One of the toughest thing about being a fan of a franchise that targets a wide range of age groups is accepting that not all creative content produced is meant for you as the target audience. When this is simply children- or young adult-targeted adaptations of existing stories this is easy to accept. When this is new original content targeted at the children or young adult markets it can be a little more difficult to accept.
One of the most frustrating of the recent announcements for me as a fan was the LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures. I was a huge fan of non-Star Wars LEGO as a kid and I found some of the animated shows Michael Price worked on funny, but I only played the LEGO Star Wars video games a couple of times. As an adult fan who isn’t willing to invest the money in the LEGO Star Wars line of toys, I am decidedly not the target audience for LEGO Star Wars animation.
I was frustrated when The Freemaker Adventures was announced for a few reasons. First, I am not a big fan of the animation style of LEGO Star Wars. I would much prefer something more akin to The Clone Wars, Rebels, or a more typical 3D animation style. Secondly, I get annoyed by the LEGO-centric jokes and story beats. When I am watching Star Wars shows I want the humor to be in-universe based, not based on LEGO creations falling apart into piles of bricks. Finally, knowing that the time, effort and resources available at Lucasfilm are limited, making another LEGO show seems like a waste of a golden opportunity to create a new canonical animated Star Wars story, even if it has a more comedic slant than previous series.
The cynical side of me says that the choice of creating a LEGO series is one driven by licensing. New LEGO sets to sell and new consumers to introduce to LEGO through Star Wars. I also wouldn’t be surprised if the production costs of the show are spread between LEGO and Disney/Lucasfilm on very favorable terms for Lucasfilm.
So given all my reservations I wasn’t in any rush to watch The Freemaker Adventures. When I finally did sit down and flip on the Disney XD app there were three or four episodes that had already aired. I was pleasantly surprised with what I found.
The story of The Freemaker Adventures focuses on the Freemaker siblings–Kordi, Rowan, and Zander–and their droid R0-GR. Zander is Force-sensitive and the plot of the first season focuses on his search for the missing pieces of the legendary Kybersaber, a solid crystal-bladed lightsaber with the power of a superweapon. They face adversaries such as the Imperial operative Naare, Garballa the Hutt, Dengar, and Imperial forces.
The series features a relatively limited cast of characters but I was impressed by the relationships and interaction of the characters. I really enjoyed certain elements of the show, such as Naare’s dark side/light side facial tattoos that operate like a mood ring. I also really enjoyed some of the fun settings such as the Emperor Palpatine museum on Naboo; there is so much comedic gold in that one concept. The comedic interaction of the Imperial officers Plumestriker and Durpin as well as the underworld elements of Garballa, Dengar and the bumbling evil of Raam and Baash seem to bring a smile to my face in every episode. The inclusion of the Expanded Universe concept of Uglies gave me an immense amount of joy and immediately bought the series a little bit more time to give it a chance.
There is a sense of swashbuckling fun present in this series that is refreshing. While it is hard to say Star Wars Rebels is dark, like much of the later seasons of The Clone Wars, there is a seriousness to that series that doesn’t present as many opportunities for the big laughs. The Freemaker Adventures is the opposite–there are laughs to be had throughout the first season.
On the other hand there are some obvious issues with the series. The MacGuffin of the Kybersaber, is insanely over-powered. It is some Force Unleashed-level craziness. There are still some LEGO jokes throughout the series, which at least for me still pulls me out of the Star Wars universe. There is still my general dislike for the LEGO animation style overall which automatically knocks the series down in my view a few notches.
While I wish they had done it as a non-LEGO show, The Freemaker Adventures is a very well-crafted piece of Star Wars storytelling that blends adventure and comedy in an enjoyable cocktail. If you have half an hour in your day and you want some Star Wars-flavored happiness, hop aboard the Wheel and take a spin with the Freemakers.
LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures has its season finale on Monday. If you haven’t given the series a shot yet and have access to Disney XD, I suggest you use WatchDisneyXD or the XD App to catch up.
See, even a grumpy old Hutt like me can find the good in a Star Wars story that isn’t meant for me. (It is, after all, a lot easier than finding Kyber crystals.)