The magic of Star Wars lies not only in what we see on the screen, but also in what went into the creation of this galaxy far, far, away. I learned the following facts and much more interesting behind-the-scenes info watching the documentary Light & Magic on Disney+. This 6-part series is 100% worth the time for fans of special effects, technical artistry, and the spirit of perseverance!
Here are six interesting tidbits regarding the creation of the original Star Wars trilogy films (Episodes 4 through 6)
1 – Luke Starkiller
George Lucas originally scripted Luke’s last name as Starkiller, not Skywalker. He changed his mind to something less “dark side-ish.” Good change, George. (Fans of the sequel trilogy may be familiar with the First Order’s Starkiller Base from Episode VII: The Force Awakens.)
2 – The Millennium Falcon
Han Solo’s famous hunk-of-junk was originally supposed to look a lot like the Rebel blockade ship seen at the beginning of Episode 4: A New Hope. However, the sci-fi film Space: 1999 had recently been released, and featured a ship similar to the blockade runner. Lucas wanted the Falcon to look unique, and he challenged his ILM artists to create something more flying saucer-like (but not too much like a flying saucer). Put a couple plates together, offset a cockpit, add two front mandibles, a satellite dish, and some pipes, and there you go. Instant icon!
3 – Walking on Snow
The AT-AT (short for All-Terrain Armored Transport) walkers on Hoth in Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back were originally conceptualized to look more like tanks. Lucas wanted them more creature-like in nature. His ILM artists pivoted from tracks to legs, and modeled the walkers after the extinct baluchitherium – an ancient mammal ancestor of the modern-day rhinoceros.
4 – Potatoes (and Shoes?)
In creating the asteroid scene in The Empire Strikes Back, artists saved some money on the special effects budget by strategically substituting several rocky-looking potatoes for actual hand-crafted asteroid rocks. They even snuck in a doctored shoe! The scene moves so fast, the substitutions are not even noticed by most viewers (unless you know where to look).
5 – “Boba Fett? Where?”
While the special effects team was planning and test-filming the speeder bike chase scene from Episode 6: Return of the Jedi, they used actual Star Wars action figures as the stand-ins. Luke was placed on one bike, and Boba Fett on the other (the biker scout toys hadn’t been created or produced yet). I would have loved to see that showdown!
6 – Revenge
Master Yoda is careful to warn Luke that feelings of revenge are very much in the realm of the dark side of the Force. George Lucas recognized this as well. During development of Return of the Jedi, Lucas originally used the film title Revenge of the Jedi. He wisely thought better of it and steered away from the negative connotation that would become associated with his Jedi hero.
Light & Magic goes well beyond just the Star Wars films. It dips into the Indiana Jones films, E.T., and many other sci-fi and fantasy gems. It’s well worth the watch!
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