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'LEGO Star Wars Terrifying Tales' creators reveal the origins of spooky stories from all three trilogy eras

By Tara Bennett
Lego Star Wars Terrifying Tales

A year after Disney+'s first original LEGO Star Wars special, the aptly named LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special, the streamer has dropped a brand-new story celebrating the scary side of the Star Wars universe with LEGO Star Wars Terrifying Tales. Also set after The Rise of Skywalker, Tales features the continuing adventures of Poe Dameron (Jake Green) and BB-8. When their X-Wing takes a blaster hit, the duo land on Mustafar where they find Graballa the Hutt repurposing Darth Vader’s castle into a future luxury hotel. His construction rattles Vaneé (voiced by Tony Hale) up from the depths, and the former Vader attendant shares three stories of woe featuring some very familiar faces from Star Wars mythology.

SYFY WIRE collected LEGO Star Wars Terrifying Tales executive producer Josh Rimes, writer David Shayne, and director Ken Cunningham to peel back the bricks on what inspired them to get spooky in this original special.

Origin Story

LEGO Star Wars Terrifying Tales

David Shayne, Writer: It started with this idea that we really wanted to cover all three of the trilogy periods. It starts from who are the villains in each of those periods and how do you use them? The Star Wars universe is so filled with all these fantastic villains that you want to play with everybody, to use a LEGO term. You can have General Grievous and Darth Maul squaring off in one story. And anytime we can put Vader and the Emperor together — and that really goes back to some of the earliest LEGO Star Wars content — they're always incredibly great together and we had that little bit upfront.

Josh Rimes, Executive Producer: We also took a lot of inspiration from stories that were being told in Star Wars. The character of Vaneé was actually briefly introduced in Rogue One. And then he was further expanded on in a series of IDW kid’s comics called Tales from Vader's Castle, that writer Cavan Scott did so brilliantly. Very early on, when we were talking about these tales, we were leaning towards Vader's castle because it's so iconic. The black and the orange of the lava feels so Halloween. And then we started talking about that attendant character and the IDW comics series and the idea of who can be our crypt keeper that can be the vessel that is a storyteller about lore from the castle's past, or artifacts within the castle? We landed on Vaneé very quickly.

Tony Hale was always a dream for us. He has such an amazing range. It was such a blast working with him and seeing him in the booth and how much he not only brought to the voice of a character but also the movements. He would really act and move around in the booth. We recorded that and that inferred some of the performance of how Vaneé walked and moves, even as a Lego Minifigure.

Ken Cunningham, Director: Just because of all the horror references [in the script], I went back and watched a lot of my favorite stuff from the '80s and '90s. And I said to [art diector] Kevin Chai, 'Dude, you've got to watch Bram Stoker's Dracula.' We're always trying to push the envelope with each of these projects. But [lighting] was the specific thing that we really wanted to dig into. What was nice for this project was that the Holiday Special last year was much more Star Wars so we had to stay in that aesthetic more. Whereas this one, because we're referencing all this other stuff, it opened the doors a lot.

The New Kid

LEGO Star Wars Terrifying Tales

Rimes: This special takes a lot of inspiration from what we did so successfully with The Freemaker Adventures, which is our animated series on Disney XD with the Freemaker family and that POV kid character Rowan. We actually bring back Graballa the Hutt (Dana Snyder) from that series.

Shayne: Dean (Raphael Alejandro) is our point of entry. Dean is at the very beginning of his journey and he does not have courage yet. He’s sort of figuring his way out. And I think that's very relatable. The truth is, even as we grow up, I think we still wrestle with those things.

And in terms of our Episode IX characters, we had focused the Holiday Special on Rey. We felt like with Poe, who is so much swagger and so much confidence, it just felt natural to put your most swaggery character into your scariest situations. He becomes a natural contrast to Dean. The line that I really liked, which I don't think she coined it but I credit to my wife, she said, "Without fear, you can't have courage." I've been saying that's still a lesson I learn all the time. What do we do in the face of fear? We really wanted to have that bigger journey. And Poe, in the same sense, goes on his own journey of learning that you can put on the front and it's good to fake it 'til you make it, but it's also okay to admit that you're scared. The heart moment between them I really enjoy.

