Though all our attention has been focused on what’s going on with Star Wars, mastermind George Lucas had another passion project in the works back when he sold Lucasfilm to Disney.
The CGI animated musical Strange Magic, which Disney is quietly debuting this weekend in the box-office doldrums of January, is a mystery wrapped in an enigma. We'd never even heard of the project’s existence until just a few months ago, when the film was almost complete, and we’re only just now seeing any preliminary reviews (sadly, they’re not terribly positive).
The film is essentially a modern-day take on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, built around a wacky musical that takes nods from several modern and classic tracks. It sounds like a big, wacky mess (in a kind of good way), and Lucas recently chatted with Collider about his ambitious, kid-centric fantasy flick.
According to Lucas, Strange Magic has been a passion project for the better part of a decade, and he was fascinated by finding a way to tell this wide-ranging story with music. Basically, he sees it as a love letter to his daughters and the fantasy, more girl-centric take on what Star Wars represented for young boys:
“It was simply a matter of, the story is about the difference between infatuation and real love, and real love is on the inside. It’s somebody you have a common ground with, you share the same values, you share the same interests, you share the same humor, you share all those things that are things that will last you the rest of your life. What the person looks like will not, and that’s the point. If you fall in love with a boy band, that’s not gonna last. If you fall in love with a football star, that’s not gonna last. It’s for young kids to say, ‘Hey, let’s just get beyond the cover of the book.’ And again, it’s a story that’s been told over and over again. In that case, it’s much more like Star Wars, [but] instead of mythology, it’s based on fairy tales, whether it’s as simple as The Ugly Duckling. But it’s really something that says, ‘Hey, kids need to be told this every generation so that they understand that that’s really the way it works,’ and with a little, slight 60s, 70s twist, which is, you know, true love and happiness really is not with the pretty boy…
Well, originally I had two daughters, I ended up with another daughter. Star Wars was for 12-year-old boys, I figured I’d make one for 12-year-old girls. The 12-year-old boy one worked for everybody from eight months to 88, boys, girls, dogs, whatever, it really worked. So I said, ‘Well, maybe I could do one like this but is slightly more female-centric.’ It’s really a story that hopefully will work for everybody, but it was really something [where] I said, ‘Well, maybe I’ll do this.’ And I just wanted to have fun. I was directing Star Wars while I was doing these. I’d go out and shoot and this would be put on the shelf for a while. I had a little group of guys and girls working on this thing. It’s a project that I’ve been doing for a long time and then when it came to sell the company, I realized it wasn’t really finished. But I said, ‘Well, I still want to retire. I’m not gonna wait this out. I want to retire now.’ Time is more important to me than money. And so I just did it and hoped that Kathy [Kennedy] and everybody who has been working on the film and everything would follow through and Disney would put up the money to finish it. I mean, it was mostly done, so it wasn’t like they had to put up a whole bunch of money to finish it. But, you know, it turned out extremely well and what I envisioned. I know it’s been what, maybe two years [since I sold the company], but time moves very slowly in animation.”
Strange Magic opens this weekend. Do you plan on checking it out?