Saturday, November 7, 2020

Mandalorian Fever

When the Disney Plus service was announced last year, it seemed like a no brainer given the low price point and my two young kids who both enjoy their offerings. But the killer app for me, and apparently many others, was the new Mandalorian series. Here is one of the few Star Wars offerings that Disney made some good decision on - and let's face it - they had to. They needed a big draw to compete with Netflix on their new service. My hook was not just the preview material, but the fact that Clone Wars and Rebels series director Dave Filoni was on board. He is really the only director that completely understands what the older Star Wars fan base wants to see. I later found out that, in classic Disney style, they had thrown a ton of money in to hire top talent - 7 well known directors who would be in charge of different episodes with Avengers producer John Favreau at the helm. This included Taika Waititi (Thor Ragnarok), Peyton Reed (Ant Man), and of course Mr. Filoni.

The investment paid off, and the series won popular appeal, especially thanks to the "baby Yoda" character. It seems like that would be a tough gimmick to base an entire series on, but it was smart for many reasons. First, despite the central prominence of Yoda in the entire Star Wars franchise, there has never been an exploration of his native origins or race. This was a good way to emphasize Yoda's uniqueness during his character arc, but that has largely played out now, and so this idea provides an intriguing air of mystery to Mando's package. Second, they held off revealing much information on this character in the first season (second season may prove different). Third, they added the cuteness factor which brought in new fans to the franchise, especially from the female population. This provided an avenue for Disney's traditional merchandising engine to focus on without upsetting the fan base.

My 12-year-old son watched the series with me in parallel which was kind of cool and led to a fun gift idea. We have a 3-D printer at my work and one of the younger guys got hold of a baby Yoda model that he wanted to print for his wife for Christmas. Soon other people were asking for it, including one of my co-workers who bought matched paint colors so he could paint it for his girlfriend. So I asked for one also and decided to borrow my friends paints so I could give it to my son. It came out pretty good (see image) and it ended up in stocking on Christmas day.

The series takes place between the fall of the Empire (Return of this Jedi) and the rise of the First Order (The Force Awakens). As with all of the Filoni projects, much care has been taken to maintain historical consistency within the Star Wars universe and timeline. Just one example of an ingenious fan tribute character was Kuill. He is an Ugnaught, a character normally appearing in Star Wars in background roles as equipment operators and such. In early season one, we encounter Kuill as a wise and skilled nomad who assists Mando on his quest. He is somehow played by Nick Nolte who does a wonderful portrayal, and gives new life to old familiar face.

So the second season has already arrived on Disney Plus and I am looking forward to seeing it. I've heard they will have the first live action Ahsoka Tano character. That sounds cool but I hope Rosario Dawson can pull it off. And the Jedi community will be somehow connected. I hope to add an update soon.