Propmaster Brad Elliott shares insights on fabricating Kenobi's lightsaber and other personal items that link the new series to the prequel trilogy and the film that started it all.
Through the props and costumes of Star Wars, we find a tangible link to connect with the characters from a galaxy far, far away and the stories they inhabit. Inside the Lucasfilm Archive, take a closer look at these artifacts and the stories behind their design.
Obi-Wan Kenobi is a man who cannot escape his past.
In the Obi-Wan Kenobi limited series, now streaming on Disney+, storytellers explore a previously unseen era in the character’s life -- nearly 10 years after the fall of the Jedi with Order 66 but still almost a decade from meeting his fate aboard the Death Star. Behind the scenes, the production crew took great pains to find the middle ground between these two known story points when creating the props that would help define the titular character at the midpoint between Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars: A New Hope.
Among Kenobi’s meager belongings when the series opens on Tatooine, we find familiar macrobinoculars, a holoprojector, and a datapad that look almost exactly like screen-used items from the prequel trilogy. “It made sense that Kenobi would take a few items with him to watch over Luke,” Propmaster Brad Elliott tells StarWars.com. That includes his lightsaber and other tools of the Jedi that were glimpsed in those earlier films. “The holoprojector would have been something that he would take with him from his belongings on Coruscant.” In this case, the item allowed Bail Organa to reach his old friend with an urgent request and was later broken in the chaos.
Kenobi’s macrobinoculars, first glimpsed in the trailer for the series, were fabricated from a pair intended to appear in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones. Their placement among Obi-Wan’s personal effects is itself a deep cut for fans familiar with a deleted scene showing Kenobi using the same item in Episode II. The prop was original destined for use on Geonosis, but an animated version later showed up in Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
The datapad was an even more obscure recreation, seen only briefly in Revenge of the Sith in the hands of Anakin Skywalker. “He is holding a datapad and mentions that Obi-Wan was there, as if the datapad was the evidence that his master had been to see Padmé and had left it behind,” Elliott says. Visual guides further cemented the idea that the datapad belonged to Skywalker’s master, but “we were the first to actually put it in his hands,” Elliott notes.
An elegant weapon
Even a Jedi in hiding needs their trusty lightsaber.
Kenobi’s elegant and iconic weapon from a more civilized age proved to be the most difficult challenge for the prop builders on the series, Elliott says. Designers on the original trilogy and the prequels had utilized similar but not identical designs to create Obi-Wan’s hilt, meaning that the prop builders on Kenobi were tasked with merging the two iterations into something new that still felt authentic.
“His lightsaber was the trickiest thing that we had to figure out,” Elliott says. “The Revenge of the Sith saber is smaller, shinier, and differs in many other details from the New Hope saber that Alec Guinness carried.
"Kenobi is coming from the loss of the war, the fall of the Jedi Order, and the loss of his best friend and Padawan,” Elliott adds. “He’s carrying the weight of his past, so his saber is largely from that past.”
While the design aesthetic mainly mirrors the prequel hilt previously carried by series star Ewan McGregor, prop makers specifically upgraded the emitter to more closely match Guinness’s original and aged the once pristine handle to make it feel like an artifact that had spent nearly 10 years buried in the desert.
Toys and trinkets
Another prop that connected to the storytelling from A New Hope but shed new light on the lore was the T-16 skyhopper model.
Originally seen in the hands of Luke Skywalker as he dreams of a life far from the moisture farm, in the new series we see Kenobi purchase the scavenged toy parts from a Jawa called Teeka. “The T-16 was a hard one to put together,” Elliott says. With help from Lucasfilm to source reference photos of the original, prop makers procured the same model kits that would have been used in the creation of the first model in the 1970s. “The talented builders were able to source the original model kits that many of the parts were originally pulled from, which allowed us to provide the most screen accurate model possible,” Elliott says. Although this version needed one special modification: a folding wing that could be broken off and reattached as needed to store inside the prop sack.
But there was one prop that Elliott had perilously little to go off of: wupiupi coins. Often mentioned as the currency of the Hutt clan on Tatooine, where Republic credits are no good for bartering with Toydarian junk dealers, Kenobi marks the first time fans have seen wupiupi in regular use.
Elliott says his team had just one image for reference from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, indicating the look of wupiupi was originally based on Turkish Yuzluk, coin currency from the Ottoman Empire just slightly larger than an American half dollar. But Director Deborah Chow worried that was too large for the swift hand-to-hand transactions in the series. As a result, the wupiupi carried in Kenobi is scaled down slightly with the same art as the first iteration. Elliott and Lucasfilm creative executive Pablo Hidalgo not only discussed the look of the coins, but also the proper conversion rates for wupiupi and trugut, another currency favored by the Hutts. By comparing the values between wuipiupi, truguts, and credits, the two figured out the cost of some common goods in the galaxy far, far away and a minimum wage for the whale carving station where Kenobi works at the series outset. “A full shift at the sand whaling station pays one trugut and three wupiupi,” Elliott says. “Not much really.”
For a closer look at these and other props from the Obi-Wan Kenobi limited series, including Kenobi's knife and shovel, check out the latest episode of This Week! In Star Wars.
Stream all six episodes of the Obi-Wan Kenobi limited series right now only on Disney+.