Inside the Lucasfilm Archive: Weapons of the Inquisitorius from the Obi-Wan Kenobi Limited Series

Propmaster Brad Elliott discusses translating animated lightsabers into real-world props.

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.

Propmaster Brad Elliott first saw Star Wars when he was just 6 years old. “I remember walking out of the theater in awe. I went home and drew pictures of all of the characters.” But as a child, Elliott could never have imagined his affinity for the saga would one day land him a role working behind the scenes on the Obi-Wan Kenobi limited series. As the propmaster for the show, Elliott and his team — led by Executive Producer and Director Deborah Chow — helped to bridge the gap between Star Wars: A New Hope, where fans first met Ben Kenobi, and the prequel trilogy.

Obi-Wan vs. Darth Vader in Star Wars: A New Hope

To prepare, Elliott rewatched all the movies that took place before Kenobi in the timeline to gain a deeper understanding of the aesthetic that the show would be evolving from. That helped to reframe Elliott’s interpretation of legacy props like Kenobi’s lightsaber. “We used the amazing resources that Pablo Hidalgo brought to the team, and I personally constantly referred to the works of Ralph McQuarrie for inspiration,” Elliott says. “I also relied heavily on the same techniques that the prop builders used in A New Hope. We found objects from vintage air pistols to old camera parts, and other pieces from the 1920s through the 1960s; using the same or similar building blocks helped to ensure that the props we made would feel like they belong in the Star Wars universe.”

Thirs Sister, the Grand Inquisitor, and the Fifth Brother

Animation to live action

But the production also called for the unique adaptations of several Inquisitor lightsabers, previously realized in animation but never before brought into live action.

Grand Inquisitor and Fifth Brother Inquisitor from Star Wars Rebels

The Grand Inquisitor and Fifth Brother made their debut in Star Wars Rebels, where we first glimpsed the unique double-bladed lightsabers with circular hilts. With the flick of a button, the circular component could spin like a centrifuge, amping the deadly weapon up to a ferocious speed. In an early meeting with Chow and Dave Filoni, Elliott recalls Filoni’s advice for translating stylized animation into realistic props: “Imagine the live-action came first, and that the anmimated material was an exaggerated version of the live action.” Rather than trying to match the illustrative properties, “this gave us permission to keep the form factor of the props established in animation, but to control the proportions and to bring them more in line with props made for human hands versus animated ones,” Elliott says.

Obi-Wan Kenobi's Fifth Brother lightsaber prop Obi-Wan Kenobi's Fourth Sister lightsaber prop

Although the Grand Inquisitor’s and Fifth Brother’s lightsaber design is similar, the diameter of all four Inquisitor sabers has shifted to accommodate the actors portraying the roles, including Rupert Friend and Sung Kang respectively, Elliott notes. But that wasn’t the only change. “We were careful to minimize the more fragile looking parts of the animated designs, and we took care to make sure that the size of the rings and the diameter of the handles would fit the characters they were intended for.” The Fifth Brother’s hilt, for example, is markedly larger than the Fourth Sister’s, which is a variation on the same theme.

Reva fighting Darth Vader Obi-Wan Kenobi's Reva's lightsaber prop

The Third Sister

The hilt created for Reva, the Third Sister, has a striking design that allows her saber to be split in half, configured as the ringed emitter of the standard Inquisitorius is deconstructed into her own unique variation. “[Lucasfilm VP and executive creative director] Doug Chiang was instrumental in original concepts for the Reva saber,” Elliott notes. Taking into account Chiang’s artistic vision and Chow’s needs in bringing the action sequences with Reva to life, the prop makers built the unique design. “The functionality of the handle separating into two separate sabers offered a challenge in that the halves didn’t look right with the circle simply splitting in half,” Elliott notes. “We imagined that as the saber splits into two pieces, there would be internal handle extensions to the grip, and retracting guards that pulled in on themselves. Similarly, we had to imagine how the half-circle version that she normally carries, becomes a full circle for when it spins.” Ultimately, designers decided the semi-circle version would telescope out to create the full circle, a transformation achieved on-screen with help from Industrial Light & Magic visual effects accentuating the practical prop.

For a closer look at these and other props from the Obi-Wan Kenobi limited series, 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+.

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Associate Editor Kristin Baver is the author of the book Skywalker: A Family At War, host of This Week! In Star Wars, and an 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. Follow her on Twitter @KristinBaver.

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