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Star Wars: Master & Apprentice: A Peek Inside with Author Claudia Gray

15 hours 3 min ago

It’s been twenty years since we first met Qui-Gon Jinn and his apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, but there’s still more to be explored in the story of Jedi and Padawan.

To celebrate the arrival of Star Wars: Master & Apprentice, the new novel out now, StarWars.com recently sat down with bestselling author Claudia Gray to get a glimpse at what this novel has in store for readers, from the Padawan problems of their early relationship to a deeper look at the treasured lore at the heart of the Star Wars saga.

Note: This interview does not contain detailed spoilers regarding the plot of Master & Apprentice, but it does shed light on its characters. Tread carefully!

StarWars.com: To begin, I’ll ask about your short story – also entitled Master & Apprentice – for the anthology Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View. When you wrote that piece, did you anticipate an entire novel about Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi?

Claudia Gray: When From a Certain Point of View came up they asked who I’d like to write about in A New Hope. I told them Qui-Gon! Though he wasn’t in the film, of course, I said I could show them how it might work. Though I didn’t anticipate writing a novel at that time, I had been saying to Lucasfilm Publishing that I would love to write about Qui-Gon in case there was ever a chance. I did not expect this book-length story to come along so quickly.

StarWars.com: Up until this point you had written stories in the original and sequel trilogy eras. Princess Leia was a central character in a number of your stories. Now you were moving into the prequel era with Qui-Gon. Is he a close second to Leia as your favorite character?

Claudia Gray: Well it’s all very hotly contested! Qui-Gon is certainly one of my favorites. We get so little of him in the films. It seemed there was so much more to tell with this idea of a Jedi who was not in lockstep with the Jedi Council. As the events of the prequel trilogy go on, we realize that the Jedi have sort of lost their way. Where does that leave Qui-Gon? It was a fascinating viewpoint to try and portray, if we could do it.

StarWars.com: Readers spend a lot of time with Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan together. What was it like exploring the ups and downs of their relationship?

Claudia Gray: It was one of the things I wanted to get into the most. It’s interesting to see Obi-Wan when he doesn’t have it all together yet. In the films he is much surer of himself. But what does that look like when you’re 17? He and Qui-Gon have different ways of doing things. It’s not a natural fit, and they have to work on it. Yoda reminds Qui-Gon that if he wasn’t having trouble with his Padawan then something would be wrong. Taking an adolescent through these big life changes is a little rocky. But that rocky patch has gone on a bit too long with Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan and their relationship is in peril.

StarWars.com: How did your understanding of these characters evolve throughout your writing process?

Claudia Gray: Young Obi-Wan does things by the book. Some people interpret that as a lack of courage or originality. But of course that isn’t the Obi-Wan Kenobi we all know. So what beliefs drive him in that way when he’s young? He follows the rules because he’s convinced they’re the right thing and represent real wisdom. They’re valuable teachings that are both procedural and spiritual.

With Qui-Gon, I became interested in his self-doubt about whether he was failing Obi-Wan. It’s his role to teach him. Qui-Gon is someone who takes that responsibility and wouldn’t blame the student. He’d look for the answer in himself first.

StarWars.com: This reminds me of the moment in The Phantom Menace when Obi-Wan apologizes for his forwardness, to which Qui-Gon responds that his Padawan is a “much wiser man” than himself.

Claudia Gray: This book was an opportunity to layer in more depth around those brief moments we see in The Phantom Menace.

StarWars.com: The issues of slavery in the galaxy have a major role in the story. How did this topic come to be included?

Claudia Gray: In The Phantom Menace, Qui-Gon is both very compassionate and at the same time can tell Shmi Skywalker, “I didn’t actually come here to free slaves.” The Jedi have a mandate to follow. They work within parameters. With the kind of power they have, to rule directly is too dangerous. So we wanted to see Qui-Gon dealing with his feelings about slavery. He questions why the Republic hasn’t done much about policing it. It’s a question that I myself ask, too. At this point the Republic is past its prime, and from The Phantom Menace on those cracks will start to show.

Claudia Gray

StarWars.com: Of course, we also have Rahara Wick and Pax Maripher, two characters that have a fresh dynamic in the form of an escaped slave and a person raised by protocol droids. Where did that inspiration come from?

Claudia Gray: The germ of it probably came from the TV show Elementary. You have Sherlock Holmes, and a female, more no-nonsense Watson character. It started there, but then Rahara and Pax came into their own forms. I needed one to have slavery in their background to show what the impact of those practices could be. Rahara’s personality grew out of that. Pax was a know-it-all, but then I wondered why he was like this? As he grew up, his only patterns of behavior were set by characters that behaved like C-3PO! I had so much fun writing Pax and I hope the readers enjoy him. I also love the idea of having them be jewel “thieves” (they’re not quite thieves) in space. You should just have glamorous jewel thieves in everything.

StarWars.com: Rael Averross is a new example of an independent-minded Jedi. We’ve seen other examples of this from Count Dooku to Anakin Skywalker and of course Qui-Gon. What makes Rael stand out?

Claudia Gray: Rael was Dooku’s apprentice before Qui-Gon. He became a Jedi Knight not long before Dooku took on Qui-Gon as a new Padawan, so Rael became a friend and informal mentor to the young man. Rael is also a character that hints at some of the issues that Anakin will have later. He was 5 years old when he joined the Order, considered too old by some. Rael can’t fully acclimate to the life of a Jedi like those who don’t have any memories before the Order. So he doesn’t try to fit in. He defines himself more and more by what he isn’t. That defiance can work constructively, but it does skirt him towards the dark side. He has an oppositional mindset. Of course, Dooku cultivates that to the max.

StarWars.com: It’s the 20th anniversary of The Phantom Menace this year. This book is among other new stories that point to the prequel trilogy era. How does it feel to contribute to this era?

Claudia Gray: If readers are able to see more layers in The Phantom Menace, more depth in the characters and their interactions, then I’ve done my job. I just want to add things, but at the same time make the additions feel like they could’ve always been there. Hopefully it feels like a natural part of Qui-Gon’s journey.

You can order your copy of Star Wars: Master & Apprentice now.

Lucas O. Seastrom is a publicity writer at Lucasfilm. He grew up on a farm in California’s Central Valley and is a lifelong Star Wars and Indiana Jones fan.

Fans Were Out in Full Force at Star Wars Celebration Chicago

Fri, 04/19/2019 - 07:50

Fans came to Star Wars Celebration Chicago from all over the world. Some live just a couple of hours away in a town in Illinois, some made the trek from the east and west coasts of the United States, and some even settled in for hours on a plane from places as far away as England, Spain, and Japan. The one thing that surrounds them and binds them all together? Their love of the galaxy far, far away.

Steve Jackson didn’t have to go far to reach the bustling halls of the convention center from Chicago, being from the Windy City area himself. But it was his first ever Star Wars Celebration, he said. To mark the occasion, Jackson dressed as the striking Count Dooku, and the resemblance was uncanny.

Jackson represents the 501st Legion’s Midwest Garrison and his take on the mysterious Count rightfully turned heads and camera lenses on the show floor. He told StarWars.com about what caught his eye on the show floor. “I’m enjoying the large props,” he said. “I’m enjoying the photo opportunities, and I’m a member of the 501st so I’m enjoying that particular area, as well. I’m meeting a lot of people.”

Also local to the area, the Kowalski family from Oswego, Illinois, weren’t there for their first Celebration — it was their sixth! With mom Diana, dad Chris, five-year-old Ben, and nine-year-old “super fan” Jude, each dressed in creative costumes as Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy, John Williams, George Lucas, and J.J. Abrams, respectively, it’s plain to see that every member of the family is a Star Wars fan.

“It’s been a great experience so far,” Chris said on just the first day of Celebration. As parents unable to wait in long overnight lines, Diana said, she was thrilled with the new lottery system in place for Celebration’s biggest panels. “We’re very excited we got in for The Mandalorian panel,” she said. “We never would have been able to actually wait in line, so we’re thrilled about that.”

Illinois residents Maricruz Rojas and Rose Tintera also didn’t have to go far for Celebration, but that doesn’t mean they were any less excited. Delightfully decked out in fuzzy Wookiee Mickey ears, Rey-inspired ensembles, and glittery Star Wars accessories and buttons galore, it’s no surprise that the two were smitten with the costumed attendees at the show.

“Everyone dressed up in cosplay is just so amazing, and everyone is so creative. There’s swag, props, everything!” said Rojas.

“[It’s] our first time here. We didn’t expect all of this, but it’s amazing,” agreed Tintera.

The queen of dressing up at Star Wars Celebration just might have been Queen Amidala herself, cosplayer Kelly Coffman, who donned an intricate, beaded gray gown. Coffman, also known as Eveille Cosplay, painstakingly sewed and assembled one of Padmé’s most regal and iconic looks from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. The Pennsylvania-based cosplayer drew an adoring crowd befitting royalty everywhere she went on the show floor.

“I made the whole costume myself,” Coffman told StarWars.com. “I started in the summer of last year, worked on it a few months, then took a small break and finished it up for C2E2… It took me about 500-600 hours to build everything, and everything is from scratch, the beading, just all of it. I tried to make it as screen accurate as I could, so I did a lot of research on the materials.”

The debut of the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker trailer was her favorite moment of Celebration, she said, and the moment was very emotional. “It was amazing!” she recalled. “I was in [the arena] so I got to see everyone on the stage, see the trailer, get chills, and cry. Everything.”

For George Kostal in particular this Star Wars Celebration was unforgettable. The Connecticut-based fan, who was attending his second Celebration, runs a Twitter account dedicated to General Veers of The Empire Strikes Back called Veers Watch.