"The Lost Boy"

LEGO Star Wars Terrifying Tales

The first story is the expansion of how Ben Solo turns into Kylo Ren after meeting Ren (Christian Slater) and his Knights, all of which plays like an homage to The Lost Boys, including the infamous sax solo from the movie.

Shayne: [For the sax scene] during the sound mix there was just this fun of like, "Can we push the sax a little more? Maybe a little more? Perfect." I'm stating the obvious but with this special, it brings so many people's talents to bear, from our composer Michael Kramer, to our sound designer and everybody. Everything is how far can we push this, how far can we go? And everybody's really game.

Cunningham: The most fun bit of [this tale] was the dream sequence when Ben Solo was asleep. Friday the 13th was a reference, and Village of the Damned and The Hills Have Eyes. I remember watching when I was a kid, and actually getting really freaked out by, watching The Twilight Zone and we're referencing some of that when he's falling into Ren's mouth.

And with the [Ben and Ren battle], it's like I'm in there with a little LEGO DP, and he's got like a little steady camera rig with a RED or ARRI on it and we're making a real film. For me, that's what I love digging into with this content, the aesthetic of live-action stuff. It allows me to play with that camera language and that storytelling language in a way that you don't often get to on a lot of stuff. For me that sequence and any of the more classic Star Wars bits that we do, or any of the fight stuff, it's getting to play with bigger, Hollywood cinema language.

"The Dueling Monstrosities"

Lego Star Wars Terrifying Tales

The second story finds The Night Sisters raising Darth Maul (Sam Witwer) to face off against General Grievous to retrieve the Saber of Scardont for Darth Sidious. The climax comes as both iconic prequel villains face off in a crazy battle.  

Shayne: That battle is a few lines in the script and then Ken and his team come up with these incredible visuals. They went for it and it just became this epic thing. It was fun to have the interplay and have some fun with the fact that Grievous does have this cough and that with each of them competing for the Emperor's affections, we need to try and take whatever digs they could get each other. Like the fact that Maul is a Force user and Grievous is not, and he would tease him about that.

Cunningham: When I first got the script from David, the first thing that went to my head was 300. And I'm kind of sad. In the boards, that fight was a lot longer and a lot more epic. But for valid reasons, we had to cut it down. I'm still really happy with the way it came out.

"The Wookie's Paw"

LEGO Star Wars Terrifying Tales

The final story was actually the first that Shayne wrote. It shows what would have happened if Luke Skywalker chose to get trained by the Empire and Darth Vader, leading to the same ending of A New Hope but with very different players. 

Shayne: For me, it started with the third story. The Monkey's Paw is such a classic tale, and it was fun going, "Oh, we can do a Star Wars spin on that?" The Monkey’s Paw is about getting your wish, and Luke wanted to get off of Tatooine and be a pilot, so what would that look like? What if he joined the Empire and that really helped totally inform the other two [stories].

Cunningham: That was probably the hardest [story] to thread visually. Part of it was just looking at the quality of '70s film, but then bring in some of the color stylizations we were doing. The moment when [Luke] fully transforms [into a Sith], we're just bringing a little bit of red hit from the corners and not deviating as far as we have in some of the other stories, but still having that theatrical quality.

Shayne: I actually have to give credit to our voice director, Mary Elizabeth Glenn, who came up with my favorite joke when Vader plants the kiss on Luke's head. That came in the recording session. We were recording Vader and she said, "What if Vader kisses him and says 'For luck?'" It is my absolute favorite moment in the special.

[Luke and Ben's] stories are both cautionary tales. But those stories do all align with Dean, our main character, and that's the journey he's on which is that he's very frustrated by where he is in his life. And his fear is holding him back and that's the big overarching theme. On a thematic level, we were really trying to make those stories tie to Dean's so that they would resonate with this young boy, and that the kids in our audience could relate to that feeling.

LEGO Star Wars Terrifying Tales is now streaming on Disney+.