The sixth short in Lucasfilm’s animated anthology project Star Wars: Visions Vol 2. is entitled “The Spy Dancer,” and was created by France’s Studio La Cachette (Day Trip to the Aquarium of Doom, Primal). The concept of this gorgeous piece of hand-drawn animation is clearly drawn from various sources, including the 1972 film Cabaret and the 1966 musical on which it was based.
“The Spy Dancer” takes place in a lavish nightclub frequented by members of the Imperial armed forces, including stormtroopers and officers. These troops are welcomed into the club by a young girl named Hétis (voiced by Kaycie Chase from the 2016 Peanuts TV series) and seated in the enormous high-ceilinged dining area for the show, which is being put on by the titular dancer Loi’e (Killing Eve’s Camille Cottin)– who is secretly working for the rebellion. The plan is for Loi’e to plant homing devices on the various Imperial agents in the audience during the show at the behest of a rebel tinkerer named Jon (Lambert Wilson from The Matrix sequels), but Hétis wants to do more– take out the Empire and its occupying forces instead of just tracking their movements. Regardless, Loi’e convinces Hétis to follow the more restrained plan for now, and the show goes off without a hitch until she notices a familiar silhouette in one of the opera-box seats. This moment of recognition triggers a flashback to twenty years earlier when Loi’e had her child stolen by an Imperial officer, and it also causes her to stumble during her high-flying ribbon performance in the present.
Thanks to the help of Hétis, she recovers, but she still tells all of her allies to flee, and then makes an attempt on the life of the man in the opera box. But as her blade goes for his throat, she realizes he’s not who she initially thought he was. This leads to the climactic revelation that Loi’e’s kidnapped son has grown up to follow in his abuctee’s footsteps, becoming a feared officer for the Empire. The story itself is quite dramatic, but the real draw in “The Spy Dancer” is the jaw-dropping animation, which had me gasping at its ingenuity and originality like the members of the audience at the club. Beyond Cabaret, this short also brings to mind the real-life “spy dancer” Mata Hari, who operated in France during the first World War. But some of my favorite things about it were influenced directly by the Star Wars franchise, like a stunningly rendered KX-series security droid and an adorably diminutive alien conductor who mutters “I have a bad feeling about this” in his native language. This is a really beautiful, outside-the-box example of what animators can come up with when given free reign to operate in the Star Wars playground.
My Vol. 2 ranking so far:
1 – “I Am Your Mother”
2 – “Screecher’s Reach”
3 – “The Spy Dancer”
4 – “In the Stars”
5 – “Sith”
6 – “Journey to the Dark Head”
Star Wars: Visions Vol. 2 is now streaming in its entirety, exclusively via Disney+.