Kostal decided to take a chance on meeting Andi Gutierrez, co-host of The Star Wars Show, after she interviewed actor Julian Glover on the live stage. “I had actually been hoping to meet her for most of the convention because she was an early follower of Veers Watch,” he said. After returning to the stage when the show was winding down, Kostal luckily flagged down Lucasfilm producer Scott Bromley, who insisted on introducing him to Andi.

“It was really just the coolest thing,” said Kostal. “She was so nice and great to talk to, and then while we were talking [Star Wars Resistance’s] Christopher Sean — another Veers Watch follower! — actually came by after filming his interview to say hi to her, so I got to meet him as well.”

Of course, Celebration wouldn’t have been complete without meeting his hero. “Beyond just meeting everyone, [another favorite moment has] got to be going back to see my good man [General Veers actor] Julian Glover, getting his autograph on a few more things,” Kostal said. “I found a Veers storyboard at the Prop Store of London, and I picked that up for myself. Very happy! It’s been great.”

From dazzling costumes, to memorable panels, to meaningful moments, to meeting Star Wars heroes, there really is something for everyone at Star Wars Celebration. Who knows what your favorite moment might be at Star Wars Celebration Anaheim in 2020?

Visit StarWars.com’s Star Wars Celebration Chicago hub for panel recaps, interviews, and more.

Kelly Knox is a freelance writer who loves creating Star Wars crafts with her daughter. Follow her on Twitter at @kelly_knox.

The Clone Wars Rewatch: Boba Fett Sets a “Death Trap”

Thu, 04/18/2019 - 05:55

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and the all-new episodes coming thanks to #CloneWarsSaved, we’re undertaking a full chronological rewatch of the five original seasons, The Lost Missions, and the theatrical release. We’d be honored if you would join us and share your thoughts on the award-winning series.

42: “Death Trap” (Season Two, Episode 20)

“Who my father was matters less than my memory of him.”

Synopsis:

Determined to kill Jedi Master Mace Windu, young Boba Fett poses as a clone cadet and sneaks aboard a Jedi cruiser to plant a bomb in Windu’s quarters, but the plan goes awry.

Analysis:

You almost feel bad for Boba Fett here. A clone but not a clone trooper, son of Jango Fett but not really a son in the traditional sense.

Orphaned and alone, he’s being raised up by the ruthless bounty hunter Aurra Sing to be little more than a killer without a conscience.

Posing as a common cadet to get his revenge on Mace Windu, the Jedi who murdered his father on Geonosis, as Lucky, he blends right in aboard the Jedi cruiser with the exception of his exceptional shooting skills.

Lucky looks harmless enough to invite pity from the clone troopers who lead him directly to Windu’s quarters and effectively (although inadvertently) help to lay the trap that kills one of their own.

But his anger leads to hate, and his hate leads to suffering — for Windu, for the soldiers aboard the Endurance, for the cadets who he and Aurra Sing left for dead, and for himself.

Traitor.

Intel:

  • When the Endurance suffers a hull breach, one of the troopers caught in the blast lets out a “Wilhelm scream,” a sound effect that dates back to the 1930s and has been used in every Star Wars film.

What did you think of the episode? Tell us in the comments below and share on social with #CloneWarsRewatch!

Next up: Come back next Thursday when R2-D2 saves the day in “R2 Come Home.”

Associate Editor Kristin Baver is a writer and all-around sci-fi nerd who always has just one more question in an inexhaustible list of curiosities. Sometimes she blurts out “It’s a trap!” even when it’s not. Want to talk more about The Clone Wars? Hop on Twitter and tell @KristinBaver what you thought about today’s episode.

SWCC 2019: 6 Things We Learned from the Star Wars Resistance Panel

Wed, 04/17/2019 - 09:55

As Star Wars Celebration Chicago neared its end, fans were treated to a lively, joyous discussion from the cast and creators of Star Wars Resistance. Host David Collins — who’s also the show’s sound editor — welcomed to the stage showrunner Justin Ridge, Executive Producer Athena Portillo, and Head Writer Brandon Auman, as well as voice actors Christopher Sean, Suzie McGrath, Scott Lawrence, Myrna Velasco, Donald Faison, and Bobby Moynihan to reminisce and to tease the show’s upcoming second season. Then attendees got an extra special treat: a private screening of the Resistance season two premiere and a teaser poster which included two pieces of amazing artwork!

Here are six of our favorite moments and anecdotes from the panel.

1. Season Two, much like The Last Jedi, will pick up right where the previous episode ended. Although you will have to wait to see for yourself, we can tell you the new season gets off to an incredible start. Making their way through hyperspace en route to D’Qar, the Colossus crew gets more than they bargained for: systems malfunctions, artificial-gravity fluctuations, fuel shortages, and even a meddling droid belonging to the First Order. After season one’s shocking finale, you definitely don’t want to miss what’s next.

2. Resistance began with a simple question: What was happening before The Force Awakens? Showrunner Justin Ridge recounted an early meeting with Dave Filoni, where Filoni (who called him “Padawan”) showed him some early concept art by both Art Director Amy Beth Christenson and Tokyo’s Polygon Pictures Inc., with whom Lucasfilm produces the series. From the start, Filoni, Christenson, and everyone else involved wanted Resistance to have a colorful, vibrant look to it. They also wanted to pay tribute to the work of seminal Japanese animation projects like the films of Hayao Miyazaki and Super Dimension Fortress Macross, a.k.a. Robotech: The Macross Saga.

3.The series was essentially born at Skywalker Ranch. The earliest writers rooms for Resistance took place at Skywalker Ranch in 2016, after most of the characters had been created in concept art. Under the guidance of Filoni, things started to take shape answering two more big questions: How might the everyday citizens of Castilon feel about the rise of the First Order? How could fan-favorite heroes like Leia Organa and Poe Dameron provide a bit of connective tissue between Resistance and the larger storytelling universe?

4. The show’s characters are the heart of the series. In creating Kazudo “Kaz” Xiono, they wanted a hero who was spectacularly gifted in the air but, like a bird, a little awkward and ill-equipped to deal with things on the ground. Actor Christopher Sean was quick to point out that Kaz would be nothing without the other members of Team Fireball. “Except Tam,” he joked, grinning at costar Suzie McGrath. Showrunner Justin Ridge wanted a character who could be both heroic and funny, and Sean nailed that balance during the audition process.

5. Nobody loves the characters of Star Wars Resistance like the folks who play them in the voice-over booth, and their passion is infectious. “I became an actor because I wanted to be in Star Wars,” said actor Donald Faison. “I wanted to fly the Millennium Falcon — y’know what I mean?” McGrath called playing Tam Ryvora “a dream come true….She has such a feisty drive and sense of humor.” Scott Lawrence joined the world of Star Wars VO when he voiced Darth Vader in a number of video games years ago; he’s been pleasantly surprised by how quickly fans have embraced his Resistance character, a veteran pilot named Jarek Yeager. “He’s gotten quite a complex story,” Lawrence said. “I wish I could be as cool and good looking as he is.”

Saturday Night Live alum Bobby Moynihan insisted that there’s no bigger Orka fan than him. “As a lifelong Star Wars fan, the style of this show is one of the coolest things ever,” he said. “And the representation is the greatest.” Moynihan recalled having a rough time with the audition, worrying that he wouldn’t get the part; he was thrilled when he got called back.

6. And the Resistance cast is like a family. Myrna Velasco, who absolutely embodies the virtues of her character, Torra Doza, said she loves getting to work alongside so many talented female performers. “We’re all dangerous women on this show,” she said. She also has a special relationship with fellow Mexican-American actor Jason Hightower, who plays her father in the series, Captain Doza. The two of them often have long conversations in Spanish, which in turn strengthens the familial relationship they portray on-screen.

Visit StarWars.com’s Star Wars Celebration Chicago hub for all the latest Celebration news.

Alex Kane is a journalist based in west-central Illinois. He has written for Fangoria, Polygon, the website of Rolling Stone, Variety, and other publications. Follow him on Twitter at @alexjkane.

Site tags: #SWCCPanel, #StarWarsCelebrationChicago2019

The Art of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order Book Announced

Mon, 04/15/2019 - 19:19

Take a closer look at the journey to Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order with a new art book that reveals the design process behind the highly-anticipated video game.

The Art of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, hitting bookshelves this fall, will be published by Dark Horse Books, in collaboration with Lucasfilm, Respawn Entertainment, and Electronic Arts.

With detailed concept art of all-new characters, like our hero Cal Kestis, and locales both familiar and new, the book offers a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the video game, including intimate artists’ commentary. Learn more about Cal’s perilous journey across the galaxy as he battles foes and learns the ways of the Force on his quest to rebuild the Jedi Order.

The Art of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order goes on sale November 19, 2019, and is available for pre-order through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Things from Another World, and at your local comic shop.

StarWars.com. All Star Wars, all the time.

SWCC 2019: New Tales from Vader’s Castle Series Announced, Jaxxon Returns, and More from the IDW Publishing Panel

Mon, 04/15/2019 - 16:58

IDW Publishing, purveyors of charming all-ages Star Wars comics, revealed new storylines and art today at Star Wars Celebration Chicago.

Among the biggest announcements was that writer Cavan Scott will be taking a return trip to his creepy and acclaimed Tales from Vader’s Castle, with a new series launching this October. In addition, a box set of the original comics is on the way.

Jaxxon, the rabbit-like smuggler from Marvel’s original Star Wars comics, is back in Star Wars Adventures Annual, courtesy of Cavan Scott and Mauricet. The book features a cover by the great Stan Sakai — himself the creator of another iconic comics rabbit.

Check out Sakai’s cover below, along with IDW’s Free Comic Book Day offering — coming on May the 4th — and more from the panel!

Visit StarWars.com’s Star Wars Celebration Chicago hub for all the latest Celebration news.

