Forces of Destiny Review: The First 16 Episodes

Forces of Destiny Vol 1 and 2

The Forces of Destiny animated shorts, 2-3 minutes in length, are aimed at honoring the female heroines of the GFFA, released as two TV specials in the month of October, with more on the way next year. I’ll be going over the initial 16 episodes here, which include adventures with Princess Leia, Rey, Sabine Wren, Hera Syndulla, Ahsoka Tano, and many more, discussing why it’s easy to ignore their (literal) shortcomings and enjoy them as fun little stories with good moral kernels to devour, mainly for those way younger than this late-twenties year old.

Rey and BB-8Originally releasing as separate episodes on YouTube, the Forces of Destiny shorts were collected together as two volumes, given Maz Kanata as a narrator, and two TV specials. Tying them together with Maz isn’t terribly necessary, but is entertaining, plus the added context on why we’re seeing these canon stories and why they are so morally focused is helpful compared to experiencing them in a vacuum by themselves. I’m hoping we eventually get an episode where we see some of Maz’s adventures, but something tells me in her 1000 years, and that she runs a pirate’s haven, it’s less likely she’ll have uplifting stories of her own. In the end, watching these on the Disney’s YouTube playlist won’t ruin your enjoyment and you won’t be missing out on too much, but the target market for this would benefit from seeing these in Volume form.

The 2D animation is a collaboration of Lucasfilm Animation and GhostBot Inc, and it’s simple but grows on you quickly, with a clean, bright style that’s easy on the eyes. The character models are well-done, as despite being stylized they retain the characters’ signature looks, though Sabine looks to have been a little white-washed. Other shortcomings are minor, like the explosions look faded, the FoD style doesn’t fit well with stormtroopers (Rebels has it’s own style but it’s not as off as this is), and what in the mother of moons is up with Anakin’s character model!?!?

Written by Jennifer Muro, the characters all feel rather true to their original portrayals, even if they are all more morally inclined during these shorts. Rey’s kindness and willingness to help those in need shines through brightly, Leia has no problem getting things done on her own, and Sabine’s love for custom paint jobs and what the Rebellion is doing to help people certainly pours out of each of her episodes. Distilling these characters down into two-three minutes shorts can’t be an easy job, but Muro’s writing makes it seem rather easy, if not a little cheesy.

That the original actors for all these leading ladies have come back to reprise their roles is something rather special, giving the series added consistency and is also damn impressive. I mean, there’s Daisy Ridley, Ashley Eckstein, Lupita Nyong’o, Felicity Jones, Tiya Sircar, Vanessa Marshall, Gina Torres, Catherine Taber (who voiced Padmé in The Clone Wars), to name a few. And even where voice actors fill in for certain roles, like Shelby Young  for Leia or young/old Han (A.J. LoCascio/Kiff VandenHeuvel), they do an excellent job in honoring those who came before them in the roles. Especially Shelby Young, as she can voice Leia in any future animation projects as far as I’m concerned.

Hera and HanAs great as FoD is at highlighting the women of Star Wars, and the micro-length is great for the young children it’s aimed for who are growing up in an ubiquitous smartphone world (parent’s might not mind allowing their kids to borrow their phones to watch some quick, educationally minded SW videos), these shorts, especially when taken individually, can feel a bit like a half measure. The 2-3 minutes is great for the target audience, but even an extra minute or 5 could help add nuance and make this feel like a deeper commitment to honoring the women of Star Wars. It’s great they are showering this focus on the female characters, plenty of whom have not had lots of material about them before, and this being a whole series devoted to them is a step in the right direction, but it feels like more could’ve been done with FoD (mainly, maybe aiming it a little older of a target audience that middle-graders). Hopefully whatever metrics Lucasfilm is judging these by are met, from YouTube views to toy sales (while ignoring all the negative and disgustingly misogynistic criticisms that can be found in the YouTube comments), giving them a reason to not only continue Forces of Destiny, but broaden them in various ways.

Despite my desire to see these expanded, all the parents and their children who’ve already shown their love for the series makes some of my points moot: if the target audience loves it, who am I judge? It’s fair to level criticism at FoD, as I can hope it’ll better itself for the benefit of everyone, including its younger audience, but minus any of its flaws, it might be one of the more effective ways to reach the next era of children beset on all sides by more distractions and screens vying for their eyeballs than any generation before it.

Here are a few other things:

  • Shelby Young tweeted a quick video of her with fellow cast and crew watching the latest episodes!
  • My favorite episode might just be “An Imperial Feast,” as it has fun with the idea the Ewoks really were planning on eating the captured Imperials, ironically taking away some of their cuteness on the cutest Star Wars TV series. But better yet, Han Solo and General Hera Syndulla chatting on Endor! We’ve known since the announcement there was to be an episode with Hera on Endor, and she’s in Rogue One afterall, but seeing her here and being in a scene with Han, getting him to say the Ghost is a better ship, is an interaction dreams are made of.
  • There were a lot more focused on Rey than I expected, but considering her trilogy of films is just launching into its second one, it’s not terribly surprising.
  • I’ve seen this around idea the interwebs and totally agree: Padmé and Ahsoka together is fun and all, but give Padmé a solo episode, please.
  • You catch the entire Vol. 1 special on YouTube now. I imagine Vol. 2 will follow shortly.

Bounty of Trouble

If bite-sized Star Wars via Forces of Destiny is the fun, effective way to share one’s love of the saga with their children, in hopes they too might one day become fans, then we as fans should take it.

Forces of Destiny Round Two Starts in October (UPDATED)
Canon Young Reader Review: Forces of Destiny: Daring Adventures (Volume 1) (by Chris)
A “Bounty of Trouble” Follows Sabine and Leia in Forces of Destiny
Padme and Ahsoka Deal with an Imposter, Jyn Erso Helps the Innocent in Newest Forces of Destiny
Forces of Destiny Pits Leia Against The “Beasts of Echo Base”
Forces of Destiny Puts Ahsoka Tano on “The Padawan Path”
“BB-8 Bandits” and “Ewok Escape” Continue the Forces of Destiny Shorts
Forces of Destiny Starts on the “Sands of Jakku”
Forces of Destiny Premieres July 3 on YouTube
Heroines of Star Wars Panel Impressions (SWCO 2017)
Forces of Destiny Brings Women of Star Wars to Focus in 2D Animated Form (SWCO 2017)
Rey and the F Word (by Trinity)