When it was announced that George Lucas was selling Star Wars to Disney, I was optimistic. I liked the idea that Disney wanted to put out a lot more Star Wars film and television than Lucas tended to--I figured, sure, Disney would make mistakes but more material means more chances to learn from mistakes. But it's hard to imagine how some mistakes weren't easy to avoid, like the new Forces of Destiny animated shorts Disney has put on YouTube over the past few days.
Three episodes have been uploaded as I'm writing this--two starring Daisy Ridley as Rey and one starring Shelby Jones as Leia. Jones doesn't sound remotely like Carrie Fisher, which is to be expected, but it would have been nice if they'd at least found someone whose performance isn't as flat as stale root beer. Anyway, that's not the biggest problem in her two and a half minute short, called "Ewok Escape", which is set between scenes of Return of the Jedi. Keep in mind, Disney says this stuff is canon:
You would think if there was one thing Disney would be sure to get right it was animation. Why would they release something that looks like this? The animation quality is of a parody video and it looks even worse considering these shorts were obviously influenced by Gendy Tartakovsky's hand drawn, 2003 animated Clone Wars shorts. Tartakovsky's style is simple so maybe that's why Disney thought it could be easily replicated. But there's more too what Tartakovsky does than stylistic simplicity. In his Clone Wars shorts as in his Samurai Jack and Sym-Bionic Titan, Tartakovsky uses simple designs to emphasise action, easily setting up contrasts between layers of foreground, background, and character. Tartakovsky's a master at composing sequences of images to tell a story. Forces of Destiny just looks like someone was trying to cut costs.
Another difference is that Tartakovsky had the advantage of being focused on telling a story while Forces of Destiny seems to be first and foremost about branding. Each episode focuses on a female character, part of an initiative at Disney to focus more on women in the Star Wars universe, which I think is great except for the fact that there's little effort put into these beyond this idea. It makes me wonder if this is going to end up like the Marvel exec, Dave Gabriel, blaming their sales slump on the increased racial and gender diversity in their comics. When people are eventually turned off by the lazy shit Disney's trying to push, I can imagine someone similarly saying, "Well, I guess it must be the female characters."
And part of the bad writing here actually has to do with some conservative themes. The first two shorts featuring Rey are about how she's protecting her little BB from a monster who turns out to be friendly anyway. And there's no way I'm considering "Ewok Escape" canon.
You can sense the checklist of appropriate messaging that must have gone through making the entire story, beginning with establishing the Ewoks as an indigenous people the evil Empire is subjugating--which is a fine starting point for a story outline but, for gods' sakes, you really want to do this with the infamous talking teddy bears? Then we have to establish the Ewoks as smart so we're given another of their goofy gags, a rope trip that actually makes the Ewok slapstick in the film look reasonable--and then we need to explain to the audience that Leia's costume change was totally consensual. The episode ends with one of the most weirdly flat footed scenes I've seen in anything. The Ewoks give her a dress, she likes it, she puts it on, and she thanks them. Nevermind the dress is actually kind of plain. But this was apparently so crucial that the story establishes Wicket can translate Basic for the other Ewoks, calling into question what the point was of having 3PO translate later on. Things might've been improved a little bit if the episode ended with the card, ". . . and then Leia watched them devour the stormtroopers."
Fuck, Disney, make an effort.