From Concept to Screen: Kamino

Go behind the scenes of Star Wars' water world and state-of-the-art cloning facility.

Welcome to From Concept to Screen, an ongoing series about the various stages of production that your favorite character, vehicle, creature, location, or scene of the Star Wars saga had to undergo before arriving on the silver screen.

The Star Wars saga is not only filled with many great characters and vehicles, but the worlds that make up this galaxy far, far away are just as interesting. For this installment we brave the heavy rain and winds of Kamino and look at everything that was needed to bring the world, its inhabitants, and its native species to life.

Kamino concept art

Concept art of Tipoca City, the clone labs, and an early Kaminoan.

Concept

With the script still being written, George Lucas shared early ideas of a world with cloners to concept artists in the Lucasfilm art department. He imagined this world as one consumed by storms, with very high-tech sophisticated cities built on stilts. Doug Chiang started working on concept paintings right away, with inspiration found on oil derricks in the North Atlantic. These oil derricks were then re-imagined to be the size of a big city like New York by Marc Gabbana, while Edwin Natividad focused on the storm elements, basing the waves on those he had seen in his home on Hawaii as well as the storms that were created for the movie The Perfect Storm. Originally, the Kaminoans were to pilot the typical flying saucers from alien abduction lore, which then became the main influence for the design of the city exteriors. With all the designs finished for the exterior of the planet and Tipoca City, Erik Tiemens made a digital composition for the establishing shot as a reference for ILM and the actors.

The directions from Lucas for the interiors of the city were that of “bright and ethereal inner-city spaces, everything seemingly made of pure light,” a look more befitting for 2001: A Space Odyssey rather than the lived-in universe that the Star Wars saga had shown thus far. With their role as scientists, the cloning labs reflected the mathematical minds of the Kaminoans, with natural occurring symmetry in physics and nature being an important design influence. The designers did have some difficulty with the monotony and repetition that would have to occur with the clone vats, as well as what was designed before for the city. This repetition of design elements was also evident in the work spaces of the young clones in order to give the sense of an assembly line.

The Kaminoans were initially inspired by the aliens from the film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, combined with the innocent round-eyed look of seals. That design was later changed towards a more aquatic theme with fins added to the heads. A glance in the Lucasfilm Archives reveals an early design in which Kaminoans seem to be part mechanical with extra sensory detection devises and cables connected to their skulls, giving them the ability to control water through the air. Another design had the species being so light that they had to use weights to stay grounded. (This is probably what led to the species’ portrayal as a graceful race.) There was also a design of the Kaminoans that would later be used in Revenge of the Sith as the Polis Massans.

Like every concept drawing that was made, these depictions were then translated to small-scale models called maquettes, which were sculpted and then cured (hardened) by being placed in the oven of the kitchen in the Main House of Skywalker Ranch.

Creating the hallway sceneBringing it to the screen

The wide establishing shots of the planet and the stilt cities were done by ILM, which had built a big miniature of Tipoca City. After shooting the model, they then composited it into a digital shot of the stormy sea and other weather elements.

The hallway scene in which Obi-Wan Kenobi gets a tour of the facility is a perfect example of how the mostly digital world of Kamino came to the screen, with the above images of Ewan McGregor illustrating some of the steps taken. This was all shot in one morning with the actor being told what he was looking at and how he had to react to it. ILM then added rough animatics of Lama Su and Taun We, followed by digital sets and placeholder animatics for the younger clones who were later added to the background. The school-aged clones were played by Daniel Logan (who also played the young Boba Fett), and the 21-year-old versions were played by Body Taylor. To create the polished effect of the hallway with all the proper reflections, the actual floor that McGregor walked on was mirrored.

Rena Owen with her Taun We hardhat, Ewan McGregor, and Temuera Morrison on the Jango apartment set and fighting in the rain.

Rena Owen with her Taun We hardhat, Ewan McGregor and Temuera Morrison on the Jango’s apartment set and fighting in the rain.

