The creative team behind the expanded Haynes technical manual talks about the intricate details of the ship that made the Kessel Run.
Long before the Millennium Falcon was the grungy but speedy hunk of junk that was Han Solo’s pride and joy, it was Lando Calrissian’s pristine oasis, a flashy and refined piece of Corellian machinery complete with a cape closet.
In the newly expanded edition of the Haynes Star Wars: Millennium Falcon: Owners’ Workshop Manual, illustrators track the ship’s evolution, from a fresh-from-the-factory YT-1300 through multiple owners and special modifications. Along the way, they answer hard-hitting questions about changes in technology and aesthetics, like: What happened to Lando’s closet when Han moved in? “I kept the closet in there, but stripped it down and hid it behind a wall,” says artist Chris Trevas. “I picture Han using it as a safe to stash his prized possessions and there’s an old cape of Lando’s he uses as a rag or tarp over some boxes.”
Together with fellow artist Chris Reiff and author Ryder Windham, the trio collaborated on a new version of their handy Haynes manual to incorporate the new escape pod designs seen in The Last Jedi, the sprawling and magnificent floor plan of Lando’s version spotted in Solo: A Star Wars Story, and working out the details to bridge the gap between the two.
The illustrators took cues from real-world technical manuals and Reiff’s personal experience as a pilot to create a guide that feels as authentic as if it just popped out of the Falcon’s glove box and landed in your lap. (Of course, you’ll have to read it for yourself to find out if the Falcon even has a glove box.) “All the modifications make the ship’s interior a little quirky compared to a stock version and the reader can explore all that within the book,” says Trevas.
Although, to be clear, Windham isn’t convinced writing the tome has given him enough information to escape from Jakku in a pinch. “I'd feel slightly more confident than I would about flying a B-29 Superfortress,” he jokes.
StarWars.com recently spoke with the three storytellers about changes in Corellian technology, how Star Wars inspired them as children, and which version of the ship is their favorite.
Solo itself inspired the new edition of the original manual, which filmmakers used as a guide in creating Lando’s ship. “We got to see a lot more of the Falcon in Solo than ever before, so much of the aft interior had to be replaced including the engines,” says Trevas. So much new lore was added, the team trekked to San Francisco to meet with artists at Lucasfilm to learn about the film ahead of its release. “It was great to talk to the modelers at ILM and get their input. They were even familiar with our original edition,” Trevas says, “and referenced it while working on the movie.”
“There have been a lot of additions and subtle modifications to the Falcon with the new movies,” adds Reiff. The biggest challenge for the artists was illustrating a new cutaway of the engine design and floor plans to integrate the gleaming yellow-and-white interior shown in the latest film.
“It's always exciting to see a book evolve from an exchange of ideas and a rough outline into the final, fully-illustrated version,” adds Windham.
Reiff’s online search history was peppered with results for real-world technical manuals and images to serve as inspiration. “My web browser is usually overfilled with windows open to random technical images from rudder pedal diagrams to jet engine exploded views,” he says. “There is a lot of detail in there and trying to get it to all make sense for some sort of function in my head as I drew it up was tough. The engines had to reference other pre-existing art and still make sense in the layout of the ship as well as look and feel like real engines. The escape pod rack had to make sense of the escape pod loading and launching positions we see in Last Jedi.”
Even though the two artists don’t live close to each other, “we talk constantly and pride ourselves on our knowledge and ability to overthink the little details,” Reiff says. That meant frequently working together to try to anticipate reader questions and answer them with creative solutions. “Reiff and I had a fun discussion about where L3-37 hangs out in the ship,” says Trevas. “We figured she would have insisted on her own personal space so we gave her a workshop and recharging station in the rear hold.”
The book also delves into how the Falcon’s flight controls work, utilizing some of Reiff’s piloting expertise in the process, and referencing screen-accurate models and real-world schematics. “We looked at all kinds of technical drawings and real-world aircraft parts including pieces used to build the Millennium Falcon itself,” Trevas says. “The original steering wheels first seen in The Empire Strikes Back were made from the yoke of a Vickers Viscount airliner from the '50s combined with a couple shifter handles for custom hot rods. I have those pieces in my own collection and used them to illustrate the Falcon's dashboard.”
And to illustrate the ship’s evolution, the team created two different floor plans -- one to reflect Lando’s ship and another that covered the garbage that got Rey off of Jakku in the sequel trilogy.
Hunk o’ junk
But for the creative team, Han’s Falcon will always be their favorite.
“I prefer Han's hunk o' junk because I'm pretty sure keeping Lando's Falcon spotless is a full-time job,” says Windham, who has been writing Star Wars stories and books professionally for 25 years.
“She’s the ship I grew up with and always imagined having,” adds Trevas, although he appreciates how the latest incarnation “adds to that original 'bucket of bolts’ from my childhood.” Trevas admits that as a kid, his penchant for drawing Star Wars ships was not so well received. “I got in trouble for drawing TIE fighters in chalk all over the basement walls,” he says. But his love of the galaxy led him to collect trading cards of Ralph McQuarrie’s concept art and instilled a lifelong interest in both Star Wars and illustration. “That was when I really got hooked on Star Wars art and realized artists did more than draw cartoons,” he says. “Nobody thought back then that an artist could make a career from just Star Wars…I still doodle the Falcon from memory all the time.”
“Little me would be freaking out,” Reiff adds reflecting on what his kid-self would think of his latest work. “But he'd be at the table drawing up his ideas of where everything fits in the Falcon.” Like the rest of the book’s creative team, the original Falcon of Reiff’s childhood remains his favorite. “I love the feeling of history that the original trilogy version has,” he says. “It has all the Lando upgrades and more but has obviously seen a lot of action.”
But if he were shopping around for the real thing, he’d probably be eyeing up Lando’s pride even if, just like in the film, it wouldn’t stay quite so immaculate. “If I were looking to buy a YT-1300, I'd definitely be leaning toward the pristine version, though I'm betting it wouldn't be too long before I'd have it cluttered up with stuff.”
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!