Kilian Plunkett, the art director for Star Wars Rebels, offers StarWars.com some wisdom on bringing the animated characters to life.
Cosplay Command Center is a special three-part series connecting cosplayers attending Star Wars Celebration Chicago to resources and expert insights to complete their costumes from Star Wars animation.
It's been almost a year since we said goodbye to Ezra, Hera, and the rest of the Star Wars Rebels gang with the series finale of the beloved show. But in a few weeks, when fans gather to celebrate the Star Wars saga, we can expect that there will be a few Kanans, Sabines, and other cosplayers roaming Chicago as the Ghost crew.
The show itself was an homage of sorts to the striking works of Ralph McQuarrie, which shaped the look of the original Star Wars film, and classic anime, says Kilian Plunkett, who served as art director for both Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels. "The color palette came from Ralph's work and the clean, simplified shapes came from our admiration for the work of Studio Ghibli. To match what appeared on screen in Rebels, the outfits would be simple and they would generally be more form-fitting than those of the characters in live-action movies." Think large swathes of flat color. "To take what was on screen and bring it into a real-world feel, compare the stormtrooper armor of Rebels to that of their real-life counterparts," Plunkett advises. "Outfits will have more details and pouches, buckles, etc. will break silhouette more. Garments like Hera's flightsuit or Ezra's tunic would be looser and have more wrinkles and folds."
Last week, Amy Beth Christenson helped fans achieve their dreams of joining the Aces in Star Wars Resistance, with insights and images to guide cosplayers in their crafty creations ahead of Star Wars Celebration Chicago. Today, Plunkett offers up his own Jedi-like guidance to recreate some of your favorite looks from the final season of Star Wars Rebels.
Hera in A-wing pilot gear
"Hera is an ace pilot, adept at flying everything from a bulky cruiser like the Ghost to a nimble fighter like an A-wing or X-wing," Plunkett says. For Season 3, animators designed this look for Hera, but it didn't show up onscreen until she hopped into an X-wing in Season 4. As Christenson noted, there are two ways to approach bringing animated characters to life: "match what appeared in the show as closely as you can or use the show as inspiration to adapt the costumes into real-life interpretations," Plunkett says. "Which way to go is up to you."
In this case, Hera's flightsuit would be fashioned from the same heavy canvas suits that were worn by the rebels in the original trilogy. "The chestplate and 'cheeks' of the helmet would be the same material as that found on other live-action rebel flight gear," Plunkett says. The vest should be a close match to a typical X-wing pilot.
For Hera's boots, Plunkett suggests a leather base "with metal guards on the tops of the feet."
To capture Hera's everyday look, as seen throughout the series and with some special modifications and updates in the epilogue, Plunkett advises cosplayers follow the basic flightsuit pattern of an X-wing pilot for a costume that's both loose and functional. "Even the flight harness, with its extra straps, would work really well as a realistic interpretation of this outfit," he says. "The high-collared shirt could be made from two different cotton or linen shirts stitched together."
Hera's standard harness and vest should be crafted from a brown leather or leather-like material, made to match her gloves, goggles, and earphones. To complete her head covering, add in some cotton or canvas stitched to hug your faux lekku. And for aging her gear to match her final look in the series, "looking at the various outfits in Rogue One should give you a good idea of the amount of weathering all of Hera's gear would display after all her time on the front lines of the Rebellion," Plunkett notes.
The newest member of the Ghost crew, Spectre 7 takes after both his parents. "Jacen has a short amount of screen time so we had to have his costume convey a strong sense of who he was for quick read," Plunkett says. "His pale grey/green flightsuit is utilitarian, like his mother's. It's made from a similar canvas-like cloth. His short jacket is a lightly-padded fabric and could be realized using a standard Rebel Alliance jacket without sleeves or else a shinier finish more like a traditional sleeveless puffy jacket."
Although his wolf patch would be ironed on or embroidered in place, "the painted decal on his shoulder is courtesy of Sabine and can have a hand-painted look," Plunkett says.
And since Jacen is still a child, the tech on his outfit should look appropriately oversized. "The Droid Caller on his belt, for example, is the same size as the one on Ezra's belt but look bigger because Jacen is small."
Ezra's helmet and cadet uniform
Ezra Bridger was a collector of Imperial buckets, including this special helmet with retractable visor, perfect for sneaking around and avoiding detection.
"Just like the live-action helmets, each of Ezra's helmets would be made of vacuform plastic," Plunkett says, with "pieces of leather padding and metal greeblies seen in the designs to help finish them off. Like the original trilogy helmets, any decals can be stenciled on or even be made from strips of adhesive tape, depending on the shape of the design."
