On Saturday midday at Star Wars Celebration Europe in London, the creative team behind the new television series LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures joined host David Collins on the Galaxy Stage to discuss the show’s origin and development. Co-creators Bill Motz and Bob Roth and lead director Michael Hegner shared many insights into the series, but the constant themes of the panel were their sheer joy at getting to tell new stories in the Star Wars galaxy and their passionate dedication to making the show the best it can possibly be.
From the panel’s start to finish, Motz and Roth made clear that The Freemaker Adventures is not part of the “Mad Magazine” take on Star Wars offered by previous entries in the LEGO Star Wars television oeuvre. While praising Michael Price, their good friend, for his “genius” work on The Yoda Chronicles and Droid Tales, among others, they noted that parody only works when it skewers well-known characters and references iconic moments from the movies. Lucasfilm’s goal for The Freemaker Adventures, though, was something different: while told in the medium of LEGO animation and full of humor, the series needed to involve original characters in side stories during the time of the Original Trilogy rather than focusing on the classic characters and the main quests of the movies. Motz and Roth immediately knew the heart and humor of their series had to come from the new characters, their interpersonal dynamics, and the perils in which they find themselves. Certainly the comedic value of the LEGO form could be exploited – a mini-figure’s hair popping off or a destroyed ship being quickly rebuilt from the bricks – and The Freemaker Adventures takes some liberties with the classic character’s portrayals, such as the goofier versions of Darth Vader and the Emperor familiar from previous LEGO Star Wars installments. Ultimately, though, Motz and Roth aspire to keep the series in the tone of a “canon paraphrase” with real jeopardy to the heroes, telling stories that could actually happen in the Star Wars galaxy rather than slipping into spoof and farce.
With this mindset guiding them, it is not surprising that Motz and Roth described their development of the series and its core characters in terms that might be heard at any other storytelling panel with Star Wars creatives. Roth discussed two keys that make The Freekmaker Adventures come to life. First, the focus of the series is family. The three Freemaker siblings are the central characters in the story, and their bonds and rivalries make them very relatable to an audience of all ages. Motz often finds inspiration in his 18 and 12 year old sons, close in age to Zander and Rowan Freemaker, for the characters’ personalities and shenanigans. The characters draw upon archetypes, with middle sister Kordi serving as the voice of reason who has to carry the weight of the world on her shoulders while keeping the knuckleheads in line. Moreover, in the real world LEGO is often something families share together, providing an extra layer of synergy to the show’s theme. Second, making the Freemakers a family of scavengers provided the opportunity to access the full span of the Star Wars timeline, because salvaging old war relics naturally reaches the Prequel Trilogy era as well as the current setting of the series. In fact, the repurposed battle droid butler R0-GR was the first character Motz and Roth imagined when they initially brainstormed the premise of the series.
Another thread throughout the panel’s discussion was the thrill of collaborating with Lucasfilm to create The Freemaker Adventures as a new Star Wars story. Renowned designer Doug Chiang and his team contribute to the development of imagery for the LEGO series, much to the delight of Hegner and his team. The animators and directors, based in Copenhagen, also have access to the full slate of Lucasfilm imagery assets, which makes it far easier to translate vehicles, locations, and more into LEGO designs. Composer Michael Kramer draws upon John Williams themes and motifs when appropriate, but also hired an 83-piece orchestra in Bratislava to record the new music for The Freemaker Adventures to ensure it would stand up to the quality standards of the saga. Matt Wood not only voices R0-GR using the same battle droid vocalization software that has been used from The Phantom Menace through The Clone Wars, but also draws upon the wealth of sound effects in the Skywalker Sound library to provide consistency with previous Star Wars media. Wood, who joined the latter half of the panel discussion and shared an hysterical live performance of R0-GR’s vocalization software, also travels from the Bay Area to Los Angeles to join the rest of the cast for the voice recording sessions as a group – and the ensemble recording itself is unusual for this type of animated series. Motz and Roth praised Carrie Beck and Leland Chee for their efforts in helping to make The Freemaker Adventures as much a part of the new era of Star Wars storytelling as the other projects overseen by the Story Group.
At the time of Celebration, six episodes of The Freemaker Adventures had aired on DisneyXD in the United States, but the show had premiered only that morning in the U.K. and had not yet aired in other international markets. The first season includes 13 episodes, so there’s still time to catch up on this great new addition to the LEGO Star Wars universe. The Freemaker Adventures may be told in LEGO bricks, but its entire creative team is dedicated to telling a Star Wars story on par with everything else fans have the chance to enjoy in the franchise’s new age.
- Bill Motz on Twitter @InevitablyBill
- Bob Roth on Twitter @automaticgravy
- The Star Wars Show Live interview
- StarWars.com panel live blog