Even with a serious thematic message, Thomas made sure to integrate some moments of whimsy as well, including Crux’s interaction with a mole-like creature during his climb out of the pit. “We were working with Skysound and I wanted the character to be really cute,” Thomas says. “I heard the first pass in the sound mix, and it sounded great, but I asked, ‘Could we make it a little cuter?’ It needed to sound intelligent and cute at the same time, as if the mole had a language. I wanted people to feel that it knew what it was doing. It’s actually trying to help him. Skysound was like, ‘Oh you want cute? Say no more!’ What they came back with was perfect.”
All across Lucasfilm, different colleagues and departments came together to support Thomas, including other Lucasfilm Animation creatives who acted as consultants like art director Kilian Plunkett and cinematography lighting and visual effects director Joel Aron. “It’s a little different from the other Visions projects,” says Thomas. “This film is credited to Lucasfilm and D’ART Shtajio together. Even Human Resources was involved in helping walk me through how to be a director but also keep my day job. Everyone had to figure it out, and that was the beauty of it. We got the synergy of the company behind this little idea that I’d had at home.”
Thomas was also able to collaborate with professionals from the wider industry, including composer Daniel Lopatin, with whom he enjoyed in-depth conversations about music philosophy. “I wanted the score to match the nostalgic aesthetic of the film and Daniel was perfect for that,” notes Thomas. “He’s a master at using analog and 1980s instrumentation. Because this film is so different than other Star Wars films, we wanted the score to feel different as well.” One of his favorite moments comes during the final chant of “follow the light,” when the actual pulse of the dialogue was timed to match Lopatin’s percussion score and the effects created by Skywalker Sound.
Thomas also partnered with a core group of voice artists including Anika Noni Rose, Daveed Diggs, Jordyn Curet, Cedric Yarbrough, and Steve Blum (Thomas himself even provided some background voices). “One of the reasons we wanted to work with these actors is that they’re all very good at doing different voices,” explains Thomas. “We couldn’t justify having too many actors, especially with such little dialogue. We needed people who could do different characters in different styles. Anika, for example, does several background characters in addition to the main ones.”
The opportunity for Thomas to write and direct “The Pit” is an example of Lucasfilm’s distinct culture of possibility, and one that Thomas hopes will set a precedent for more storytellers to come. “I don’t take it for granted,” he concludes. “This doesn’t happen very often, and I’m very appreciative. A lot of people ask me about how I was able to do this. Of course, I hope that others can do the same thing. It’s also a very delicate thing. We all have ideas here and we have to respect the process. For storytellers here, as long as people respect their own job and the jobs of others, and they’re truly passionate and develop their craft—as long as people respect and understand that, we’ll be in great shape. We’re pioneers here. That’s what George started. It’s about not being afraid to take risks and try things.”