SWCE 2016: The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens Panel Liveblog

Join executive creative director Doug Chiang, the Lucasfilm Story Group's Rayne Roberts, and more for a look behind the scenes of The Force Awakens!

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201611:08 am

That’s it for this panel! Thank you for joining us for this live blog. Pick up The Art of the Force Awakens for more about this topic!

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201611:06 am

Abrams told the artists to imagine that they’re making an Abrams movie on sets built by George Lucas.

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201611:06 am

A: They tried to recreate the feel of the ’80s. Abrams directed them to “Design a sequel to Return of the Jedi.” 

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201611:06 am

Q: What was the design sense? Was it a unified aesthetic or did you bring your personal taste into it?

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201611:05 am

Rayne Roberts was mid-answer when an announcement chimed in that the show floor for Celebration was now closed, but they’re going to continue taking questions!

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201611:04 am

Rey’s staff was also a story point… 

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201611:03 am

Doug Chiang chased the design for Kylo’s saber for weeks, but it didn’t come until Abrams told him to think about sizzling bacon, amplified by a hundred.

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201611:02 am

A: We always try to do interesting things, but that’s the prop department’s job, too.

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201611:02 am

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201611:02 am

Q: How do you make iconic weapons?

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201611:00 am

The artists explain that they need to answer questions and sometimes art might be disposable in the search for those answers. 

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201611:00 am

Gareth asked about how it feels to produce so much art that won’t make it into the film.

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:58 am

Gareth Edwards just showed up in full Stormtrooper regalia!

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:56 am

That’s it for the slides, it’s time for audience questions.

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:55 am

Art and story inform each other. 

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:54 am

The swoop at the back of Kylo’s helmet was supposed to be a younger, sportier version of Vader’s. 

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:53 am

Kylo Ren has a reverence for his grandfather, even though he doesn’t know the whole story, and so the story of The Force Awakens demanded that hint of Vader in his helmet.

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:52 am

Abrams came in, saw the poster, and approved it.

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:52 am

Dillon created a piece like the movie poster’s he loved in his youth and came up with the design for Kylo’s helmet on a poster with a Star Wars logo on it.

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:51 am

Abrams told Dillon that he wanted Kylo Ren’s image to be on the poster and make kids say, “I want to see that film.”

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:50 am

They knew Kylo Ren would need to be part of a gang or a group of some sort, before they’d develop the idea of the Knights of Ren. Dillon based some early designs for them on biker gangs. 

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:48 am

Dillon: “For a long time, we didn’t know Kylo’s name, we just referred to him as Jedi Killer.”

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:48 am

An early design for Kylo Ren’s mask was the design that ended up as the soldiers of the Gauvian Death Gang. 

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:47 am

Dillon: “In the original Star Wars the TIE Pilot is a Rebel helmet mashed with a Stormtrooper helmet and painted black and it’s just massive.”

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:46 am

Glyn Dillon is talking about how they wanted to cross-pollinate the physical parts between troopers’ costumes because it would make sense for the First Order to keep them maintained.

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:44 am

“Michael kept talking about what it would look like as an Apple/Mac Stormtrooper.”

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:43 am

The new trooper design took the longest to get approved. The flame troopers and snow troopers were much easier. But that one sketch by Kaplan was the direction they ended up taking.

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:42 am

On the screen is a sketch by Michael Kaplan, costume designer on The Force Awakens, of the new First Order trooper. Discussion has moved to how costume design works in the art phase.

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:41 am

Wallin’s interior of Rey’s home was approved almost right away and the concepts look incredibly similar to how they appear in the final film.

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:39 am

The quad-jumper from the finished film is tucked in under the belly of the AT-AT in that first piece. 

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:38 am

The first painting Wallin did, based on the Jordan desert, was a concept of Rey’s AT-AT.

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:36 am

The sets for the Resistance base started massive and kept shrinking over time and the progression of art reflects that.

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:35 am

Andree Wallin discusses his art now, showing off interiors of his “blue sky” visions of the interior of the Resistance base.

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:34 am

They have the art department do concepts over locations they know they’re going to shoot at, to see how to make it look more “Star Wars.”

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:31 am

They used a portfolio of concept art to help with the key lighting decisions.

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:30 am

Q: How much does concept art affect photography?

A: It’s a continued influence through the shoot. Once the director and director of photography are involved, they get involved in the conversations with the art department. There’s a lot of back and forth and it’s very collaborative. 