StarWars.com. All Star Wars, all the time.

Site tags: #StarWarsCelebrationChicago2019, #SWCCNews

SWCC 2019: 9 Highlights from the ILM Model Shop Panel

Mon, 04/15/2019 - 16:53

For more than 40 years, the hardworking talents behind the curtain at Industrial Light & Magic have been conjuring worlds and rewriting the rules of cinematic storytelling. During Sunday’s Star Wars Celebration Chicago panel, host David W. Collins was joined by legendary modelmaker Lorne Peterson, model makers Bill George, Jean Bolte, and John Goodson, and visual effects supervisor John Knoll as they recounted their decades of experience helping to forge the Lucasfilm legacy. Here are some of the most exciting moments from their discussion.

1. Many of the folks who pioneered the modern visual effects industry got the job out of sheer luck. “I was the right person in the right place at the right time,” Peterson recalled. One day in 1975, he ran into a friend from school while he was working various jobs — he once worked at an auto-body shop — and his old pal asked him to come help out with a project called Star Wars. In the early eighties, model maker Bill George got a job working on films like E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Poltergeist, and he begged for the chance to be part of Return of the Jedi. ILM still has old photos of George dug up a few photos taken during his teenage years, when he and a small group of friends who go Dumpster diving at the ILM lot, hoping to recover bits of exploded spaceship models used on Star Wars and the original Battlestar Galactica. John Goodson began sending letters to ILM at the age of 14, to the point where they politely asked him to stop. He was hired by the studio about a week after his college graduation.

2. Training and information related to VFX was once incredibly scarce.Star Wars altered all of our lives,” said model and creature artist Jean Bolte. “It was so real.” Due to the sense of mystery surrounding how practical effects shots were achieved, would-be artists and filmmakers like Bolte sought out every bit of information they could find — in magazines like CinefexCinefantastique and Starlog — in the hopes of breaking into the industry. “I wanna work there,” Bolte thought, “because they can do anything.” Bill George agreed that his knowledge and skill was not something he learned in a class or in a book, but rather through hands-on experience. “I am who I am today because of the people I worked with,” he said. When you work alongside people like Lorne Peterson, he added, “you can’t help but get better.”

3. ILM models contain some hilarious Easter eggs. The practical model of the Naboo capital, Theed, was a massive 40-by-60-foot affair with lots of artificial grass; as a joke, Goodson snuck a model lawn mower and gas can into the miniature set. Likewise, Bill George thought the Death Star hangar bay in Return of the Jedi resembled a basketball court — so, naturally, he installed a basketball hoop on the wall. “Unfortunately,” he said, “it never showed up on film.” Peterson said he put a micro-sized pin-up calendar in the interior of the Millennium Falcon.

4. Mustafar was a trial by fire for the ILM Model Shop. Slightly larger than half a tennis court, according to Peterson, the main miniature used for Mustafar could be tilted to direct the flow of “lava” along its many rivers of flame. The model was used for about 400 shots during photography on Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, requiring several large crews to manage things like the pumps that generated the lava effect. Theed and the Boonta Eve podracing track were comparable in size, Knoll noted, if not complexity. 

5. Visual effects is a great avenue for anyone to enter the film industry. “To the girls out there: visual effects is a level playing field, so take advantage of that,” Bolte said. “It’s not a boys’ club.”

6. Some CGI shots have surprisingly humble beginnings. Those thousands of spectators at the Boonta Eve podrace in The Phantom Menace? Those are all Q-tips; they’ve just had their white tips painted various colors to create the illusion of crowded stands brimming with life. Some shots have a bit of light digital editing to hide anything that might give the trick away, but there are wide shots of the track where the audience is looking at the original Q-tips themselves. ILM achieved the waterfall shots in The Phantom Menace using granular sugar and salt. (They switched to salt because ants took a liking to the sugar!)

7. According to Knoll, the feature-length documentary The Beginning is perhaps the most authentic window behind the scenes at ILM and Lucasfilm. George Lucas wanted a film crew present at almost every major Episode I meeting, Knoll said, so cameras were a frequent sight. ILM got so used to them being around, they eventually stopped noticing; the result is an incredibly authentic look at the magic of moviemaking. The Beginning “tells a very truthful story,” Knoll added.

8. The advent of computer graphics caused the Model Shop a lot of anxiety in the ’90s. Bolte recalled being one of the first of ILM’s model makers to make the leap to the realm of CGI, and as a result, she feels the best visual-effects artists are typically the ones who understand the strengths and limitations of both methodologies. The best CGI artists, Knoll agreed, are generally ones who started with some form of practical effects.

9. How does it feel blowing up models they’ve spent untold hours making for the sake of a single, quick shot? “That was the best part,” according to Goodson. Bolte agreed. “We love that.”

Visit StarWars.com’s Star Wars Celebration Chicago hub for all the latest Celebration news.

Alex Kane is a journalist based in west-central Illinois. He has written for Fangoria, Polygon, the website of Rolling Stone, Variety, and other publications. Follow him on Twitter at @alexjkane.

Site tags: #SWCCPanel, #StarWarsCelebrationChicago2019

SWCC 2019: 5 Highlights from The Phantom Menace Anniversary Panel

Mon, 04/15/2019 - 15:10

As we approach the anniversary of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, which launched the prequel trilogy 20 years ago next month, filmmakers and cast members joined fans the celebrate Episode I at Star Wars Celebration Chicago.

Celebration itself launched in 1999, just prior to the film’s premiere, and many of the cast members from the then forthcoming movie made their first appearance in Denver, Colorado, during a very wet and muddy event. Two decades later and the excitement for the beginning of the Skywalker saga has not waned.

On Monday, Warwick Davis, who petitioned George Lucas via fax to be included in this first chapter, was joined by fellow cast members Ahmed Best (Jar Jar Binks), Ian McDiarmid (Palpatine), Ray Park (Darth Maul), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), and crew including Visual Effects Supervisor John Knoll, Viewpaint Supervisor Jean Bolte, Design Director Doug Chiang, and Supervising Sound Editor Matthew Wood. Here are 5 of our favorite highlights from the panel.

1. Ahmed Best’s standing ovation. George Lucas has called Jar Jar Binks his favorite character, and the fans seem to truly adore the actor who brought the lovable Gungan to life. When Best walked on stage he was not only greeted by an arena full of applauding fans on their feet, but the crowd even broke into a chant of his name.

2. The cinematic achievements of The Phantom Menace are still a marvel today, but working on the film had its challenges. The panel opened with a vintage trailer for the film, which still looks amazing on the big screen. But during the creation of Episode I, the crew was constantly tasked with pushing the envelope to invent new ways to achieve the effects Lucas was visualizing. Knoll recalled reviewing 3,500 storyboards, “almost every one of which contained something that our pipeline at the time was not capable of doing.”

The film also called for more model miniatures than any other ILM film before it and the use of a new, cutting-edge 3D painting program, Bolte said. “What we’re doing with these things is giving them a story in addition to making them real.”

Chiang was flustered in his first meeting with Lucas, he said. When he realized he was in the middle of a design brief, he grabbed a stack of napkins nearby and started jotting down notes.

3. Matthew Wood, supervising sound editor, revealed that his favorite sound in the film is Sebulba’s podracer. Most of Wood’s job was collecting sound effects, especially for the pivotal podracing scene, which was riding on the soundscape of the race itself. Sound, as Lucas says, is a character in its own right. Wood recorded planes and other motors, but to capture that particular, throaty growl, he needed a Ferrari with some special modifications: the noise is a recording of “a Ferrari that a guy kindly punched a hole through his muffler for.”

Wood, we must note, also landed the role of Bib Fortuna in the film after Lucas spotted him “lurking” in a doorway during a meeting. “You’re kind of skinny and creepy,” Wood recalled being told just before he was sent down to wardrobe to be fitted with prosthetics. “I had to point at a light stand that was eventually going to be Jabba the Hutt.”

Knoll is also in the film as a bearded pilot. ““I’m the only pilot that you actually see get killed,” he said.

4. Ian McDiarmid may be as much of an instigator as his famously nefarious character, Palpatine. McDiarmid thought his days of playing the Emperor were over after Return of the Jedi.  “As you know, Darth Vader chucked me down that tunnel and I thought, ‘Well, that’s the end,'” he said. So when he signed on to return as the mysterious Darth Sidious and Senator Palpatine, he had to keep it under wraps that he was playing the dual role to preserve the surprise even among his castmates.

McDiarmid also made a surprise appearance during the Episode IX panel on Friday. “I just happened to be in the area so I thought I should just drop in for a laugh,” he joked.

5. Ray Park revealed that in his headcanon, Darth Maul has a very different theme — Prodigy’s “Firestarter.” It’s the song he was listening to in preparation for Maul’s big reveal before the duel of the fates.

Visit StarWars.com’s Star Wars Celebration Chicago hub for all the latest Celebration news.

Associate Editor Kristin Baver is a writer and all-around sci-fi nerd who always has just one more question in an inexhaustible list of curiosities. Sometimes she blurts out “It’s a trap!” even when it’s not. Do you know a fan who’s most impressive? Hop on Twitter and tell @KristinBaver all about them.

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SWCC 2019: 6 Surprises from Inside the Mos Eisley Cantina

Mon, 04/15/2019 - 11:42

Mos Eisley cantina expert/effects artist/Regal Robot founder Tom Spina returned to Star Wars Celebration for another installment of his in-depth cantina history panels. “The cool thing about Star Wars is that there’s always more to discover,” Spina explained. He joined stage host Amy Ratcliffe to unveil some rare trivia and even add a small (but important!) addition to the Star Wars lexicon. 