On July 26, 2000, the sparse set of Jango’s apartment was filmed. To keep the smooth polished surfaces free of scuff marks, crew members wore blue surgical booties around their shoes whenever they needed to enter the set. During filming they took multiple plates of a scene, some with actress Rena Owen standing in for Taun We and some without her to give the crew at ILM a clean image to add the digital characters into. To shoot the scene in Lama Su’s office, there only was a blue screen and a chair for McGregor to sit on with halo lights around it. To provide the actors with a proper eye line, a hardhat with a cardboard cutout of the Kaminoans’ long neck and head were worn by Owen and Anthony Phelan (Lama Su). Rob Coleman and his team would then replace the actors with the digital Taun We and Lama Su.

Stage One in the studios in Sydney housed a small portion of the landing platform where Obi-Wan transmits his message to the Jedi Council and later battles Jango Fett. An elaborate sprinkler system was installed above the set that could produce a steady controllable rainfall while big fans provided the wind.

To complete the scenes, John Williams wrote a special “Kamino Motif” for the movie’s soundtrack. First used as a fanfare when Obi-Wan lands on Kamino, the score not only mimics the stormy sea and crashing waves but also lends an air of mystery to the planet. The music during Jango and Obi-Wan’s fight is titled “Jango’s Escape” on the official soundtrack release.

Aiwha concept art from The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi (top) and the Aiwha as seen in Attack of the Clones (bottom).

Aiwha concept art from The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi (top) and the Aiwha as seen in Attack of the Clones (bottom).

Aiwha

Aiwhas could be worthy of an article on their own. The beast was set to appear in The Empire Strikes Back as an aerial manta floating around Cloud City. After being cut due to technical limitations, they were redesigned as flying whale taxis for the world of Sicemon in Return of the Jedi, but the planet didn’t make it onto the film. The whale was then given the name thranta and appeared in the skies of both Bespin and Alderaan in the Legends book The Illustrated Star Wars Universe. Artist Ralph McQuarrie reused the concept art from the movies for his design.

To show that a good idea never gets forgotten, the whale made another return, this time in the concept art for The Phantom Menace — serving as a mount for the Gungans and featuring the name aiwha, which comes from “Air Whale.” Concept art, as drawn by Terryl Whitlatch, appears in The Wildlife of Star Wars: A Field Guide. Aiwhas were finally seen for the first time in Attack of the Clones, where they were ridden around the stormy skies of Kamino.

Concept art of Attack of the Clones (top), reused for The Clone Wars (bottom).

Concept art of Attack of the Clones (top), reused for The Clone Wars (bottom).

Star Wars: The Clone Wars

Even though Kamino was the main source for the Republic army, it was not until Season Three’s “Clone Cadets” and “ARC Troopers” of The Clone Wars that we would visit the planet again. The episodes went out of their way to not only show things we had seen before in the movie, but to also add many new locations. While these locations featured new concept art, several design concepts from Attack of the Clones were reused — the clone barracks with pull-out bunk beds and General Grievous’ escape vessel among them. Kamino would appear a few more times later in the series.

Join us next time for a visit that is much less rainy and much more peaceful: The Jedi Temple!

For more images featuring Kamino and its inhabitants please go to Star Wars‘ official Tumblr and Instagram, in which it is the spotlight of the week!

Sources: Star Wars Mythmaking: Behind The Scenes of Attack of the Clones, The Art of Star Wars Episode II Attack of the Clones, The Making of The Empire Strikes Back, The Making of Return of the Jedi.

Sander de Lange (Exar Xan) from the Netherlands worked on the Rogues Gallery feature in Star Wars Insider and has written the backstory for Niai Fieso through “What’s the Story?” He is an editor for TeeKay-421, the Belgian Star Wars Fanclub and an administrator for the Star Wars Sourcebooks page on Facebook.

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