker content had somewhat of a niche appeal, the more recent LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special and Terrifying Tales were given a broader range and benefited from Disney+ marketing. These mini-movies returned to the realm of familiar characters from the movies and had a much more polished animated quality from what we had previously seen.

So, what’s next from the realm of LEGO Star Wars animation? The likely answer is more holiday-themed specials. However, for some years now, fans have been calling for a full-budget LEGO Star Wars movie, in the vein of the 2014 LEGO Movie, from former Solo directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller.

With close to twenty years’ worth of animation to reflect on, it’s not likely we’ll be seeing the end of LEGO Star Wars on screen any time soon.

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