1. Greedo’s alter ego. The most famous Rodian of them all began his life in a slightly different form. That’s Greedo on the left in his earliest form appearing in an advertisement for Birds Eye Peas in the United Kingdom. Makeup artist Stuart Freeborn and his team created this “pea-pod alien” for that commercial production, and recycled the character’s shell and eyes for their later work on Star Wars, adding skin (warts and all) and antennae. Sadly, this commercial has yet to be discovered.

2. Han shot through… Of course, poor Greedo’s fate is known well to us all. But perhaps we’ve been so preoccupied with the order of fire in that fateful confrontation that we’ve missed the fact that Han Solo actually shoots Greedo straight through the table. A stunt dummy was used for the close-up of the blaster explosion portraying Greedo’s untimely end.

3. “Not Usual Looking People.” Meet Ted Burnett. You might know him as Wuher, or simply the bartender of the cantina, with a particular distaste for droids. Burnett was recruited from the so-called “Ugly Agency” in the United Kingdom. The cantina’s unusual denizens weren’t limited to alien species. The actor himself later made his way into a 1985 music video by Godly and Creme.

As an aside, Spina also mentioned that the bartender himself sports an upside keyboard behind the bar! Perhaps for inputting recipes?

4. Not everyone wore a mask. Ted Burnett wasn’t the only unusual actor hired to populate the cantina. The late Salo Gardner was another human extra roaming the background. Spina uncovered Gardner’s talent file where Stuart Freeborn scribbled a note to remember his conspicuous ears. Gardner returned to the galaxy far, far away playing Trinto Duaba in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, another cantina patron that Garnder was sometimes confused for playing in the original film.

5. Is that a crocodile? No you’re not seeing things. Apparently, the cantina proprietors collected trophies from our own planet. That’s a gharial, or fish-eating crocodile, which inhabit India. And there it is in Star Wars. But it doesn’t end there. The cantina’s walls also sported a sort of large cat skull along with a mysterious decoration whose own identity has eluded Spina. He seems to think it’s a fish, or “space fish,” if you will.

6. A new addition to the Star Wars galaxy. The Gotal species — sometimes known simply as “goats” — are well known to many fans even beyond the cantina sequence. In a rare production photograph, Spina uncovered a Gotal character that had never been separately identified. It was decided that this alien would be named in tribute to a lucky fan in attendance at the panel.

Leland Chee — Lucasfilm’s Keeper of the Holocron — made a special appearance to craft an original name inspired by the fan’s name. That winner turned out to be Kenneth Haynie, a name which Chee quickly morphed into the one and only “Hennet Kayn,” now officially recognized as a denizen of the Mos Eisley cantina. Welcome to the galaxy far, far away, Hennet Kayn!

Visit StarWars.com’s Star Wars Celebration Chicago hub for all the latest Celebration news.

Lucas O. Seastrom is a publicity writer at Lucasfilm. He grew up on a farm in California’s Central Valley and is a lifelong Star Wars and Indiana Jones fan.

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SWCC 2019: Marvel’s Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge #1 Art and More Revealed

Mon, 04/15/2019 - 10:56

Star Wars Celebration Chicago attendees got a peek into the future of Star Wars comics — no Force powers required. Matt Martin of the Lucasfilm Story Group, Tom Groneman (assistant editor ), writers Greg Pak and Ethan Sacks, and cover artist John Tyler Christopher gathered for a discussion on their work thus far and what’s to come. Here are the biggest announces and insights.

1. Marvel’s upcoming Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge series will take us inside the infamous outpost. The comic, which ties to the upcoming Star Wars-themed land of the same name, sounds like an essential read for those excited about visiting. “It’s a five-issue series,” said Matt Martin, “and it will introduce you to Dok-Ondar, who is the antiquarian at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.” The book will show how Dok-Ondar came into possession of some of the artifacts we’ll soon see for ourselves, in person. But one item might not be safe. “There is a criminal gang out to plot a heist for a very specific object there,” Ethan Sacks teased.

2. Black Spire Outpost, as it appears in the comic, is impossibly accurate to its real-world inspiration. While showing a spread of the Star Wars-themed land in the comic, Sacks said the creative team worked with the Lucasfilm Story Group and Walt Disney Imagineering to get it right. “A lot of what you see — the settings and the people, are straight out of the park. It’s very authentic.”

3. Greg Pak is taking the reins of Marvel’s flagship Star Wars comic. His run kicks off with issue #68, with Phil Noto on both interior and cover art duties. “Dream come true,” Pak said. “I’m trying to write the Star Wars movie that I’d want to see.”

4. Pak is currently writing eight issues in the Age of Rebellion series of one-shots — but he might have a favorite. “I love them all, but I have a special affection right now for the Boba Fett one,” he said. “It’s like a badass bounty hunter Western story. Boba Fett, I think he says three words through the whole thing.” The story has a Man With No Name feel, Pak explained, where no one’s really sure of his motivations.

5. We’ll finally see Janitor Finn. Several Age of Resistance books (the series will cover four heroes and four villains) were revealed, including Finn #1, which is set during the Resistance hero’s earlier days in the First Order on Starkiller Base. “I don’t think we’ve seen too many tales outside of the films or outside of the comic adaptations starring Finn,” said Tom Groneman, assistant editor. “You’re going to see the germination of the idea of finding his morality within the ranks of the stormtroopers of the First Order. A glimmer of the hero he might end up being.” The reveal received a round of applause — especially for Martin’s spoiler that we will see Finn performing his janitorial duties.

6. Is there a story to tell from Rey’s journey to Ahch-To? Rey #1 from Age of Resistance was announced, and Groneman teased the tale inside. “Maybe there was a pit stop for Rey and Chewbacca on the way to seeing Luke after The Force Awakens…”

7. The Phasma faithful are going to be very happy. The cover to Phasma #1 was shown, along with some stunning pages, in what looks to be an action-packed story. “It really is just Phasma being a merciless terror. It’s almost a horror story,” said Martin.

More comics from Age of Resistance were also discussed, including Poe #1, which features “an unexpected mentor from his past” according to Groneman, Hux #1 (“This is the Hux story we deserve. It’s great.”), and more, which you can see below.

8. In Age of Resistance #1, we’ll learn how hair is dyed in a galaxy far, far away, according to Martin. ‘Nuff said.

9. Target Vader #1 is coming July 2019, and with it, a character from Star Wars comics past. Valence, who first appeared in Marvel’s classic Star Wars #16 in 1977 as a cyborg bounty hunter with a vendetta against Darth Vader, is the story’s central figure. “This is a deeper dive into the criminal underworld, and it’s all about Valence and a crew of bounty hunters coming together to pull an impossible job, really: hunting down the Dark Lord of the Sith.” His look has been updated, but with nods to his original outfit. And Groneman promises that Valence, a skilled fighter, will be more than a match for Vader.

10. Doctor Aphra begins a new story arc in May. And it sounds like a new kind of challenge for the sometimes good, sometimes bad archaeologist. “We’re gonna see a little bit of her growing up [as a child]. Some of the lessons that she learned as a kid from her mom come into play as she takes on a parental role with a young character.”

Check out more covers and art revealed at the panel below!

Visit StarWars.com’s Star Wars Celebration Chicago hub for all the latest Celebration news.

Dan Brooks is Lucasfilm’s senior content strategist of online, the editor of StarWars.com, and a writer. He loves Star Wars, ELO, and the New York Rangers, Jets, and Yankees. Follow him on Twitter @dan_brooks where he rants about all these things.

Site tags: #StarWarsCelebrationChicago2019, #SWCCPanel

SWCC 2019: 9 Things We Learned from the Star Wars: The Clone Wars Panel

Sun, 04/14/2019 - 18:44

Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the beloved animated series, is not only saved — it’s alive and well. In a panel today at Star Wars Celebration Chicago, Dave Filoni, supervising director on the series, actors Ashley Eckstein (Ahsoka Tano), Dee Bradley Baker (Rex and all the clone troopers), Sam Witwer (Darth Maul), and more of the cast discussed the return of the show — and offered a glimpse of what’s to come when it debuts on Disney+. Here are 9 things we learned, along with many of the images shown, including concept sketches from the original production of the show, new character designs, and stills from upcoming episodes.

1. Ahsoka and Darth Maul will have an “epic” lightsaber duel — and the Sith Lord actor himself, Ray Park, helped bring it to life. As much as the Obi-Wan versus Maul fight in Star Wars Rebels was brief, Dave Filoni was determined to make Ahsoka’s battle with the Sith Lord a big one. “This one had to be among the best [duels], if not the best, we ever did,” Filoni said. To achieve this, he went to someone who’s actually been in a lightsaber duel. Filoni called Park, and the actor, who played Maul in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace and Solo, performed motion-capture for the sequence. “When you see Maul fighting, it’s going to really be Maul fighting,” Filoni said.

2. Ahsoka is going to the infamous level 1313 of Coruscant, where she’ll encounter two new characters: sisters Trace and Rafa Martez. They’ve lived a very different life than Ahsoka, and hold a different perspective on the Clone Wars. Fans received a first look at the sisters in character turnarounds, which you can see above. “These stories have surpassed all of my expectations,” Ashley Eckstein said.

A thrilling clip was shown — with Ahsoka sporting her newly designed jumpsuit, meant to echo her Star Wars Rebels outfit — in which her speeder bike malfunctions, sending the former Padawan plummeting into the depths of Coruscant, eventually stopping at level 1313.

3. The journey of Ahsoka continues. When we last saw Ahsoka in The Clone Wars, she had left the Jedi Order for an unknown path. “How does she react to everyday life?” Filoni said of the challenge facing her now. Indeed, in The Clone Wars, Ahsoka is a teenager — and not yet the wise, mature leader we see in Star Wars Rebels. “For me, it’s about her [moving] toward the person you see in Rebels.”

