There’s something at once awe-inspiring and familiar about walking into the cockpit for the first time.
Bathed in the glow of panels of gleaming buttons and switches, you take a seat at the helm and prepare to make the jump to hyperspace. For a ship that would inspire so many snide remarks, the Millennium Falcon is truly a thing of beauty in its prime. And seated at the controls, if you’re anything like me, you think to yourself, “Chewie, we’re home.”
The Millennium Falcon Experience, a life-size replica of the interior of the ship that made the Kessel Run, is making its penultimate stop this weekend in Salt Lake City. We recently caught up with the Corellian freighter for a tour during a press conference in Los Angeles.
Here are some of the coolest behind-the-scenes details we learned while we were aboard:
1. It takes a team to build such a fast ship…
The massive site — constructed inside three 40-foot long shipping containers — is a collaboration between builders from BCD (Belgian Prop Builder) and Project X1, with help from Lucasfilm and Pinewood Studios and it’s not the first time they’ve brought the famous ship to life. BCD previously fashioned the seating area out of foam and fabrics for Star Wars Celebration Orlando last year. Kevin Cembolista, a core building from BCD, is also an occasional tour guide.
2. And sometimes that team works round-the-clock to make it happen.
Este Meza, head of events for Lucasfilm, came up with the concept in October of 2017, but it took months to finish the design, and about six weeks to fully assemble the experience inside the shipping containers. “The biggest challenge was our timeline,” says Meza. “We had agreed to loan our cockpit to be used for a commercial as well as for other video content to support our Solo campaign.” That gave the team just two weeks to build that incredibly important segment of the ship. “A week into the build we learned we actually needed to build the cockpit in our container, then disassemble it so it could be transported and rebuilt on a sound. The Belgian BCD team and I worked ‘round the clock, many nights without any sleep, to make the deadline.”
3. The holochess table is an official loan.
The table inside the exhibition came from Lucasfilm headquarters in San Francisco, and was originally inside an office there.
4. Lando’s bar was painstakingly recreated to match the film.
Almost everything in the bar was exactly as it should be from the set, according to Cembolista. Those fine details include some antique coffee makers that were fully operational before the wiring was removed and greeblies were added for a galactic feel.
“I was amazed at just how many set pieces from Lando’s bar and kitchen the Belgian BCD team was able to research and locate,” Meza adds. “Without any hints from our production team, the Belgian BCD team filled the area with so many pieces it truly felt like Lando could walk in and instantly pour himself a drink.”
5. A little short for a shipping container.
Casts from the film set of Solo: A Star Wars Story and a ton of reference images were used to recreate the cockpit, down to some of the buttons and switches, which were installed by hand, but because of the sizing restrictions of the containers, some aspects of the cockpit seating were scaled down to fit in the shipping containers, Cembolista says. We’re happy to report the space is still roomy enough for your favorite Wookiee co-pilot.
6. And some of the buttons are functional!
Although some are there for effect only, a few of the buttons actually operate lights and some of the switches can be moved.
7. But the best part? The fans.
Meza, who is also an occasional test pilot, says the hard work was completely worth it when he saw the first fans step inside. “Their excitement and pure joy, from all ages, was such a fulfilling experience. We have had fans drive from hundreds of miles away to see this, we have had four generations of a family of fans go inside together, and we even had one marriage proposal in the cockpit!”
The Millennium Falcon Experience lands at the Salt Lake City Megaplex 20 at Jordan Commons, May 18-20, and finishes out its tour in Colorado at the Denver Alamo Drafthouse Cinema Littleton, May 25-27.
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!