If you’ve ever played one of the LEGO Star Wars videogames, built one of the play sets, or watched any of the animated television specials or short films, you know that there is a distinctive feel to the world of LEGO Star Wars. It’s still Star Wars, through and through, with many of the same characters or scenarios from the films that you know and love. But there’s something sillier about the world, more charming and playful, like a child constructing their version of a Star Wars installment and having the time of their life while doing it.
That’s certainly the sensation you’ll get while watching LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures, which premiered today on Disney XD. This new series is set in between the events of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, and follows a family of scavengers who pick up the junk left behind by the epic space battles between the Rebel Alliance and the Empire. (It’s really cool.)
What makes LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures so exceptional is how deeply Star Wars it feels (there are twists and turns, Jedis that have been secreted away, and everyday folk who engage with something greater than themselves) while also being, unquestionably, the most LEGO-y Star Wars adventure yet. Since the Freemakers are scavengers, they put things back together just like snapping plastic bricks into place.
I was able to sit down and talk to Bill Motz and Bob Roth, the creators and executive producers of LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures, about their deep-seeded love of Star Wars, nailing the tone of the LEGO Star Wars universe, and the appeal of making a new Star Wars show in a very specific Star Wars time period.
What was your relationship with Star Wars before the show?
Bob: Deep and long. I’ll tell the whole story. May 1977, my brother came home, I was outside playing with my friends, he said, “We’re going to the movies tonight, we’ve got see this thing.” And I was like, “Well… Okay, but I’m playing with my friends, I don’t feel like going to the movies tonight—do we have to go?” And he said to me, “You’re really going to want to go to this—it’s better than Star Trek.” And I was like, “C’mon Tom, nothing’s better than Star Trek.” He’s like, “No, no, no!” And the TV was on, and an ad for it just happened to be on; I have this distinct memory of watching the TIE fighter fly in the background, and the lasers blast, and explosions. I was like, “Oh, okay, maybe we do need to go see this.” So I walked into the state theater in New York, and I was seven-years-old, no direction in my life, not that a seven-year-old needs it, but … I walked out two hours later. I left going, “I know what I want to do. I want to make things like that, that make people as happy as I’m feeling right now.” And that obsession hasn’t stopped to this day. And now I’m here! It’s so incredibly magical and surreal. If I could go back to that night and tell that little seven-year-old …
And you’re still obsessed today?
Bob: Yes, we work out of my guesthouse and we save toys, and I collect stuff, too. And, it’s gotten out of control, frankly. All of the walls are covered in posters, shelves that are 12-deep with figures and LEGOs and everything else. Star Wars and LEGO are both huge to me.
Bill: I went to see it opening weekend in ’77. I’m five years older than Bob, so I was 12 and it was an amazing transformative moment. Same thing: I remember buying the soundtrack — this was pre-VHS, so I could just listen to it again and again, and remember the film and the characters. I’m from Rock Island, Illinois, and my dad has this giant yard, and I remember mowing the yard and thinking about other Star Wars stories I’d like to see. Like, Oh, what if it was this? I even remember thinking about, How did Vader end up the way he did? And, What was his story? It had something to do with Obi-Wan, I wonder if they were friends. I remember thinking about all that crazy stuff. My mom — she’s passed away, but she’s Danish, and so we would spend summers in Denmark, and go to the Legoland in Billund. I would spend summers sitting on my bed in my grandma’s house with a bucket of bricks, and building these things, so it really is this incredible full-circle from childhood to adulthood journey.
There’s a specific tone to LEGO Star Wars properties. Was that fun to play with?
Bob: Absolutely. I’ve got nothing more than ‘absolutely!’ It’s such a great universe to play in, and it’s such a fun aesthetic.
Bill: You know, one of the things was, we talked about LEGO Star Wars is often the entry point for a lot of kids. We talked about the world, and it’s a way of introducing it to your kids. My son loved the LEGO Star Wars, and he played the video games, too, which are so much fun. But it was a way of learning the mythology and the characters, and just going in there and interacting with it. We’ve just got LEGO—I think my son has every incarnation of the X-Wing that’s gone through. Even last night, it was funny, at the end of the day I busted open my Star Scavenger kit, and my son goes, “I’m going to build with you, dad!” And he brought down his Millennium Falcon kit and ripped it open, and we just spent a couple hours last night talking together, building our kits, and listening to the score to A New Hope. It was really fun.
What I love about the show is you really embrace the LEGO-ness of it, since they’re scavengers. Was that part of the appeal?
Bob: Absolutely. We’ve got a lot of Star Wars toys at my house, but my kids have their own Star Wars stuff, and you get them sets, and they’re flying their TIE fighters around because they’re rough and tumble boys, and the TIE fighter smashes and the wings pop off, and then they drop it and it’s there for a few days. That was sort of in our minds, like, Oh look! The remnants of some battle. And then I watched my kids a few days later, after the TIE fighters crashed and came apart—they don’t rebuild it they way the kit told them to. They take the TIE fighter wing. “You know what? I’m going to put it on top of the X-wing now. Look, dad! I made my own ship.” That was very much part of the inspiration. That free building, anything goes perspective, you can take parts from this and slap it onto this.
Bill: The combinations are so amazing–the variations that you do on them are just ridiculous. We thought that was fun, we want kids to, you know, Take your sets off the shelf and bust ‘em up! Build something new! I think that’s fun, that’s what LEGO wants you to do. It’s about playing.
What’s so exciting is this really is its own story. You’re not retelling some other part of the Star Wars universe.
Bob: Yeah, very much so. I mean, I love Star Wars and LEGOs so much, I would have done those Mad Magazine-kind of versions of the old stories, but it’s so much more fun to play in the universe, but make your own stories. It’s just a dream come true. We wake up every day and go, Really?!
Bill: Because we’re not re-telling, because we’re doing our own thing we can go in some directions, sometimes, that are unexpected to ourselves. Sometimes we think it’s going to go here, and other times …
Bob: …We thought, for the longest time, we knew where the first season is going to end, and we were so wrong.
Yeah, the first episode is shocking!
Bob: Good! Were you surprised? Awesome, that’s exactly what we want.
Bill: It’s hard to do that, but we were really pleased.
It’s great too that you’re telling this story about a family that’s not the Skywalker family. What was the thinking behind that?
Bill: This is an ordinary family.
Bob: Yeah, we wanted to do an ordinary family in the Star Wars universe, and then they’re touched by the extraordinary, and that spins them into this new adventure.
And like Luke, these characters aren’t looking for adventure, necessarily.
Bill: They’re just trying to survive — pay the rent, just those normal, everyday things. And adventure finds them.
Bob: And part of the conflict within the family is that Kordi wants to stay where they are, doing what they’re doing, and Rowan feels this call and this responsibility to get involved in this big adventure that’s happening in the universe. And Zander is somewhere in between, he’s not a deep thinker—he’s happy to go along with something fun. But that sort of becomes the crux of conflict in this family.
LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures premiered today on Disney XD.