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:29 am

Allsop is talking about a design he worked on that looks like a mix between Dagobah and Yavin IV for the Resistance base. 

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:28 am

There’s artwork of early designs for the Resistance’s base on the screen. In early stages, the Resistance was going to be housed in a forest.

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:26 am

Allsop: I didn’t count on The Force Awakens, but on Rogue One I’ve done maybe 650 paintings.

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:26 am

Q: How many concept art pieces do you make on one show? Do you keep records?

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:24 am

Matt Allsop: “We just rip Ralph McQuarrie off all day.” They reference him constantly.

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:23 am

When the art department is working on early art, they don’t always know what the characters might look like, so they sometimes insert themselves as the characters.

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:22 am

The question was, “How do we make it not the Cantina? And what does the interior of a castle in Star Wars look like?”

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:22 am

On the screen are early concepts of Han and Rey in Maz Kanata’s castle/bar. 

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:21 am

Q: How close to the shooting date was art still being produced for Han and Kylo’s scene on the bridge?
A: Up until the night before

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:19 am

The design of the set for Han’s scene on the bridge was driven purely by the story.

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:18 am

The set where Rey entered the oscillator was designed to be Han and Chewie’s staging area for their “cold” conversation as well. 

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:17 am

The most important thing in ship design in Star Wars, according to the panel, is implying the function of the ship. 

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:15 am

The only thing on set was a door. They marked the width out on the stage and hoped the extras didn’t cross over it.

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:15 am

This ship was a stage for Han and Leia’s meeting, so they didn’t want a flashy design. It’s based on a tank, a Chinook helicopter, and a landing craft. 

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:14 am

It went through many iterations.

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:14 am

The art team is talking about the Resistance Cruiser General Leia made her first appearance on.

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:13 am

Chiang knew there was a character living on the planet, but didn’t know it was Rey specifically, so the art team would make up their own stories to tell in the art.

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:12 am

Rey’s speeder bike wasn’t designed in the early art phases and so Chiang created imagery with her on the Endor bikes. Abrams saw these pieces and said, “Let’s take it one step further. What if the chase through the wreckage is with the Millennium Falcon?”

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:11 am

Chiang: “That reveal would have been too long.” 

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:11 am

Abrams gave Chiang the idea to think of Rey as an ant crawling through an engine block, which set the tone for the visuals he began to work on.

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:10 am

Rey’s AT-AT, in Chiang’s original artwork, was dangling inside a Star Destroyer.

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:09 am

Chiang’s original idea for the opening of the film was the Star Destroyer coming overhead, but you realize it’s broken. And it’s not chasing a ship, it’s being tugged, and then that’s where we meet our scavenger heroine. A mirror of A New Hope.

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:09 am

An image Chiang made of the Death Star crashed on Tatooine inspired the early Jakku imagery.

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:08 am

Chiang was encouraged to come up with crazy ideas during their “blue sky” phase.

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:07 am

These artists are involved until the entire filmmaking process is over. Roberts: “They’re involved in worldbuilding, this is where it happens.”

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:07 am

They discussed small skirmishes between the Empire and the Rebellion in those months and that inspired the events of Jakku. 

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:07 am

This was part of the process on The Force Awakens. One of the first things they did in story development, they had to think about the events in the galaxy post-Return of the Jedi. 

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:06 am

Rayne Roberts explains how art and story works simultaneously, rather than one than the other, to create an ongoing creative dialogue. 

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:05 am

Chiang had three months to work on “blue sky” concept work for the film, working with the story group.

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:05 am

Chiang talks about how work started on The Force Awakens began for him in January of 2013. 

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:04 am

Then Doug Chiang, living legend, introduces himself. 

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:04 am

Rayne Roberts, on the creative story group, helped with the art books and loves working with these guys.

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:03 am

Ken Jenkins, supervising art director of ILM London, isn’t sure what his role on Episode VIII is.

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:03 am

Andree Wallin and Glyn Dillon are next. Talking about working on the Han Solo film…

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:02 am

Phil Szostak, author of The Art of The Force Awakens, introduces himself. Calls himself a concept art guru.

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:02 am

Collins calls up to the stage Phil Szostak, Kevin Jenkins, Rayne Roberts, and others. 

StarWars.com Team July 16, 201610:00 am

David Collins takes the stage!

StarWars.com Team July 16, 20169:59 am

The Galaxy stage seems filled close to capacity as we wait for the Art of The Force Awakens to begin!

TAGS: , ,