Made in China: Building the Falcon in Shanghai

The challenge: design and build a “real scale” exhibit incorporating approximately 25% of Han Solo’s beloved YT-1300 light freighter, the Millennium Falcon, then assemble it inside the New Exhibition Center in Pudong, Shanghai, China. The entire project, decided by the Disney China consumer products team for the China Toy Fair less than three weeks from the event, had to go from planning to drawing to construction to execution in that very short amount of time. I happily volunteered to help with design, content, and approvals, but could it be done?

The answer: “This is China. We can do anything.”

I heard that phrase much more than once while I was in Shanghai for Toy Fair and the Disney Consumer Products licensee meeting. I hoped to provide experience in and knowledge of the galaxy far, far, away, and help the process as best I could. I quickly learned that when my colleagues quoted the above, they were not kidding. We made changes and edits on the fly right up to the morning the show opened, but the result was a spectacular display that did indeed look like the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy on the outside, and house a Star Wars movie timeline and licensed toy exhibit on the inside.

I snapped this shot of the Falcon construction on Sunday...

I snapped this shot of the Falcon construction on Sunday. The show would open Tuesday morning. Look closely and you’ll see that the photograph really is right side up. The view is from an interior hallway, looking out through the framework at the yet-to-be-covered mandible.

That’s no moon….
Taken from the cockpit-in-progress.

The cover skin and details for the Falcon were hand-sculpted out of foam, then hand-painted. This shot shows details on the mandible, while the foam is still white and unpainted.

The crew mixed paint as they worked, and artfully hand-applied the weathered look of the ship. Touches like this made it feel like the fasted hunk of junk in the galaxy really had landed in the Expo Center.

While I was in Shanghai, I was very fortunate to spend an evening with Frank Zhang — the commanding officer of the 501st Legion, his son, and members of the Garrison. The best part was talking with them and catching up on all the work the growing Garrison is doing. They made sure I had traditional Shanghai food which I loved. While I was in the city I enjoyed many dishes including Xiaolongbao (soup dumplings), Di Shui Dong ribs, and fried chicken feet. Okay, the last item I might not have enjoyed quite as much as the rest, as there was a lot to spit out after chewing, but many people love them.

We anticipated — and it was true — that hundreds would line up to take their picture in the Falcon cockpit. To make the most of their time inside the ship, we created a timeline that gave a summary of the six saga Star Wars movies, and a display of licensed, iconic Star Wars products with their backstories and inspiration.

“Traveling through hyperspace ain’t like dusting crops, boy. Without precise calculations…”

Video wall outside the cockpit, where people could watch scenes from the Star Wars movies, including the Falcon in action.

Meanwhile, in another part of the Disney China Toy Fair pavilion, the Hulk seems to have broken a skyscraper.

Pieces of the Falcon, already disassembled just a few hours after the show closed on Thursday evening. The Falcon exhibit will likely be seen in other locations in China in the coming year, as they are planning to take it on a tour of retail locations.

Post Script: A few more shots from around Shanghai

I loved the city and took many photographs. Here are three.

Taken from one of the observation decks on the iconic Oriental Pearl Tower, a building which is so often associated with Shanghai. I was told that just a short time ago twenty-five percent of all the world’s cranes were in Shanghai.

Da Xing Road, on a walk from the Shanghai Museum to Yuyuan Gardens.

My photo of R2-D2 in a Shanghai toy shop window reminds me of that famous closet shot from the movie E.T.

Post Post Script, but Very Important: Operation New Hope

Throughout the recent typhoon disaster in the Philippines, I tried to keep in correspondence with members of the Rebel and 501st Legion and R2-D2 Builders in the country. Regina Layug-Rosero sent me this image, and this information on what the Philippine Outpost is doing to help:

“Year-round we troop for children’s charities. In times of need we band together to raise funds and collect donations for relief goods. For those affected by Typhoon Yolanda, we’d like to do our part again. The Philippine Outpost is working with Star Wars Cebu’s Operation: New Hope effort to collect donations for relief packages for the Visayas region. You can send donations via PayPal through”

On our front, The Walt Disney Company announced that it would donate $500,000 to support humanitarian aid and rebuilding efforts related to the recent tragedy in the Philippines. This donation will be allocated equally between Save the Children and the American Red Cross for relief and aid to those in need. They are also sponsoring an employee match donation program.

All the best with your efforts, Philippine Outpost. Our thoughts and support are with you.

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