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NOC Review: When Grogu Met the Soot Sprites

It’s been three years since the first-ever Star Wars live-action series, The Mandalorian — as well as the platform it lives on, Disney+ — debuted. In celebration, viewers received a little treat, by way of a collaboration between two beloved studios.

Word initially got out that something was in the works between Lucasfilm and renowned anime studio, Studio Ghibli, when on Thursday, the latter released a clip on their Twitter account, showing their respective logos. One day later, Ghibli got a little more specific on who the collaboration would be focused on, when they tweeted a photo of a little statue of the much adored Grogu, with the studio’s co-founder and celebrated director, Hayao Miyazaki, looking on from the blurry background.

All was confirmed when the Disney+ Twitter revealed the poster for a hand drawn short film called Zen — Grogu and Dust Bunnies, and that it would be coming out on the streaming service in time for the third anniversary.

The three-minute short, directed by Katsuya Kondo, doesn’t have too much of a plot, but it does answer a question that, perhaps, no one thought to ask: What would happen if Grogu and the soot sprites — anthropomorphized soot spirits of Miyazaki’s invention, as seen in My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away — met?

The encounter would be nothing short of adorable, of course! With a score by Ludwig Göransson — the song having last been heard in The Mandalorian second season finale, when Din Djarin removes his helmet — Grogu is, at first, hesitant of the little spirits when they interrupt his meditation. He first attempts to walk and then run away from them, his movements reminiscent of Mei in Totoro, before eventually warming up to them.

Zen — Grogu and Dust Bunnies comes just over a year after the release of the first season of Star Wars: Visions, where several anime studios did their own short films set in the galaxy far, far away.

This collaboration between Lucasfilm and Ghibli, however, feels especially appropriate, when the former has drawn on inspiration from works of the latter for so long. Dave Filoni, executive producer and executive creative director of Lucasfilm, has even discussed in the past on how he drew inspiration from another Ghibli film, Princess Mononoke, for the likes of the character, Ahsoka Tano, as well as for the creatures of his invention, the Loth-Wolves (as seen throughout the final season of Star Wars Rebels).

To see the two studios come together to create this short film feels full circle, and while there is no word on whether they’ll collaborate again in the future, let’s hope this won’t be the last.

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