Lucasfilm’s Julie Kogura: On Star Wars Animation, Galactic Builders, and the Neurodiverse Community

Julie Kogura Lucasfilm
Image credit: Lucasfilm

In its second season on Star Wars Kids YouTube channel, Galactic Builders seeks to be a Force for change in kids’ lives in partnership with FIRST Robotics Competition. The first episode features Star Wars Animation Associate Post-Production Manager Julie Kogura. Her journey to an amazing career at Lucasfilm was so inspiring, we wanted to know more. Julie shares her experiences working on the critically acclaimed seventh season of The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels and talks about being a member of the neurodiverse community.

Fangirls Going Rogue: What moment (or moments) from Star Wars ignited your passion for Star Wars?

Julie Kogura: My passion for Star Wars began when I worked on a Star Wars special at Jimmy Kimmel Live! Our whole crew was excited about it, and I mean “over the top” excited.   Their enthusiasm made me curious.  In order to satisfy my curiosity, my Dad (A big Star Wars fan!) watched all the Star Wars movies with me, so I could understand “the universe.” From there, I was hooked!  Star Wars created a great bonding experience between my dad and I. It has also forged a bond between my niece, who is 8 years old (Another Star Wars fan!), and me.  We laugh, but it’s true, when we say the Force is strong in our family.

FGGR: In your Galactic Builders episode, you explain your role as Associate Post-Production Manager at Lucasfilm Animation as Quality Control (QC). “Quality Control” is a common term in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). Can you explain a little about the concept as it relates to your job? Do you have processes – like checklists or specific routines – to ensure quality? And how long is the post-production process from start to finish?

JK: When I QC an episode, I follow a rigorous process.  I complete specific routines on each episode. I view initial content, check for time codes, review music, color, and sound. I find the QC part of my job to be both fun and challenging because we have multiple episodes in various QC stages from multiple shows happening at the same time. For example, one episode could be going through music, another episode going through color correction, and a totally different episode delivering that same day.  Due to these multiple stages of QC, the post process for one episode takes a few months.

FGGR: You mentioned doing the QC for The Clone Wars Season 7 #CloneWarsSaved Trailer for San Diego Comic-Con. You have also worked on Star Wars Rebels, Star Wars Resistance, and The Bad Batch. What are the unique challenges of working on an episode of a show compared to a trailer? Is one more daunting than the other?

JK: Although working on a trailer and a show have the same work processes, it is more daunting working on a trailer.  When I work on an episode, I want to make sure our deliverable meets the enjoyment and expectations of our fans.  In delivering a trailer, I not only want to ensure the enjoyment and expectations of our fans, but want to go beyond.   I love the suspense when it comes to trailers, and I enjoy seeing the reactions from both faithful fans and newcomers!

FGGR: In Galactic Builders you talk about your experience with the learning disability hyperlexia and echolalia. I have auditory processing dyslexia and over the years have learned ways to ensure that doesn’t impact my engineering work. For instance, I always repeat numbers back and prefer face to face discussion because reading lips can compensate for what my hearing misses. As you noted in the episode, you have developed strengths like a strong memory that you bring to your role at Lucasfilm Animation. Why do you think it’s important to share your experience, particularly with kids? Do you have other strengths you didn’t have time to discuss on the episode?

JK: I feel it’s important to share my experience with kids because when I was young, I felt alone with my disability.  It was something I chose not to talk about because I was embarrassed. Painfully, I remember a few teachers putting me down and questioning if I would make it in high school or college.  My initial thought was I wanted to prove them wrong.  As time went on, I felt I only had to prove to myself that despite my learning disability, I could accomplish whatever I put my mind to.  I think it’s important to share with kids, especially those with disabilities, that they are not alone.  We are different, and that’s okay.

Another strength I don’t believe I mentioned in my episode is that hyperlexic people have a fascination with numbers, letters, and words. At Jimmy Kimmel Live! this particular interested enabled me to initiate a process whereby I organized, placed barcodes, and instigated tape processing for their vault. At Lucasfilm, this fascination has enabled me to enjoy and easily work with time codes and credits.

FGGR: As a member of the neurodiverse community, how do you communicate to your bosses and fellow employees about the ways you approach work differently?

JK: I think it’s important to be upfront and truthful about the way I approach work differently.  It’s helpful when my managers and coworkers understand where I’m coming from, and we work together to find solutions.  For example, one time my manager asked me to take notes for a meeting. I was nervous.  I never did this before, as throughout my academic career, I was assigned notetakers.  My manager taught me a way to take notes, which made me feel comfortable with this task going forward.

Thinking back, it was nice to have an intuitive manager, who taught to my learning style without me disclosing my disability.  Due to my manager’s management style, it made my environment feel safe to disclose my disability to her and others.

FGGR: Circling back to your work on Star Wars animation, besides The Clone Wars Season 7 trailer, do you have any scenes that you worked on that really spoke to you as fan?

JK: In Star Wars Rebels Season 4, I thought it was really cool when Ezra opens the Jedi portal.  The animation and sound design were awesome!

Ezra Sabine Portal
Ezra and Sabine face the portal in Star Wars Rebels

FGGR: Anything else you’d like to add?

JK: I would like to add that I believe in Newton’s Third Law of Motion which is, “For every action there is a reaction.” We can’t control what happens in life, which could be the action, but we can control our reaction. In other words, this disability has posed many struggles for me, but through my determination and perseverance to fulfill my aspirations, I’m able to do so.

Be sure to check out Julie Kogura’s episode of Galactic Builders, out now on Star Wars Kids YouTube Channel or watch it below!

For more on FIRST Robotics Competition, check out their website. Also, Tricia Barr interviewed FIRST Senior Manager for Brand Marketing over at FANgirl Blog.

FIRST Robotics and Lucasfilm Partner For STEM Inclusion

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