The High Republic initiative began amid the pandemic in 2020. It has increased its presence with the mass public consciousness in just two short years. First was the 2020 VR game Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge and the 2021 DLC Last Call, including segments during the High Republic Era featuring Jedi Ady Sun’Zee. Then, during The Game Awards in 2021, Lucasfilm and Quantic Dream released a teaser trailer for Star Wars: Eclipse, a game that will take place during The High Republic. The game has since faced controversy surrounding Quantic Dream’s founder, David Cage, but is progressing in development.
Still, the teaser exploded in popularity and publicity and announced The High Republic era to the gaming community and beyond, which has continued with Star Wars Jedi: Survivor. A significant part of Cal Kestis’s story revolves around a discovery and characters from The High Republic.
While these have been exciting steps towards mainstream notoriety outside the publishing initiative, most have excluded our youngest Star Wars fans. So while older fans may eye roll over an animated series aimed at young children, this show is much-needed for this audience.
Starting at the Beginning with the Beginning
Young Jedi Adventures is the first animated Disney and Lucasfilm series targeting toddlers and preschoolers.
And it makes perfect sense for Lucasfilm to start at The High Republic, where the Jedi were at their peak, and there were plenty of Younglings around to learn from them. And so, here we are with seven episodes and 14 stories introducing everyone to Jedi Younglings Kai Brightstar (Jamaal Avery Jr.), Lys Solay (Juliet Donenfeld), Nubs (Dee Bradley Baker), and pilot Nash Durango (Emma Berman with her droid RJ. The team heads to the Jedi Temple on Tanoo, tasked by Master Yoda to explore, learn from others, and grow as young Jedi.
Except for Nubs (voiced by the ever-present Dee Bradley Baker), the voice actors of the young adventurers are all children, which includes the main antagonist, pirate Taborr Val Dorn. Taborr’s hench children are a Gamorrean (genius decision to create a baby Gamorrean) and a droid.
Including Master Yoda also makes sense, as he is currently the main constant between eras. Maz Kanata is also alive during this time, but Yoda has the more recognizable (and toy-friendly) face. But the primary Jedi Master is Zia Zanna, voiced by Nasim Pedrad. Both act as mission control for the young team, sending them out on the episode’s adventure.
Use the Force Sparingly and with Purpose
Throughout the series, the Younglings get in situations where the Force would greatly benefit them. And the writers indicate which instances require the Force and which are inappropriate. The Force is used to help save lives and property but not to cheat in a race against Nash’s rival, Raena.
Even though Nash tells Raena that her friends are Jedi, so they are “definitely going to win,” Master Zia and Kai tell Nash that the Force is used to help people, not cheat in a race. Having a natural advantage in life would be tempting for anyone to utilize in less than honorable ways. Nash is a talented pilot in her own right and does not need her friends’ powers to win.
Yes, the Force and lightsabers appear regularly (this is, after all, a show about Jedi!). But the use is tied to lessons from their training sessions, which apply to their adventures.
Sometimes it is a little too on the nose, as when Kai faces the EXACT situation from training when he battles Taborr and has to let go of something meaningful to him to save Nubs in “Yoda’s Mission.” It probably works for toddlers who might not pick up on more subtle connections, but it will be a deja vu for older viewers.
It is also worth noting that Kai, Lys, and Nubs often need to work together to achieve things using the Force and cannot lift heavier items alone. In a franchise where sometimes the rules of what the Force can and cannot do varies depending on the show, it is nice to see clear limits of the Younglings’ skill sets.
Beyond Good and Evil, Respecting Nature, and Other Lessons
Like most content for young viewers, the stakes are relatively low, and the antagonists are never genuinely threatening. Taborr, who we never see the face of, bothers Kai enough for the Youngling to dress a practice droid in his likeness to fight, spurring some intervention from Master Zia in “The Jedi and the Thief.”
Kai and Taborr’s rivalry mirrors Master Zia and her relationship with pirate Ace Kallisto (voiced by Tig Notaro), which is adversarial but cordial. It does not hurt that Jedi in Star Wars has a history of teaming up with pirates and thieves when their goals align.
Besides Taborr, the series’ closest character to a straight villain is Raxlo in “Forest Defenders.” Raxlo, who resembles a Gozzo (a chicken-like creature that first appeared in Star Wars Resistance), cuts down valuable trees on the planet Federian, trees that also are the home of the native Skriffles. The kids try to give Raxlo the benefit that he didn’t know he was destroying the creatures’ homes, but, like our world, he does not care about the results of deforestation.
Creatures are a large part of Star Wars, especially in young readers and Middle-Grade novels, so it is no surprise that they are a significant part of Young Jedi Adventures. Most of the knowledge about Star Wars creatures comes from Lys, the Pantoran Youngling, who has a deep love and knowledge of creatures.
And so, the other Younglings and viewers learn a lot about the ecosystems of the planets they visit and the connections to our world. In “Creature Safari,” the young Jedi accompany Aree, a droid from the Galactic Society of Creature Enthusiasts, to the planet Yamradi. When a newly discovered bird-like creature takes Aree’s assistant (also a droid), Lys tracks it to a burrow, which she explains is a hole in the ground where creatures can live, including some birds.
Most importantly, the Younglings in the High Republic learn about and from the communities they serve. Kai, Lys, and Nubs learn from the traditions, culture, and habitats of the worlds they visit. And they learn from each other.
These are all valuable takeaways for young children to prepare them for the future. Consider giving Young Jedi Adventures a watch if you are a Star Wars fan with a Youngling of your own. The creative team, from the voice actors, writers, animators, and composer Matthew Morgeson bring something new and unique to the Star Wars canon.