With ‘Star Wars: Visions” ‘Sith,’ Spanish Studio El Guiri Looks to Break the Mold
A veteran of Pixar, Blue Sky, and DreamWorks Animation, Spanish creative Rodrigo Blaas brought two decades of Hollywood experience to Madrid when he co-founded his own studio, El Guiri. And so, when Hollywood came knocking, Blaas answered with a bit of Spanish flair.
“Some opportunities put you in a place to embrace the unknown,” Blaas says. “I saw it myself, watching Brad Bird come into Pixar and kind of break the system there. That’s what I wanted to do; I wanted to come up with something that could break the mold.”
More from Variety
Cate Blanchett Set a Rule for Hiring Crew After Realizing on Set 'There Are 62 Men and I'm the Only Woman': 'You Must Interview a Woman' and a 'Person of Color'
'Lost in Perfection' Is Live Action Debut for Animation Director and Former Journalist Sung Hsin-ying
CinemaChile Taps Ximena Baeza as New Executive Director (EXCLUSIVE)
That something is “Sith,” a 14-minute short, commissioned by Lucasfilm to serve as Season 2 opener for the anthology series “Star Wars: Visions.” Written and directed by Blaas, and developed and produced fully in-house at El Guiri, the lauded short premiered earlier this month on Disney+ and will screen as part of a Spanish animation showcase at the Cannes Film Festival.
Blaas took inspiration from his daughter and from the rich tradition of Iberian visual culture when coming up with story of a Sith apprentice who forges her own destiny using both lightsabers and art. He walked the short stretch of Madrid between Prado and Reina Sofia museums, thinking about the visual heritage he grew up with, and shaded those familiar lightsabers in the style of El Cid’s tizona sword.
“We had be respectful,” says Blaas. “So that fans could latch onto designs that are familiar to this world. But we also needed to be bold, in order to bring a different vision and something new.”
“There’s a simplicity to that iconic imagery,” he continues. “When you’re in school, drawing destroyers in sketchbooks, you’re doing big triangles next to big circular planets. They just become these circles of color, and I connected that to the artists who inspired abstract painting.”
Like a blank canvas enlivened by wild splashes of color, “Sith” creates a more impressionistic space, with backgrounds and details not always rigidly defined, and textures meant to evoke brushstrokes.
“I wanted the audience to fill in the gaps, to give them just enough information so they actually help puzzle the frame,” Blaas explains. “If we’re going to explore the force through painting, then the process is involves making mistakes and spilling a color and actually using that spill to break up and create something else. And we could actually embrace those mistakes and scratch the frame and use this mixed media where it’s not all 3D in the same 3D environment.”
“Lighting was also a huge deal,” he continues. “With physical lighting, you can create volumes and paint almost the frame with what you want to show and when you want to leave less defined. It part of that choice to embracing mistakes and CG forms counterintuitive to my upbringing at Pixar or ILM, where you’re looking for perfection in every frame. This was part of a conscious choice to go the other way, to see if that lends some artistic value and a different point of view.”
The Madrid-based El Guiri (that’s local for ‘the tourist’) is one of leading Spanish studios forging greater bonds with international partners. “We want to be part of the vision and to be connected to creative choices right from the very beginning,” says Blaas. “[Studios like ours] should be part of the conversation early on, not just offering a service. We can actually shape the visuals and connect the look to the story. That’s what we did with ‘Sith,’ and that’s where we can push the medium forward.”
Best of Variety
Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.