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New ‘Star Wars’ TV series is collaboration with Lego

By Rick Bentley • Jun 19, 2016 at 10:00 AM

LOS ANGELES — That galaxy far, far away where the “Star Wars” universe exists continues to get more and more crowded. Not only are their numerous films planned over the next few years, but the number of comic book titles, novels and TV shows available keeps increasing. You could say there are more “Star Wars” products than fleas on a Wookiee.

The latest TV production to join the expanding galaxy is “Lego Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures,” which launches on Disney XD Monday, June 20. It’s the story of a three siblings — Zander (Eugene Byrd), Cordi (Vanessa Lengies) and Rowan (Nicholas Cantu) — who travel the galaxy looking for space debris. They had been content to turn the junk into merchandise but a chance find changes all that.

“We are embarking on an unprecedented collaboration that will allow us to extend the narrative experience of the ‘Star Wars’ saga with the same playful spirit that’s always made Lego ‘Star Wars’ so much fun to watch,” says Carrie Beck, vice president of animation development at Lucasfilm, in a news release the show.

The new series takes place between the events of “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi.” Executive producers Bill Motz and Bob Roth picked that point in the “Star Wars” timeline because it gives them access to all of the main and supporting characters from the films.

“When we first dipped our toe into the project, all they told us was they wanted a Lego ‘Star Wars’ show and it needed to be set within the original trilogy,” Motz says. “We wanted as much access to all the battles we could get and having the series take place when it does pushes it as far as we can go.”

Motz and Roth have been huge “Star Wars” fans all their lives, so staying within that matrix has been relatively easy. If they stray, management with LucasFilm — particularly Breck — will fix the problem.

“We try to keep up as much as we can. There are certain things where we do cross over to other contents,” Roth says. “Some days we get redacted pages.”

Having to change their writing plans because they stumbled upon a theme or idea that has already been planned for another project is not a problem. In fact, they love when it happens because it gives them early knowledge of where the other productions are headed.

Their original story takes place in a time of great battles, which works out for the Freemaker siblings who make a living picking up debris of space battles strewn throughout the galaxy. Things change when Rowan finds he has a natural connection with The Force through an ancient artifact.

Here’s an example of crossing into someone else’s territory. That artifact was originally going to be Luke Skywalker’s first lightsaber, but the series makers were told they could not take that approach. After “The Force Awakens” opened, they understood why.

There will be no time taken in the first season to explain the sibling’s backstory. The producers say that their parents died in a very mundane way and it isn’t important to where their story is headed.

Instead, the series will feature appearances by some familiar faces, including Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and the bounty hunter Dengar.

“We put Dengar in because we love Dengar,” Roth says. “He looks like the most slovenly, sloppy bounty hunter ever. You can totally outrun Dengar. He’s overweight. He looks like he just got out of a Three Stooges movie.”

This mix of new and classic characters is one way to attract a larger demographic.

Producers also wanted the siblings to have a mixed ethnic look. The characters have a skin tone that is known as nougat in the Lego world.

This isn’t the first Lego “Star Wars” project — there have been five video games featuring the block-shaped characters. To go along with the opening of “Revenge of the Sith” in 2005, the first computer animated Lego “Star Wars” short film was produced, “Lego Star Wars: Revenge of the Brick.” Several productions have been made including the five-part “Lego Star Wars: Droid Tales.”

The producers stress the show is not as much of a parody of the franchise as most of the past projects have been. “Freemaker” has comic moments, but it has a slightly more serious tone.

Jill Wilfert, vice president of licensing & entertainment at the Lego Group, likes that the series combines the “Star Wars” heritage of storytelling, characters, action and adventure with the creativity, imagination and humor that is a trademark of Lego.

The series name was inspired by people who create with Lego blocks. It’s a reference to one of the two ways people play with Lego blocks: those who follow enclosed instructions vs. those who create freely using their imagination. The name honors the freestylers.

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LEGO STAR WARS: THE FREEMAKER ADVENTURES

10 a.m. Monday, June 20, Disney XD

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©2016 The Fresno Bee (Fresno, Calif.)

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