Blessed with creative liberty to play unfettered in Star Wars' galactic sandbox, a prestigious gathering of international animation studios has graced the second season of Star Wars: Visions, with short imaginative interpretations guaranteed to inspire and entertain.
Lucasfilm and Disney+'s Emmy-nominated anthology series returned on May 4, 2023 with nine short sci-fi films crafted using a variety of animation techniques, from 3D CG to stop-motion to classic hand-drawn 2D.
Studios involved here include: El Guiri (Spain), Cartoon Saloon (Ireland), Punkrobot (Chile), Aardman (United Kingdom), Studio Mir (South Korea) Studio La Cachette (France), 88 Pictures (India), D'art Shtajio (Japan), and Triggerfish (South Africa).
It's somewhat of a Herculean task sorting out this talented group of Star Wars-inspired films from across the globe as they each have their own particular merits. But let's give it a whirl and count down to the best of the best in this definitive ranking of nine Star Wars: Visions Season 2 shorts! May the Force be with us.
9. "The Pit"
- Studio: Lucasfilm Ltd. and D’ART Shtajio
A fearless young prisoner, forced to dig for kyber by the Empire, plans a risky escape for he and his people.
Awash in watercolor backgrounds and intense 2D animation, The Pit is a gritty chain-gang tale of prisoners toiling in the barren earth for priceless kyber crystals over countless years. When the excavation site is depleted and the Imperial garrison abandons the area, the workers are left helpless in a 100-foot hole.
A daring plan to climb out is formulated by a teenager named Crux, who scales the pit walls and reaches a nearby city to seek help. But will the citizens react? Its somber, depressed tone holds this short back a bit but the final message remains uplifting nonetheless.
9. Aau's Song
- Studio: Triggerfish
An alien child who longs to sing is raised by her loving, but stern father to stay quiet because of the calamitous effect her voice has on the crystals in the nearby mines.
The supreme power of music is featured in this melodic stop-motion short that again delves into the topic of rare kyber crystals, this time on the exotic world of Korba. Here an extraterrestrial child with the ability to belt out rapturous vocals discovers a unique purification connection to the Sith-corrupted red crystals.
The world building on display is enchanting and its electronic score elevates it beyond the rather simple-yet-dreamy narrative.
7. The Spy Dancer
- Studio: Studio La Cachette
The premier dancer at a famous, Imperial-frequented cabaret uses her unique skill-set to spy for the Rebellion, but the presence of a mysterious officer threatens to derail her mission.
Nightlife in the galaxy far, far away never looked so awesome. This hand-drawn gem features a vibrant color palette that gives this segment a distinctive Euro appeal as we follow a splinter cell of rebel operatives in a popular Imperial hangout. Things get intense when a notoriously nasty Imperial commander is spotted in the audience that triggers a tragic memory in the headlining dancer. It's a fantastic exploration of loss and redemption beautifully executed with an intriguing twist.
6. Journey to the Dark Head
- Studio: Studio Mir
A hopeful mechanic and disillusioned young Jedi team up for a risky and unlikely quest to turn the tide of the galactic war, but dark forces tail them.
This gorgeous anime effort holds a mystical sensibility matched with lush animation and a strong storyline blossoming over its 17-minute runtime. Two huge statues on the surface of a planet represent light and dark.
When rain falls from their cloud tops it offers prophetic images seen in the surface of stones that might turn the tide of the war against the Empire. Our heroine seeks to sever the dark statue’s head and teams up with a junior Jedi on a redemptive mission of his own. A brilliant offering!
5. In the Stars
- Studio: Punkrobot
Two sisters, the last of their kind who live in hiding on their ravaged land, squabble about how to survive with the Empire encroaching. On a water run, the sisters must fight back when they are discovered.
An ambitious addition to this latest Star Wars-influenced anthology that showcases CG and digital animation deliberately animated to make it appear like it utilized stop motion. Per the filmmakers, real models were created for the backgrounds of this short film and photogrammetry techniques were employed in its endearing story of two siblings harboring extraordinary abilities on a planet ravaged by the Empire.
As the sisters' latent powers emerge while on a dangerous raid, the short's stirring score and soundscape provide an immersive experience that brings this creative enterprise high accolades. Touching and poignant in myriad ways!
4. Screecher’s Reach
- Studio: Cartoon Saloon
A young girl, seeking reprieve from her days in a rural workhouse, discovers a legendary haunted cave with her friends. The cave's dark pull will change the trajectory of her life forever.
Directed by Cartoon Saloon's CEO Paul Young, this Star Wars film is the spooky story of a young workhouse girl drawn to a legendary cave by a mysterious pendant. What she finds in this ghostly cavern becomes a true test of fate, haunted by a shrieking wraith and enticing her toward her destiny with a Sith Mother who might not be as benevolent as she seems.
Young's directorial debut is a skilled creation that wonderfully blends several tones and techniques into a synthesis of subtle horror.
- Studio: El Guiri
A former Sith apprentice, leading a peaceful, but isolated life, is confronted by the past when her old master tracks her down.
There's an esoteric attraction to this unusual chapter of Visions 2, directed by Pixar veteran Rodrigo Blaas. The question raised here is, what if the Force, that's employed for fighting, is used to create art? Sith delves into the notion that someone can paint their world in any hue they choose by tapping into elemental energies and the dark opposing forces of fate that deflect her efforts.
It's a reflective tone-poem that strikes a lingering chord upon repeat viewing. Art becomes a force for self-discovery against an ominous Sith master in this contest of powerful wills.
2. The Bandits of Golak
- Studio: 88 Pictures
Fleeing from their village by train and pursued by ferocious Imperial forces, a boy and his force-sensitive younger sister seek refuge in a vibrant and dangerous dhaba.
The joy of Star Wars: Visions is seeing the storied franchise cast from the prism of other cultures and this short accomplishes that with a provocative India-crafted story of Charuk and his young sister Rani, who's strong in the ways of the Force. As the Empire becomes aware of the valuable girl, a harrowing high-speed train ride becomes their salvation to a neon-lit sanctuary.
Imperial soldiers and an Inquisitor appear to capture Rani but an unexpected Jedi saves the day. An electrifying light saber battle is the highlight of this astounding CG-animated entry!
1. I Am Your Mother
- Studio: Aardman
Young pilot Anni, who is embarrassed by her sweet, but clingy mum, must team with her for a madcap family race at the academy. Along the way, their relationship is tested by the elements, their old ship, other racers...and each other!
Anyone who's seen Aardman's iconic Wallace & Gromit shorts or features will be immediately lured into this heartwarming mother and daughter tale of an unlikely craft entered in a family-style contest of speed and endurance.
Told with such cheerful energy, clever wit, and honest warmth that you can’t help but stand up and cheer for these lovable underdogs. Bold happy colors and an irresistible charm that reminds us that Star Wars is still fun make this one the very best of the bunch!
Star Wars: Visions Vol. 2 currently streams exclusively on Disney+.
If you're looking for more great Star Wars articles here on Space.com, check out our list Star Wars movies ranked, worst to best. We've also got a guide to watching the Star Wars movies in order, both chronologically and in release order.