IR TV Review: DISNEY GALLERY – THE MANDALORIAN – EPISODE 8 (“Connections”) [Disney+]

With the final entry in the “Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian” and its behind the scenes perception in Episode 8: “Connections”, it all comes back to fan service in a way but doing so that is relative to the people making it. Dave Filoni, in many ways, is The Archivist since it integrates to everything that George Lucas is about. He is of Lucas’ temperament and yet regards each facet and detail as sacred. Jon Favreau has the same fandom but because he came at it as an outsider with both a studio and indie sensibility, his approach definitely is an diametrically opposite one but it works since Filoni gives his respect to him (though Filoni has done numerous things that Favreau has not and vice versa). But it is Favreau that calls the shots here. He doesn’t throw it around too much but his presence is felt much like Kathleen Kennedy though it is a different energy.

His approach to obscure lore and separate parts of the “Star Wars” universe is admirable although there is one point in which he asks Lucas on screen “Do you remember this?” Lucas says “Not really” in regards to a weapon in the “Star Wars Holiday Special”. There is a bit of maybe being too close to the material. Lucas remembers every detail even though he might not admit it but that is his secret to keep. One might never know what Lucas thinks overall as it was both the best thing to let it go but also what might have been different? It is good to pass it along to others. Filoni and Favreau seem to have got what Star Wars is about. It is about simplicity but also those differing themes.

The difference is that the world have changed so much since the original “Star Wars” came on the scene. And yet, it is one of the few shows that the entire family including Mom (as seen in many blogs and posts) can see with her children, husbands, etc. on family night because it is not boring, not too crass, not too childish and yet learning in a way. “The Mandalorian” works that way but it will be interesting to see how “Obi Wan” and the Cassian Andor series work out. If it is about story and not necessarily racing to the end, it might be interesting. With “Obi Wan” with just 8 episodes it might be a one and done because of Ewan’s schedule whereas Andor has infinite possibilities as does Mandalorian.

Back to the final episode though, it comes back to those little details. Favreau brings up a prop that became a huge thing at conventions but nobody was really aware of it. And yet it works to connect the fandom. Mark Hamill voices an interesting robot and the irony of what Mos Eisley evolves to is a necessarily piece of progress. Of course the various aliens are brought up. What is a wonderful conclusion though is the Stormtroopers that are in the final aspect of the episodes because of the background of where they come from. It is best to watch the episode because giving it away here would ruin the fun.

It is also interesting to hear Taika Watiti actually talk a little about where it was shot and understand that a couple scenes are shot in a backlot area and not just inside The Volume. Again none of this info needed to be revealed but by bringing in the viewer in in this way, like Lucas did back in the day but with Favreau’s sensibility, it allows this generation to make this Star Wars more their own. It will be interesting to see how the 2nd Season progresses although the shooting was already completed before the pandemic. But as a whole new world dawns in Star Wars, it will be interesting to see the continuing evolution.

A

By Tim Wassberg

IR TV Review: DISNEY GALLERY – THE MANDALORIAN – EPISODE 7 (“Score”) [Disney+]

The essence of music in any show is important but with “Star Wars”, it is equally daunting. With Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni, it was about thinking outside the box. Composer Ludwig Goransson is an interesting choice but not an all together unexpected one. His approach is very experimental and that sometimes can be tricky for people working on a big franchise or moving placement because of money and expectation. This is an issue that probably came with Vangelis after composing ground changing work on “Blade Runner”. It is significantly hard to follow up something like that. What is interesting here is how recommendations of younger collaborators influenced Favreau in many ways. He had heard of Goransson in passing and heard of his work with Ryan Coogler, whom it is revealed was his roommate at USC and worked with him through his first film “Fruitvale Station” to “Creed” and onto “Black Panther”. “Panther” of course was important because of the use of different sounds in order to find the correct approach and tone.

The same can be said of “The Mandalorian”. While it is not spoken of, there is definitely in the intro of the theme a Middle Eastern influence. But as the episode goes on, just seeing the basis of certain sounds using old school analog aspects with computer elements is fascinating. Goransson doesn’t want to write in front of a computer he says so as a result his sounds are new but he uses technoloy to capture it. It is a way to work that is both new and old. In the roundtable, Favreau and Filoni seem to take over the conversation but in the interior of the studio, Gorannson is a teacher and shows the process. Favreau also heard about him from Donald Glover since Gorannson had scored “Community” and that is how the collaboration for Childish Gambino seemed to happened. Gorannson won Grammys for Record & Song Of The Year for it.

It almost seems that they are underplaying his greatness and possibility of what he has accomplished. Beyond the hip hop and popular music stylings, he has done what “Rogue One” and “Solo” for the most part coudn’t quite do and that is create a whole new sound while not losing what was before it. And yet also not reusing any themes and creating his own. It is a feat, even more so when one hears the story. Gorannson knows how to produce too. But the best piece of footage is on the set of Bryce Dallas Howard’s episode when he brings the first recording of the theme with the flutes to set on his phone. Favreau freaks out and Howard is hit by it too. That is one of the moments when it might have finally become real what they were doing. Music has that power.

A-

By Tim Wassberg

IR TV Review: DISNEY GALLERY – THE MANDALORIAN – EPISODE 6 (“Visualization”) [Disney+]

After the texture of the previous episode with “Practical”, the next episode of “Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian” rightly focuses on “Visualization”. This bridges the gap in how the practical in this area and the technology of something like The Volume have to work together. It is an interesting balance. The initial impression is that it would leave less room for spontaneity and more restriction in terms of planning. It does this but probably can’t work in a lot of productions. It works well here simply because of the visual effects involved. Also the idea of a director being involved in a TV show 2 months before shooting as Deborah Chow, the director of 2 of Season 1’s episodes and also the director of the upcoming “Obi Wan” series relates. She says that this is unheard of in many ways especially in a show like “Mr. Robot” where they had 6 days to shoot an episode. It all comes down to budget and how meticulous something might need to be. There likely will be some spectacular work to come out of this technology but also misfires. It will be interesting to see.