4. Completing “The Siege of Mandalore” was special for Filoni. Many of the story elements stem from ideas hatched by Filoni and George Lucas. “It’s been very important for me to keep the DNA of what we were doing alive in this whole thing, that it feels authentic to Clone Wars.” Filoni noted that the arc was a challenge, as the scale is massive, but he’s happy with what they’ve achieved. “It’s something fulfilled that I never got to do, and I feel really good about this one in particular.”

5. Maul is getting a makeover. The villain’s new look takes some visual cues from his appearance in Solo.

6. Sam Witwer, voice of Maul, is especially excited about “The Siege of Mandalore.” “It’s my favorite stuff that we’ve ever done as the character, and Dave wrote it personally,” he said. The actor was truly shocked upon reading the script, and offered some hints. Witwer said that Maul is stuck in a cycle — obsessed with vengeance and always trying the same thing. “What I found most interesting about this arc is that, for a second, he tries to think his way out of it. He tries something different that he’s never tried before, or since, and we see how that goes.”

7. The Bad Batch take on a lot of battle droids, and it’s something to behold. In another clip shown to fans, this squad of unique clones run head-first into battle, each using their own special skills — and easily dispatching an impossible number of clankers. “I have such fondness for this A-Team clone gang,” said Dee Bradley Baker.

In a separate clip made from pre-viz animation, Anakin takes Ahsoka to go meet Rex and his outfit of clones. They’ve all painted their helmets in tribute to Ahsoka, in a scene that was emotional for both the character and the talent behind her. “I never, ever thought that we’d be here, watching this scene,” Eckstein said.

8. The influence of George Lucas is still felt. Filoni mentioned Lucas throughout the panel, crediting him as a great mentor and giving him the ultimate credit for why The Clone Wars resonates. “In reality, the reason why it works is that I was taught by the master,” he said. “That you guys like any of this at all, it just shows you how George really knew what he was doing, and laid a foundation that was so alive.”

9. A hint of things to come. The panel ended with a full trailer, featuring tantalizing glimpses of the return of The Clone Wars. We see Ahsoka reclaim her lightsabers (and use them to great effect), some Mace Windu and clone action, Trace and Rafa, and just a sliver of that Ahsoka/Maul clash. Get ready, Clone Wars fans.

Visit StarWars.com’s Star Wars Celebration Chicago hub for all the latest Celebration news.

Dan Brooks is Lucasfilm’s senior content strategist of online, the editor of StarWars.com, and a writer. He loves Star Wars, ELO, and the New York Rangers, Jets, and Yankees. Follow him on Twitter @dan_brooks where he rants about all these things.

Site tags: #StarWarsCelebrationChicago2019, #SWCCPanel

SWCC 2019: 5 Things We Learned at the ILMxLAB Panel

Sun, 04/14/2019 - 15:04

You’ve already seen the first breathtaking trailer for Vader Immortal, a virtual reality experience coming later this year, which made its debut at Star Wars Celebration Chicago. But did you know that Lucasfilm’s immersive entertainment studio ILMxLAB has been developing and experimenting with virtual and mixed reality for years? At Celebration, the team assembled a fascinating panel that offered behind-the-scenes glimpses into the projects we’ve seen from ILMxLAB, along with teases of what we might find in the dark halls of Vader’s Castle on Mustafar.

Moderator Bryan Bishop of ILMxLAB was joined by Director of Experience Development Mohen Leo, Production Coordinator Sarah Barrick, Senior Manager of Talent and Production Julie Peng, Senior Experience Designer Jose Perez III, and Executive Creative Producer Mark Miller to give the packed room a peek behind the curtains of ILMxLAB. Here are five things we learned.

1.There’s a huge difference between mixed reality and virtual reality. “People often lump virtual reality and mixed reality or augmented reality into one,” said Mohen Leo, “and they’re almost completely the opposite. Virtual reality is really about transporting you somewhere different, taking over your whole world, basically… [mixed reality] brings fictional elements in the real world. And fictional elements can be part of your everyday life when you’re going shopping or sitting on the bus. So how do we make Star Wars part of the real world?”

2. While recording lines for Vader Immortal, Maya Rudolph would improvise new ones. Rudolph plays the droid sidekick ZOE3, and delighted ILMxLAB when she would go off-script in character. “She is hilarious,” said Sarah Barrick. “She got into the character so quickly… She practically writes the character herself. She’ll go through and just rapid-fire stuff that we didn’t even think of. She just gives us so much to work with, it really makes ZOE3.”

3. Pablo Hidalgo voices the training droid in the Lightsaber Dojo. “For those of us that work with [the Lucasfilm Story Group],” said Mark Miller, “it was sort of normal because we’d say, ‘We want to do this,’ and he’d say, ‘No, you can’t do that in Star Wars.’” Leo agreed and praised Hidalgo’s deadpan performance.

4. ILMxLAB worked with other Star Wars masterminds at Lucasfilm as the team designed Vader’s castle and the secrets it hides. Vader Immortal is Star Wars canon and closely connects to one of ILMxLAB’s previous Star Wars VR titles, Secrets of the Empire. And that’s not the only connection. The team chatted with Lucasfilm Vice President and Executive Creator Designer Doug Chiang and his group for the Rogue One castle design, said Miller. “It was cool starting there and going up from there,” he said. “We got a lot of inspiration for things that you’ll learn about what’s in that castle, and why that castle was built on that spot, that you’ll only learn in the three episodes of Vader Immortal.”

5. Your pet porg in Project Porg can play with a stuffed Chewbacca doll, chase a laser pointer, and more. Julie Peng recalled losing hours by simply playing with the laser pointer with her porg. Chewbacca and Threepio have entrusted you with the cute critters, and it’s up to you to keep them entertained. Anthony Daniels even returns as C-3PO to guide you through your new life with your porg companion. “It really moves the bar up from something where you’re just interacting with characters to where there’s a little story that’s very fun,” said Miller.

Visit StarWars.com’s Star Wars Celebration Chicago hub for all the latest Celebration news.

Kelly Knox is a freelance writer who loves creating Star Wars crafts with her daughter. Follow her on Twitter at @kelly_knox.

SWCC 2019: 9 Things We Learned from The Mandalorian Panel

Sun, 04/14/2019 - 13:55

The Mandalorian has strolled into our lives, a mysterious figure in a gleaming helmet, a man with no name, his identity hidden by a mask. On Sunday, fans at Star Wars Celebration Chicago were among the first to see finished footage of the character from the forthcoming show, the first live-action Star Wars series slated to premiere on Disney+, responding with cheers and a standing ovation for the gritty and immersive world of bounty hunters, scum and villainy.

Showrunners Jon Favreau, who wrote and executive produced the series, and Dave Filoni, who directed the first episode, were joined by actors Pedro Pascal, Gina Carano, and Carl Weathers as they answered a few questions about their characters and what the series has in store.

Here are nine things we learned during the panel celebrating the arrival of The Mandalorian.

1. The main character’s ship, the Razorcrest, was a practical model, not a computer-generated effect. For the completely new ship, ILM model maker John Goodson built the tiny craft using old-school kit bashing techniques and LEDs for the engine lighting effects. Meanwhile, special effects legend John Knoll crafted a special motion-control rig in his garage so the model could be used for composite shots. It was important to pay homage to the tradition of using practical effects to ground Star Wars in reality, Favreau said, although the idea for the miniature began “for lighting reference.”

“For your desk,” Filoni corrected.

The show is the product of new technology, including virtual reality storyboarding, game engine software, and video walls, Favreau said, “but Star Wars at its core has to feel handmade and like a practical show.”

2. You can expect a mix of new aliens, planets, and starships, plus plenty of familiarity. In exclusive footage shared only with fans in the arena, the crew revealed that the story takes place about five years after the events of Return of the Jedi. In the footage, Favreau promised new planets, new alien races, and other completely unique creations, “but if you’ve been a fan, there’s a lot of care that’s gone in to all of the details,” he added. “We wanted it to feel completely connected and familiar” for fans who have been along for the ride for decades, he said, and that means peppering in recognizable aliens, droids, and stormtroopers. In a separate clip introducing a montage from the series, fans glimpsed a Kowakian monkey-lizard roasting on a spit, an IG unit, and other familiar aspects of the Star Wars galaxy we know and love.

3. Fans were invited in to be a a part of filming behind and in front of the camera. Favreau said one of the prerequisites he set out before hiring directors was that everyone leading an episode had to have been a Star Wars fan first.

A one point during filming, he realized they didn’t have enough sets of stormtrooper armor to complete a shot. He and Filoni made some calls and members of the Imperial fan cosplay group the 501st Legion answered, arriving on set for filming much to their surprise. Normally when the group is called in, it’s for a parade of another event. “It’s not normal that you show up on a planet where there’s a Mandalorian,” Filoni said.

Carano was impressed by the level of detail they achieved in their costuming. “These people are legit,” she said.

“And what was really crazy about it was they worked really hard,” added Weathers. “They were on point the entire time.”

Now those fans have a coveted collectible. “The minute they left that day all their armor was screen-used,” Filoni said. “So that was pretty cool.”

4. Pedro Pascal was inspired by the actor behind the Man with No Name in creating the titular “incredible, iconic” character. “He’s got a lot of Clint Eastwood in him,” Pascal said, in the style of western heroes and samurai. The star of the new show was a devoted student ahead of filming, calling Favreau for tips on what to watch and getting a list of homework including classic gunslinger flicks and Akira Kurosawa films. But honestly, Pascal said he would have auditioned for any role in the series, dramatically resting his head on the table in front of him as he talked about what it felt to be told he had the lead. Star Wars was an important part of his upbringing and he had trouble putting into words how it feels to be a part of the franchise he’s loved for so long. “I was shaped by these movies,” he said. “Fantasy fulfillment. That’s what it’s like.”