Deep cover inside the Imperial Academy calls for a full cadet uniform. "This is an Imperial uniform, very much along the lines of Yularen or Krennic," Plunkett says, "so the fabrics and construction would closely match those seen in A New Hope and Rogue One." A sturdy pair of black leather boots, matching gloves, and a jacket fashioned from wool or canvas make up the bulk of the ensemble, with accents including metal buckles and the appropriate rank insignia.
But Plunkett notes that Ezra's longer locks are decidedly not up to the Empire's standards. "I doubt that Ezra's shaggy haircut would have lasted too long if he'd stayed in the academy," he says.
Viciously attacked by Maul at the end of the second season, Kanan spent the rest of the series blinded and often wearing a special mask with painted accents. To upgrade a Kanan cosplay to match this look from later in the series, Plunkett suggests forming a faceplate with a material similar to Jango Fett's helmet -- metal lined with leather padding -- instead of the more plastic-like looking material of a stormtrooper or Royal Guard helmet.
Staying screen-accurate may be tricky since Kanan's mask is held in place without any obvious ties or straps. "It's one of the few times that we used the fact that, as a CG show, Rebels isn't beholden to physics," Plunkett admits. "Kanan's faceplate stays on his head as if by magic!"
For cosplayers who need the extra support, "a real-life solution would be to use a brown leather strap to attach the faceplate to the head," Plunkett says.
Thrawn's cold and calculating personality comes through on the battlefield as he channels another efficient Imperial officer who once marched his AT-AT across the snowy plains of Hoth -- General Veers.
"Thrawn's armored look is intentionally modeled on that of General Veers' field outfit on Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back," Plunkett says. "It's made of almost the same pieces and materials as Veers, just in a different palette."
The accents share similarities with the Chiss commander's standard tunic, down to pale gold clasps on the shoulders and accents on the helmet that should match his usual gold epaulettes.
To make a costume that's more of a live-action interpretation, Plunkett would add back in some details that were stripped away for animation. "The chin-strap, the small microphone/earpiece and the 'lip' that runs on the edge of all the armor sections would all translate really well into a realistic interpretation of this character, I think," he says.
Kallus in rebel gear
Who could forget #HotKallus? The dashing agent from the Imperial Security Bureau defected from the Empire to serve the rebellion by the end of the series, and his buttoned-up look got a little more relaxed along with his all-new wardrobe.
To bring his rebel look to life, look to the costumes of Rogue One for guidance. "When we started Season 1 of Rebels, Rogue One was still just an idea in John Knoll's head," Plunkett says. "By the time Kallus joined the Rebellion in Season 4, though, we had a wealth of great reference for Jyn, Cassian and their crew."
Kallus looks right at home striding around the base on Yavin 4. "His rebel look aims to fit right into this aesthetic with its earth tones and simple materials. His boots, belt, gloves, and holster are all brown leather. His T-shirt is a straightforward cotton shirt."
Like some of the quilting seen more recently in Star Wars Resistance, details of his jacket hark back to the bundled-up rebels serving on Hoth. "The jacket is intended to evoke the Echo Base look with its padded collar and quilting," Plunkett says.
He also suggests taking a page from the closets of two very different rebel heroes. "The darker stripe down the shoulders and arms could be piped just like Cassian Andor's jacket. And the small, greeblie badge on the chest can have higher-fidelity detail, more like the greeblies on Admiral Ackbar's tunic."
Sabine's last look
Throughout the series, Sabine expressed herself through a rainbow of hair colors and ever-changing art emblazoned on her armor (and sometimes on the very walls of the ship she called home.)
When we last saw the fearless Mandalorian warrior, she had a new deep purple pixie cut and shoulder armor that depicted the majestic purrgil blasting into hyperspace. Sabine's armor calls for standard Mandalorian construction, similar to any Fett outfit or earlier Sabine look you might already have in your cosplay closet. "The challenge with Sabine is probably going to be the elaborate paint scheme," says Plunkett. But of all of Sabine's various armor decos, her last look may be the easiest to emulate. "This one has the most geometric shapes across the armor, so making stencils for the kneepads and other parts should be a little simpler than her other iterations," Plunkett says.
Her jetpack mirrors one worn by Commander Cody onscreen in Revenge of the Sith, Plunkett says, "although we scaled it down quite a bit to fit Sabine's frame better."
And although Plunkett understands why some might guess that Sabine's bodysuit would be fashioned from some kind of spandex material, "in reality, it's meant to be cloth, more like the tight, tailored costume worn by Zam Wessel than the bodystocking worn by Aurra Sing."
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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