Granted the fact of being able to see the entire episode in a game engine setting before a frame is shot is an interesting one. “Star Wars” is a very specific monster though because of the money involved but Favreau did pick the correct team to do this with. Rick Famuyiwa, whom we interviewed for Dope in Cannes a couple years back, is an unusual choice but makes sense in his love of certain type of movies. Again for re-shoots it is an specific move as Waititi and Favreau discuss overall in terms of adjusting something like “Iron Man” and “Thor: Ragnarok”. But then again these are large movies. The question becomes of those great moments based out of on the set inspiration.. Granted the reality is that Lucasfilm and Favreau did not have to show behind the scents. It could have simply been kept a mystery except within Hollywood. They wanted to show how it is done which speaks to them wanting to inspire another generation coming up. That is the concept of what Favreau is doing. Very few make the transition from actor to indie director to big budget filmmaker to the kind of open minded technology that is happening now. The journey continues to show the way.

B+

By Tim Wassberg

IR TV Review: DISNEY GALLERY – THE MANDALORIAN – EPISODE 5 (“Practical”) [Disney+]

While the previous episode of “Disney Gallery: The Mandlalorian” approached the idea of “Technology” with The Volume, Episode 5 with “Practical” wants to talk about the ideas in a different mode while still maintaining that progression. It can be more adhered to more like a symphony since all of these elements work together in tandem. The first aspect obviously of inherent importance was the approach to the Baby which had to have the right look exactly to sell to the audience. Dave Filoni shows his initial sketches but how it had to evolve. They knew exactly when they got to the right look. Some of the earlier art didn’t look quite right. In addition they had to find the right puppets apparatus and operators. This of course could have failed miserably but Jon and Dave it seems were given adequate oversight and not micro-managed so they were able to bring it together correctly. This is the thought of contention because why could this work and yet there be issues on the feature side. The different might be as simple as film versus TV which is slowly but surely becoming muddled. As a result, the showrunners saw the reaction. While it was referred to in interviews, Filoni and Favreau said how Warner Herzog started directing the puppet almost forgetting that 4 people were controlling it. That is the power of practical.

The same thing could be said of the bounty hunter droid. It seems some of it was CG but the top part spinning round was in fact physical some of the time. One even gets a feeling that this was true in the final melting sequence but enhanced by CG. Favreau also acknowledges wanting to bring these focal points perhaps to characters that were in the original trilogy but were never quite brought to the forefront. The Ugnaut voiced by Nick Nolte is of course a specific example. Nolte it seems was never on set but his voice was pre-recorded. A little actor was able to interpret his voice and move to it which is an interesting but well known tradition. It is her acting that makes the performance work since operators are moving the servos of the face to match the voice. Deborah Chow mentions that in this way the slightly tilt of a head means something. This was inherently rue of the Ewoks back i he day. So much on “The Mandalorian” is intrinsic but it seems that such attention to detail was taken. It is just a matter of maintaining that focus without letting it become rote. If that means limiting the season before it can become stale, that might be an important consideration.

B+

By Tim Wassberg

IR TV Review: DISNEY GALLERY – THE MANDALORIAN – EPISODE 4 (“Technology”) [Disney+]

While the progression of what “The Mandalorian” is, in terms of bigger themes is obviously important, the underlying myth of what allowed it is be realized is part of what makes it work. While never actually spelled out for the most part, in Episode 4 of “Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian”, the use of what becomes known as The Volume is quite intricate and mind blowing but shows how forward thinking the show was in terms of capture. Interestingly enough, the tech advance as far as the main push here came from Jon Favreau, which is ironic having come from his independent background (although that was what George Lucas initially was). It was Favreau’s initial work on “The Jungle Book” and “The Lion King” with photo-realism that set him on this path. The exploration of virtual sets that are mostly done in VR helmets made sense. But having the camera be able to change the background in real time on an actual set as it is being shot is something else entirely…because that means instant rendering in an unbelievable dexterity of HD.

In The Volume with the lighting and the LED projectors there is a sense of what this can actually mean for film making but also one in thinking of how much did the technology actually cost. Favreau speaks to its inception as not proprietary but using game engine technology, specifically Unreal. While this is true, creating this sound stage itself (who knows where it actually is) is interesting for what can come next. It brings to the forefront that all the episodes were shot inside this actual space. No exteriors at at all. That aspect with showing almost natural lighting opens the world up in terms of film making and creating creating new visions. The only thing not clear is how much of the backdrop needs to be shot as a set plate or does the computer build them. Obviously a lot of pre-production needs to be worked on in terms of set extension in practical view and to match the floor. In a sense it becomes a large form of theater.

But that said, it makes these types of science fiction shows much more doable in an increasingly controlled environment but with no post budget almost per se since everything is done in camera. This texture is undeniable in many ways of course. But does it make the films better. Ultimately that is people. Even Carl Weaters talks about the fact that if you can respond to something directly in front of you and not green screen, it makes the scenes and acting more organic. While the episode reflects back that Lucas wanted to do something similar and tried as much as he could in the prequels, it has come to fruition. You see a little bit of Lucas’ reaction but not as much as you would have hoped.. But again, with such advances, it will be interesting to see how it changes the industry, especially with what is happening now in the world. Strife despite its hardship sometimes brings along great innovation

A-

By Tim Wassberg