5. Gina Carano plays a former shock trooper named Cara Dune. “I know, not what you were reading online,” she quipped to the audience. “I was watching all of you.” The production called for the most secrecy of any job in Carano’s career, she said, finally getting to describe her character to the public as “a bit of a loner, which isn’t a far stretch” who struggles with reintegrating into society.

It’s the opposite of how she felt upon being welcome by the Star Wars crew. “Oh my gosh I get to be a part of a whole other family.”

6. Carl Weathers plays Greef Carga, the head of a guild of bounty hunters. And in the grand tradition of Star Wars lore, it all starts with a job. “He’s looking for someone to go after a product he wants to bring to a client that’s worth a lot and that’s very valuable. And guess who he finds?” Weathers said. “He finds a bounty hunter named “Mandalorian…and the Mando does what needs to be done.”

“Of all the things I’ve been involved with, I don’t think anything has come close to this,” Weathers added about the experience. “This is insane, OK?”

Sunday was the first time Weathers had seen finished footage of the show. “How can you not react to that?” he said afterward. “It’s beautiful hearing the fans react to it.”

7. Both Weathers and Carano did many of their own stunts. “The only person that didn’t have any fun was Gina’s stunt double,” Favreau joked, because they hardly got to work. Instead, when a scene called for Carano to carry a wounded comrade off a battle field, she did it herself, moving a real person, not a dummy, much to the surprise of some bystanders on set. “I’ve been doing my squats so this is good,” she said.

8. The show will mark many firsts. It’s the first live-action Star Wars series, and the first time Star Wars has been filmed in the United States, with production on set in Los Angeles.

9. But it’s not the first time Filoni and Favreau have collaborated — they were each other’s test audiences for Iron Man and Star Wars: The Clone Wars, respectively. The two revealed they met working at Skywalker Ranch and called upon each other to be the first to review these projects more than a decade ago. Favreau went on to voice the character of Pre Vizsla, a fearsome Mandalorian warrior wielding a dark saber, on the animated series. Now they’re almost ready to reveal their newest collaboration to the world.

Associate Editor Kristin Baver is a writer and all-around sci-fi nerd who always has just one more question in an inexhaustible list of curiosities. Sometimes she blurts out “It’s a trap!” even when it’s not. Do you know a fan who’s most impressive? Hop on Twitter and tell @KristinBaver all about them.

Site tags: #SWCCPanel, #StarWarsCelebrationChicago2019

SWCC 2019: See New Photos from The Mandalorian

Sun, 04/14/2019 - 12:52

Today at Star Wars Celebration Chicago, Jon Favreau (executive producer and writer) and Dave Filoni (executive producer and director) pulled back the curtain on The Mandalorian — the first ever Star Wars live-action series, coming November 12 to Disney+. Check out several new photos revealed during the panel below, featuring the Mandalorian and our first looks at Greef (Carl Weathers) and Cara Dune (Gina Carano), as well as the official logo.

The Mandalorian stars Pedro Pascal (Narcos) in the title role as a lone Mandalorian gunfighter, alongside Gina Carano (Deadpool), Carl Weathers (Predator), Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad), Emily Swallow (Supernatural), Omid Abtahi (American Gods), Werner Herzog (Grizzly Man), and Nick Nolte (Warrior).

Visit StarWars.com’s Star Wars Celebration Chicago hub for all the latest Celebration news.

StarWars.com. All Star Wars, all the time.

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SWCC 2019: 5 Things We Learned from the Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order Panel

Sat, 04/13/2019 - 20:23

Respawn Entertainment is here at Star Wars Celebration Chicago, and the company has brought something very exciting with them: the story reveal trailer for Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. This is the developer behind Titanfall, the massively acclaimed Titanfall 2, and mega-hit battle royale Apex Legends, and this fall they’re bringing players the first all-story, single-player-only Star Wars game since 2010’s The Force Unleashed II. Saturday’s Celebration panel in Chicago featured a discussion between host David Collins, game director Stig Asmussen (God of War III), Respawn CEO Vince Zampella (Call of Duty), narrative lead Aaron Contreras (BioShock Infinite), producer Kasumi Shishido, and the Lucasfilm Story Group’s Steve Blank.

Here’s what we know about Fallen Order so far.

1. Fallen Order is a single-player experience, full stop. Players won’t find any multiplayer component in this narrative-focused Star Wars game. “Star Wars is part of my DNA. It helped form who I am,” Respawn’s Vince Zampella said. “This is a Jedi fantasy story game: no multiplayer.” At that moment, the entire arena erupted with applause. Fans of classic titles like Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast and The Force Unleashed have been hungering for a story-centric Jedi action game for roughly a decade, and Fallen Order aims to deliver on the promise of Lucasfilm’s story tradition as well as Respawn’s penchant for phenomenal gameplay.

2. Lucasfilm and Respawn spent at least a year nailing down Fallen Order’s world, story, premise, and characters. While director Stig Asmussen and Zampella assembled a crack team of industry vets, producer Kasumi Shishido worked closely with Steve Blank and the rest of the Story Group at Lucasfilm to ensure Fallen Order would align with the established canon. During the panel, Respawn showed off concept art while describing the game’s “slow and steady” pre-production timeline. The project went through a number of iterations while art and narrative found a story worth telling.

Like the best of the films, Jedi: Fallen Order will introduce players to a host of new planets and characters that feel authentic to the rest of the Star Wars universe. “I can tell you that I’m super confident that we’re onto something,” Asmussen said.

3. Fallen Order is all about visceral, one-on-one combat. “They wanted to put a lightsaber in the player’s hand,” Blank said. To that end, Respawn’s designers, engineers, and animators went through a similarly iterative process, developing a combat loop that would empower players with evolving lightsaber abilities and Force powers. But as a Jedi on the run in the wake of Order 66, it was important to achieve a balance: “thoughtful combat” that’s easy to pick up but still allows for a sense of depth. Respawn wants players who spend a lot of time with the game to feel a sense of mastery — of their saber technique and the Force. “It’s not a button-masher,” said Asmussen.

4. Actor Cameron Monaghan plays former Padawan Cal Kestis. Cameron Monaghan of Gotham and Shameless fame portrays Fallen Order protagonist Cal Kestis, a Jedi pupil on the run from the Emperor’s relentless Inquisitors. Kestis works for an organization called the Scrapper Guild, salvaging the wreckage of fallen capital ships in the aftermath of the Clone Wars. Monaghan grew up watching the original Star Wars trilogy on VHS, replaying his favorite Darth Vader scenes until the analog tape started to wear out and grew fuzzy.

“If I told that kid he was gonna swing a lightsaber one day, I think his brain would’ve exploded,” Monaghan joked. During the casting process, Monaghan’s audition clip was placed in a folder marked “Other,” meaning he was unlikely to land the role. But when game director Stig Asmussen saw the video, he knew they’d found their Jedi hero.

5. While the game tells a fresh, original story full of new characters, it also ties into the larger world of Star Wars storytelling. One of Fallen Order’s headlining baddies is the Jedi hunter known as the Second Sister, one of the Emperor’s Sith Inquisitors. She was created by writer Charles Soule and artist Giuseppe Camuncoli for their acclaimed run on Marvel’s Darth Vader, and appeared for the first time in issue #19. Another Soule-Camuncoli creation, the red-eyed purge troopers, will also play a prominent role in the game as elite stormtroopers specially trained to fight Jedi — making them all too eager for the day they finally come face to face with one of the dwindling Order’s last.

Some of the game’s all-new creations include Seer, played by MadTV alum and voice actress Debra Wilson, and a droid named BD-1, whom narrative lead Aaron Contreras based on his own beloved dog. BD-1’s voice has been devised and performed by none other than legendary Star Wars sound designer Ben Burtt.

“[Fallen Order] is an absolute labor of love,” said Story Group’s Steve Blank.

“We’re putting our heart and soul into this game,” producer Kasumi Shishido added, “so we really can’t wait to show you more.”

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order launches November 15, 2019, on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.

Check out more screenshots from the trailer below!

Visit StarWars.com’s Star Wars Celebration Chicago hub for all the latest Celebration news.

Alex Kane is a journalist based in west-central Illinois. He has written for Fangoria, Polygon, the website of Rolling Stone, Variety, and other publications. Follow him on Twitter at @alexjkane.

Site tags: #StarWarsCelebrationChicago2019, #SWCCPanel

SWCC 2019: 8 Highlights from the Rebels Remembered Panel

Sat, 04/13/2019 - 19:44

Star Wars Rebels may be over, but fans at Star Wars Celebration Chicago were reunited with cast members Vanessa Marshall, Tiya Sircar, and Taylor Gray, as well as show runner Dave Filoni, to talk about the fourth and final season.

Here are eight of our favorite highlights from the panel hosted by Amy Ratcliffe.

1. At the end of the show’s run, Tiya Sircar was the only member of the cast to know about the epilogue “for months and months and months.” Sircar received the script on a piece of notepad paper in Filoni’s handwritten scrawl, which he had written on a flight to Los Angeles, he said. “So I read it, I’m like fully shaking, start sobbing like full-on ugly crying,” she said. “It was a big deal…It’s the best secret I’ve ever kept.”

Months later, when the cast gathered for the series finale, Vanessa Marshall was shocked to learn that Hera Syndulla was a mother. “I just recovered last week from how hard you grabbed my arm,” Taylor Gray joked.

2. But Filoni still had some surprises in store for the voice of Sabine. “When I saw Ahsoka I had the same ‘whaaaat?’” she said.

3. Filoni still isn’t ready to explain the world between worlds. “At the end it’s really about fundamentally becoming selfless more than selfish,” he said. “When you’re tempted by the dark side, you don’t overcome it once in a life and then you’re good. It’s a constant.”

