Vader’s Castle of Horrors: Terrifying Tales Reviewed

Beginning its promotional campaign at the start of August, the October 1st release of LEGO Star Wars: Terrifying Tales on Disney+ launched a month-long build-up to the annual kid-friendly festival of all things scary, and with this being the eve of All Hallow’s Eve we thought it was the perfect time to share our thoughts on this first-of-its-kind special.

Mirroring the long history of Hallowe’en specials that began with It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown in 1966, which – just like Terrifying Tales – was The Peanuts’ third special, this latest addition to the less-than-canonical LEGO Star Wars universe follows on from LEGO Star Wars: Holiday Special, the 2020 sequel to the original and legendary Star Wars Holiday Special.

“The idea to do a Halloween special sprung directly from the LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special and all the success that came of that on Disney+,” executive producer Josh Rimes of Lucasfilm told StarWars.com. “Much like holiday specials of the past, we started thinking about, ‘What else from our childhoods do we remember?’ And it was very natural to go to Halloween.”

“Back when I was a kid, that was the thing. They had these holiday specials and you grew up with that. That seems to have fallen away at a certain point, I’m not really sure why. It’s pretty cool to be able to give that to a younger generation.” said director Ken Cunningham to StarWars.com.

Unlike last year’s Holiday Special which linked the festive season to Life Day, this latest addition lacked a comparable Star Wars occasion and so leaned on the Tales from Vader’s Castle mini-arc that IDW Publishing published in their Star Wars Adventures comic book series in 2018. And like the comic series, Terrifying Tales is not meant to be taken seriously, so Star Wars purists can put away their soapboxes.

Set after The Rise of Skywalker, Poe Dameron and BB-8 find themselves marooned on Mustafar where they discover that Fortress Vader has been converted into a less-than-luxurious resort by Graballa the Hutt. Offering to fix their spaceship in return for endorsing the hotel, Graballa sends Dean, his mechanic, to effect the repairs.

Taking its name from the collected works of Edgar Allen Poe, Terrifying Tales is an assemblage of three stories told by Vaneé, the simpering majordomo of Vader’s fortress, who regales his guests at Chateau Vader with three non-canonical stories while they wait for Dean to finish: “The Lost Boy” is the story of how a young Ben Solo meets Ren and his Knights; “The Dueling Monstrosities” imagines how Darth Maul and General Grievous were reborn; and “The Wookiee’s Paw,” is a “what if” look at what might have been if all of Luke Skywalker’s greatest wishes were immediately granted.

Vaneé’s story-telling narrative is drawn from the length and breadth of the Skywalker Saga, giving fans of all three generations something to enjoy, particularly adult fans who are treated to a surprisingly large number of Easter eggs that reference esoteric Star Wars lore and a digital promotion campaign that was inspired by classic horror movie posters.

While it isn’t scary in the traditional hide-behind-the-sofa sense, there are some aspects of the special that may unsettle its youngest viewers who aren’t used to seeing their favorite Star Wars characters being chased by zombie battle droids or become confused by alternate stories that contradict what they know about the Star Wars universe.

That said, executive producer Jason Cosler recognized that the core audience was kids, going on to point out that today’s kids are also smarter and more sophisticated than ever. “I think kids like to be scared a little bit! Once they realize there’s nothing to be scared of, it becomes kind of fun,” he explained in an interview with StarWars.com.

Taking up the challenge for a second time, Canadian animation studio Atomic Cartoon (whose videography includes the LEGO Jurassic World television series) utilized the same graphic engine that generated LEGO Star Wars: Holiday Special, and voice performances from Tony Hale (Vaneé) and Christian Slater (Ren) were a level up from the usual cast of voice actors trying to sound like their more famous on-screen performers.

Despite the special’s Dark Side storylines and color palette, the Light Side shines through via the wisdom of Poe Dameron and the heroes in each of the stories, while the humor that has been imbued into the 45-minute show helps to chase away any long-lasting spooky vibes, making it palatable with the younger audience that it is intended for.

Cleverly digging into the mythology of Star Wars and paying homage to the Hallowe’en specials that came before it, Terrifying Tales is a well-woven yarn that combines the required tropes with interesting twists, adds plenty of beloved Star Wars characters and locations, as well as pays respect to a number of essential horror movies.

From the perspective of a parent, following the success of Star Wars: Visions, Terrifying Tales is a much more approachable Star Wars experience for children but whether or not it will have the nostalgic longevity of the venerable Charlie Brown special remains to be seen.

With its positive messages and whimsical humor, Terrifying Tales ticks all the boxes that kids – whether wittingly or not – look for and its overall theme of recognizing and conquering fear is a particularly appropriate lesson.

“You can’t control fear, but you can choose what to do with it. Because without fear, you can’t have courage.”

Poe Dameron in Terrifying Tales

Produced by Atomic Cartoons, the LEGO Group, and Lucasfilm Ltd, the special is exclusively available to subscribers of the Disney+ streaming service now.

Entertainment Earth

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