If the idea of an animated Star Wars show seems like kids stuff, now may be the time to fire up your nearest binge-watching droid to catch up on “Star Wars: Resistance” before the series begins its season one finale.
In “No Escape: Part 1,” there’s about to be a pretty serious disturbance in the Force. The episode airs Sunday night on Disney Channel but you can check out our exclusive clip now in the player above.
“Star Wars: Resistance” tells the story of Kazuda (“Kaz”) Xiono, a young pilot recruited to spy on the expanding threat known as the First Order. His undercover assignment takes him to the planet Castilon and the Colossus, a giant floating fuel stop defended by a group of racing pilots known as Ace Squadron.
Along the way Kaz (Christopher Sean) encounters a host of friends, foes, droids and aliens including ace pilot Torra Doza (Myrna Velasco), mechanics Tam and Neeku (Suzie McGrath and Josh Brener), and former Rebel pilot and war veteran Jarek Yeager (Scott Lawrence). “Saturday Night Live” alum Bobby Moynihan, Donald Faison (“Scrubs”) and Stephen Stanton (“Rogue One”) are also series regulars.
Kaz’s season one story arc -- taking him from goofy spy to burgeoning Resistance hero -- has always resonated personally with executive producer Athena Yvette Portillo.
“This was my first time being an executive producer,” explains Portillo. “It’s the kind of thing where I’m just trying to learn the process, making a few mistakes and being a little clumsy. But then after a few years, you get to the point where you’re like, ‘alright, I got this.’”
In the Star Wars timeline, Resistance parallels the 2015 movie “The Force Awakens.” Characters from the big-screen -- including Poe Dameron, Capt. Phasma (voiced respectively by Oscar Isaac and Gwendoline Christie), Leia Organa and BB-8 -- have made appearances.
Fans of “The Force Awakens” already know the movie takes a bleak turn when the First Order fires up their planet-killing Starkiller Base. On Sunday’s episode, that seminal event is seen through Kaz’s eyes.
“It does get a little dark, but it also really fuels his passion to make a difference and to figure out a solution to stop the First Order,” said Justin Ridge, one of the show’s executive producers.
The lead up to the big moment features an animated version of Gen. Hux’s fiery speech from “The Force Awakens.” Portillo says producers simply lifted actor Domhnall Gleeson’s lines from the movie.
The episode marks a heavy turning point for a series that -- despite being intended for kids watching Disney Channel -- still got knocked by a few fans for initially being too silly and lighthearted for Star Wars.
As the season progressed, however, tensions between the good guys and the First Order have risen along with the stakes, giving the show a more traditional Star Wars feel.
“We want to make a show that’s interesting to us,” said Ridge. “We feel if it’s something that’s interesting to us, and something that we want to see over and over again, we’re hoping fans will feel the same.”
Portillo and Ridge say Resistance is designed to be a Star Wars story that appeals to new and hardcore fans alike.
“It’s a show for all ages, because we were all kids when we first watched ‘Star Wars,’” said Portillo.
Portillo got her start working on animated Star Wars projects thanks in part to an old license plate on her car that read “JEDI 96,” a nod to the year she started as a Lucasfilm intern.
That plate caught the attention of animation guru Dave Filoni, who at the time was the supervising director on the “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” series. Portillo was working on the film “Strange Magic.”
“He goes, ‘well, obviously you’re a nerd, so why are you working on a show about fairies when you should be working on Star Wars with me?’” Portillo recalled, laughing.
Portillo and Ridge hint that -- just as a few Easter eggs from another TV series called “Star Wars: Rebels” popped up in the 2016 movie “Rogue One” -- fans just might see parts of “Resistance” cross over to future films or live action shows.
”There are things that fans will be very excited about,” Ridge said. “Obviously, we don’t want to give away too many secrets.”
Ridge and Portillo -- both veterans of Lucasfilm Animation -- say one of the rewards that comes with the job is hearing from Resistance fans who appreciate the diversity of the onscreen characters, and the actors behind them.
“We have so many viewers from different backgrounds. And to have characters that they feel they can relate to? It’s just so great to see that,” said Ridge, noting the #SWREPMATTERS hashtag some fans use online to call attention to minority representation issues in Star Wars.
“When I first watched Star Wars I was five years old,” Portillo said. “I watched it in a theater with my dad, and to be able to have the opportunity to create content that you can then show to a new generation of Star Wars fans is very exciting to me.”
There’s more of that content on the way. “Resistance” has been renewed for a second season that will air in the fall.
Star Wars, Lucasfilm, Disney Channel and ABC News are all owned by parent company Disney.