4. But he is ready to open up his notebooks. Fans at the panel were among the first to see the cover of the forthcoming Art of Star Wars Rebels book, illustrated by Killian Plunkett, and several sketches and storyboards FIloni made for the the final season as well as the “Twilight of the Apprentice” arc.

5. No one was surprised to see the white wolves. Filoni is famous for his affinity for white wolves, and he even code-named the show for the animals. Incorporating the creatures into the show could be seen as an example of nature’s connection to the Force, he said. But the reason he added them in is pretty simple. “I like wolves.”

“We were waiting for wolves for a long time,” Gray said. So when he read the script when they were first introduced, his first thought was, “The wolves are finally here.”

6. Ezra and Sabine weren’t the only characters who grew during the show. For Marshall, Hera’s journey from focused freedom fighter to multifaceted character was empowering. “There seemed to be a bit of a softening of her heart, which I think was necessary and frankly there’s strength in that,” she said. As she allowed herself to act on her feelings for Kanan, instead of trying to live without the distraction of a romantic entanglement, Marshall said she felt the transition was “emboldening in a way that I wouldn’t have imagined. I think it made her even stronger.”

“She is a mother. She’s a matriarch. She’s a powerful female figure that takes on the role of being a mother to all of them…it doesn’t get represented enough,” Filoni added. “Hera as a general, she represents so many different things and her relationship with Kanan is just part of it that doesn’t define her.”

7. Freddie Prinze Jr. was adamant about Kanan dying in the final season. Filoni said it was important for the show to deal with some serious themes, including the loss of a loved one and Kanan’s selfless sacrifice to save his family. And the voice actor behind the character wouldn’t have had it any other way. “I was like, ‘man, Freddie, this is depressing,” Filoni joked.

8. Thanks to a fan, Filoni finally has his own adventure figure. At Star Wars Celebration Orlando, Filoni lamented that he wasn’t represented in the Forces of Destiny line of adventure figures. So a crafty fan fixed that by creating and gifting Filoni with his own 12-inch mini-me at the panel’s close. The figure was pretty close to the real thing, down to the wolf shirt and the tiny hat, but had some noticeable differences. “I’ve been working out,” Filoni quipped before setting the figure on his shoulder to begin a dialogue.

Associate Editor Kristin Baver is a writer and all-around sci-fi nerd who always has just one more question in an inexhaustible list of curiosities. Sometimes she blurts out “It’s a trap!” even when it’s not. Do you know a fan who’s most impressive? Hop on Twitter and tell @KristinBaver all about them.

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SWCC 2019: 6 Things We Learned from the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Panel

Sat, 04/13/2019 - 19:07

The minds behind Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, the upcoming Star Wars-themed land, gathered for a special panel discussion — “Bringing Star Wars to Life at Disney Parks — today at Star Wars Celebration Chicago. Hosted by Josh Gad, the panel featured Scott Trowbridge (portfolio creative executive / studio leader at Walt Disney Imagineering), Asa Kalama (executive creative director at Walt Disney Imagineering), Margaret Kerrison (managing story editor at Walt Disney Imagineering), Chris Beatty (executive creative director at Walt Disney Imagineering), Doug Chiang (Doug Chiang, legendary concept artist and now vice president and creative director at Lucasfilm), and Matt Martin (creative executive, Lucasfilm Story Group). This preview featured a look at the Hondo Ohnaka Audio-Animatronics figure, new announcements, and much more. Here are six things we learned.

1. You Can’t Beat the Real Thing…at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. You’ll be able to enjoy a Coca-Cola at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge — but one that’s truly in-world. The Coca-Cola Company has collaborated with Walt Disney Imagineering and Lucasfilm to create extremely cool, new bottles for Coca-Cola and other beverages that look like they’d be right at home on Batuu, or maybe in Lando’s fridge. “We wanted something that almost appeared like it was pulled off of a ship or left behind,” said Matt Cooper of The Coca-Cola Company, “and was repurposed as something that you could consume some of your favorite drinks in.”

“We translate the Coca-Cola name in more than 100 languages,” added Brad Spickert of The Coca-Cola Company, “but now, being able to share them for the first time in Aurebesh with this crowd at Celebration truly takes my breath away.” Attendees of the panel went home with a free Aurebesh Coca-Cola T-shirt, inspiring understandable jealousy from host Josh Gad.

2. You may hear and feel the presence of Yoda. And he will be voiced by Frank Oz, Chris Beatty confirmed. Happy to hear this, the crowd was.

3. Figrin D’an is making a comeback. The cantina band from Star Wars: A New Hope has a new song in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge; it was played for the crowd, and sounds just right if you know their past work. But the music of Batuu is varied. Another new song blending techno and hip-hop elements was played, featuring droid sound effects and an inventive, other-worldly arrangement.

Concept art of Oga’s Cantina, featuring DJ R3X. (Disney Parks)

4. Paul Reubens returns as R3X. It was confirmed that the actor is returning to play the fan-favorite droid from Star Tours, who will now be DJing in Oga’s cantina. “No one was more excited than Paul. He was great to work with,” said Margaret Kerrison, noting that Reubens brought a lot of inspiration and even wrote new lines. “You will be thoroughly entertained.”

The Millennium Falcon interior…if you keep it nice. (Disney Parks)

5. She won’t get a scratch…or will she? The Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run attraction promises to put you in control of the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy. But depending on your flight crew’s performance, the Falcon could be worse for wear once your mission is over. “It’s going to look different depending on how you fly,” said Asa Kalama. The iconic hallway of ship will look beautiful and pristine if you did well; if you crashed and took too much fire from TIEs, lights will be broken, you’ll hear sparks and comm chatter about your poor effort. “It’s important to bring the ship back in good working order,” Kalama said. “Hondo’s a phenomenal boss, but he doesn’t take too kindly to those bringing his ship back in rough shape.”

6. You can enter a Twitter sweepstakes for a chance to win a vacation to visit Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland Resort. As announced at the panel, Lucasfilm and parent company Disney, and the global K-12 nonprofit organization FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) are teaming up to inspire the next generation of heroes and innovators. This sweepstakes is meant to help spread awareness of FIRST — go here for full details!

For more on Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, check out StarWars.com’s in-depth features on the making of the land, its food and beverages, and the shops and characters you’ll encounter.

Visit StarWars.com’s Star Wars Celebration Chicago hub for all the latest Celebration news.

Dan Brooks is Lucasfilm’s senior content strategist of online, the editor of StarWars.com, and a writer. He loves Star Wars, ELO, and the New York Rangers, Jets, and Yankees. Follow him on Twitter @dan_brooks where he rants about all these things.

Site tags: #StarWarsCelebrationChicago2019, #SWCCPanel

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Enter Sweepstakes between 4/13/19 at 8:00 AM PDT and 4/22/19 at 11:59 PM PDT. Open to legal residents of the 50 U.S. & D.C., Puerto Rico and Canada (excluding Quebec), who are 13+ at time of entry. Limit 1 entry per person. Visit https://starwars.com/FFCsweeps for Official Rules including details on how to enter, eligibility requirements, odds of winning, prize descriptions and limitations. Void in Quebec and where prohibited.  Sponsor: Lucasfilm Ltd. LLC, 1110 Gorgas Ave, San Francisco, CA 94129.

SWCC 2019: 7 Highlights from the Collectibles Panel

Sat, 04/13/2019 - 17:37

A museum-worthy bust of the queen of Naboo, lightsabers so intricate they look like you could ignite them at any moment, and a towering replica of Chewbacca were just some of the highlights during a collectibles panel hosted by Lucasfilm’s Brian Merten Friday at Star Wars Celebration Chicago.

We also learned not to mess with Merten, who seemingly Force-choked a heckler before giving fans a closer look at the most exciting new treasures coming your way in 2019 and beyond. Here are seven of the panel’s biggest highlights.

1. Lladró is giving Queen Amidala the royal treatment. Lladró, a maker of homemade porcelain art from Valencia, Spain, is making its debut in a galaxy far, far away to honor Queen Amidala — and other heroes like her — with the Born to Rebel series. The collection will eventually include characters like Leia, Amilyn Holdo, Rey, and Ahsoka, in honor of each rebel’s willingness to fight back against the totalitarian oppression of the Trade Federation, the Empire, and the First Order. Featuring color, a pristine glaze, and a gold luster, the handcrafted figurine celebrates the 20th anniversary of Padmé Amidala’s introduction in 1999’s The Phantom Menace.

2. EFX Collectibles unveiled several glorious replica helmets. Bryan Ono, CEO and president of EFX, announced a new precision-cast Episode V Boba Fett helmet based on the original castings used in The Empire Strikes Back. The mask of Fett — meticulously painted to match the screen-used costume — is available to pre-order now. Ono also showed off a jaw-dropping “Concept Stormtrooper” helmet paying tribute to the original sketches and production paintings of visionary artist Ralph McQuarrie.

3. Darkness rises, and light to meet it. EFX Collectibles is also producing limited-edition prop replicas of two iconic designs from the entire Skywalker saga: the lightsaber hilts of Luke Skywalker and Kylo Ren. The hilt of Luke’s blue legacy saber has been lovingly reproduced from the one Mark Hamill used on screen in The Empire Strikes Back. The intricately sculpted Kylo Ren replica hilt matches the one seen in 2015’s The Force Awakens.

4. Lots and lots of statues and busts are on the way from Diamond Select. Diamond Select Toys, which recently acquired part of Gentle Giant Ltd., is looking to continue the tradition of artful busts and statues like Star Wars Celebration 2019’s con-exclusive “mecha-leg” Darth Maul. “Vision-wise, we’re going to try to continue what Gentle Giant did best,” DST president Chuck Terceira said. Diamond Select will soon open pre-orders for Chewbacca and Han Solo (Corellia) busts based on their appearances from Solo: A Star Wars Story. Other upcoming DST collectibles include a set of porg bookends, a 1/7-scale Darth Maul statue, a pair of matching Rey and BB-8 statues that comes with a magnetic base for easy display, and a bust modeled after Luke’s Force-projection appearance on Crait.

5. More samurai-inspired designs are coming from Bandai. Collectors of Bandai’s awe-inspiring samurai statues have plenty more to look forward to this fall. The company showed off its recent “Honyaku Karakuri” interpretation of C-3PO, which holds a ceremonial fan emblazoned with the iconic crest of the Rebel Alliance, and also gave fans a glimpse of three all-new creations: a First Order stormtrooper, Kylo Ren, and Captain Phasma. 

6. Kotobukiya’s Rey and Kylo Ren statues bring balance to the Force. Japan’s Kotobukiya plans to launch a new ARTFX Artist Series, which kicks off with a pair of statues by manga artist Kamome Shirahama, who’s done a number of gorgeous variant covers for Marvel’s Star Wars titles. “Rey, Descendent of Light” is a 1/7-scale interpretation of Rey as she appeared on Jakku in The Force Awakens. “Kylo Ren, Cloaked in Shadows” shows the son of darkness holding his own mask, staring into the darkness of the face he’s hidden behind for so long. Kylo’s mask accessory can also be swapped out for the burnt, twisted visage of Darth Vader.

7. Let the Wookiee in. There’s also a massive Chewbacca bust and full-sized, furry statue of the mighty Wookiee coming from Regal Robot. Need we say more?

Alex Kane is a journalist based in west-central Illinois. He has written for Fangoria, Polygon, the website of Rolling Stone, Variety, and other publications. Follow him on Twitter at @alexjkane.

SWCC 2019: Disney and Lucasfilm Team Up with FIRST to Inspire the Next Generation of Heroes and Innovators

Sat, 04/13/2019 - 11:15

Just announced at Star Wars Celebration Chicago, Lucasfilm and parent company Disney, and the global K-12 nonprofit organization FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) are teaming up to inspire the next generation of heroes and innovators. As part of their Star Wars: Force for Change philanthropic initiative, Disney and Lucasfilm are providing a $1.5 million donation, in-kind, and mentorship resources to help expand access to FIRST programs for more students globally, with a focus on underserved communities.

Star Wars has always inspired young people to look past what is and imagine a world beyond,” said Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm. “It is crucial that we pass on the importance of science and technology to young people — they will be the ones who will have to confront the global challenges that lie ahead. To support this effort, Lucasfilm and Disney are teaming up with FIRST to bring learning opportunities and mentorship to the next generation of innovators.”

In a video played during the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge panel at Star Wars Celebration Chicago, the legendary Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) announced the new collaboration — as well as a Twitter sweepstakes for a chance to win a vacation to visit Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland Resort, to help spread awareness of FIRST. This vacation will also include a guided tour by a Disney Imagineer throughout the all-new land. Visit the official Star Wars Twitter account at twitter.com/starwars and retweet the announce video with #StarWarsFFCSweepstakes between April 13-22 to enter. You can watch the video above, which also features FIRST mentors and students discussing the impact of the community on their lives, from learning problem-solving skills, to teamwork, to the art and science of robotics design.

As a robotics community, FIRST has inspired millions of students and provided opportunities that prepared young people for the future. Each year, more than 600,000 students participate in team-based, mentor-guided FIRST programs in 100+ countries around the world, building confidence in STEM and growing into well-rounded, community-focused leaders of the future.

“Disney has been a long-time supporter of FIRST, providing mentorship, support and even hosting our FIRST Championship event over the years.” said Donald E. Bossi, president of FIRST. “This is an incredible opportunity to bring together world-class Star Wars storytellers and engineers, their passionate fans, and the innovative, inspirational community of FIRST to expand access to our programs and raise a generation of global STEM citizens.”

Stay tuned to StarWars.com for more on Star Wars: Force for Change and this new collaboration with FIRST.

StarWars.com. All Star Wars, all the time.

Visit StarWars.com’s Star Wars Celebration Chicago hub for all the latest Celebration news.

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NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Enter Sweepstakes between 4/13/19 at 8:00 AM PDT and 4/22/19 at 11:59 PM PDT. Open to legal residents of the 50 U.S. & D.C., Puerto Rico and Canada (excluding Quebec), who are 13+ at time of entry. Limit 1 entry per person. Visit https://starwars.com/FFCsweeps for Official Rules including details on how to enter, eligibility requirements, odds of winning, prize descriptions and limitations. Void in Quebec and where prohibited.  Sponsor: Lucasfilm Ltd. LLC, 1110 Gorgas Ave, San Francisco, CA 94129.

SWCC 2019: Revelations at the Music of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace Panel with David Collins

Sat, 04/13/2019 - 10:18

Galaxy Stage host and Star Wars music devotee David Collins treated Star Wars Celebration Chicago attendees to a delightfully intricate exploration of John Williams’ score for Star Wars: The Phantom Menace — now enjoying its own 20th anniversary.

“I had absolutely nothing to do with the score of this film,” Collins jokingly reminded the audience. To him, music “enhances the story” of a film and is itself a sort of universal language. “We understand it when it is spoken to us,” he explained, “but many of us don’t readily speak it.”

Collins’ layman-friendly analysis centered in on two central compositions from Episode I. If you have your Star Wars soundtracks handy, you might do well to grab them and listen along!

‘Duel of the Fates’

Perhaps the most iconic piece of the film’s score, “Duel of the Fates” on the surface exemplifies what George Lucas himself described as “the prime of the Jedi” with its epic lightsaber combat. Its blend of the choral and orchestral styles literally sends musical tremors across the saga.

“The medium of chorus and orchestra would give us a sense that we’re in a big temple,” Williams himself explained in an archival clip which Collins shared. “The decision to make [“Duel of the Fates”] choral was just the result of my thinking that it should have a kind of ritualistic or quasi-religious feeling,” he continued. “The drama is a contrast and a contest between good and evil. This lore taps into some kind of collective memory that we all have, which is itself what the definition of a myth is.”

This “ancient, primal” composition, as Collins added, is like a ballet, such as Igor Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” from 1913. In this case the choreography is courtesy of stunt coordinator Nick Gillard and the dancers carry lightsabers. It was also a topical choice on Williams’ part, Collins argued, citing the prominent use of the well-remembered choral piece “Carmina Burana” from 1937, which was very commonly used in 1990s movie trailers.

But what would the chorus say? Collins explained that Williams chose a passage of translated Celtic poetry from Robert Graves’ noted book, “The White Goddess.” The poem, entitled “The Battle of the Trees,” read:

Under the tongue root

A fight most dread

While another rages

Behind in the head

It seemed to hint at an internal struggle, “something bigger than what is physical, something spiritual,” as Collins said. Williams reduced that to the phrase “dreaded fight,” which is repeated over again in “Duel of the Fates.”

But what language to use? Sanskrit was Williams choice. It possessed “good, pure vowels” as Collins noted, similar to Italian, one of the classic operatic languages, and unlike English with its more inconsistent pronunciations. Sanskrit ensured that there would be very little variation from the chorus.

At his keyboard, Collins demonstrated how Williams’ iconic original trilogy scores, the Force theme and the “Imperial March,” are subtly incorporated into “Duel of the Fates.” Similar chord structures and even the same melodies are layered into the climactic score. All one has to do is listen closely and compare.

Collins’ describes this technique as “prequel writing,” where the composer — working backwards in the storyline — establishes a continuity that is present across the entire saga. He stressed that much of this “backwards writing” was not completely deliberate on Williams’ part, but was derived from his adoption of the same vocabulary of sounds used in the original trilogy.

‘Anakin’s Theme

If “Duel of the Fates” gets most of the attention to this day, “Anakin’s Theme” is an equally important albeit lesser appreciated selection from the Episode I soundtrack. This “wonderfully complicated” theme, as Collins put it, tells the whole story of Anakin’s modest origin, hopeful journey, and ultimate doom.

Thematically, it’s “all over the place,” and “not hummable” in the way more recognizable Star Wars themes are. But don’t allow its complexity to be misleading. This “poetic conceit,” as Collins described, combines most of the essential musical components of all the succeeding Star Wars scores.

Fragments of the “Imperial March,” for example, are quite noticeable, and oh-so-foreboding, at the theme’s conclusion. Other rhythms and intervals from the Force theme and Yoda’s theme among others are layered within.

Another poignant note was that Williams and Lucas chose to conclude the end credits of The Phantom Menace with this soft, subtle rendition in contrast to the typical, bombastic finales of the other Star Wars features. It all hints at the myth that is to play out. It’s that “prequel writing,” or writing backwards that Collins so keenly identifies.

“Great melodies tell great stories,” said Collins. To him, “Anakin’s Theme” is “a Star Wars musical big bang.”

An ironic conclusion 

Collins fittingly ended by addressing the score’s finale of the grand parade march and celebration on Naboo. Amazingly, and appropriately, this iconic march takes the same rhythmic shape as the Emperor’s theme from Return of the Jedi, only in a different key. The “phantom menace” himself has the last musical word, and as Collins jokingly colored in, “You think it’s a victory, but it’s not… Enjoy the wonder and the humor because you won’t get it this way again.”

Visit StarWars.com’s Star Wars Celebration Chicago hub for all the latest Celebration news.

Lucas O. Seastrom is a publicity writer at Lucasfilm. He grew up on a farm in California’s Central Valley and is a lifelong Star Wars and Indiana Jones fan.

Site tags: #SWCCPanel, #StarWarsCelebrationChicago2019

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