The creators of two major new books take StarWars.com behind the scenes.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then this month’s new releases from DK Publishing are worth their weight in Jedi holocrons. Leading off the month is the mammoth book, Star Wars Year by Year: A Visual History, Updated Edition, coming out today. This new version adds new sections to the impressive timeline of Star Wars in our world, from the culture that shaped George Lucas as a young man now up to the year 2016. Like the rest of the book, whose first edition came out in 2010, these new entries, written by Pablo Hidalgo and often using art, photos, and other illustrations, take the reader through all the key happenings in the recent history of the Star Wars saga, including the development of The Force Awakens and other new films.
And if you’re more interested in the places of the films, the end of September brings the release of Star Wars: Complete Locations, a visual guide full of cross-sections and 3D maps of the structures, towns, battlegrounds, and worlds, out on September 27. With new sections covering The Force Awakens illustrated by Kemp Remillard and written by Jason Fry, the book showcases the details and history of key locations from the movies, from Naboo to Jakku, and from the Jedi Temple to Starkiller Base.
Let’s take a closer look at these books so full of information and visuals, the Sith would be clamoring to get their hands on these secrets.
Star Wars Year by Year: A Visual History, Updated Edition
When the original Year by Year came out, the 300-page volume was seen as the definitive guide to every key milestone of the Star Wars franchise. Going in chronological order, year by year, and sometimes day by day, it covered the behind the scenes of the entire history of Star Wars, coupled with other key significant events in history and culture for context. With different sections written by Ryder Windham, Dan Wallace, and Pablo Hidalgo, it covered important film dates, releases of various Star Wars toys, books, games, and other products, fan events and other pop culture happenings tying into the franchise, and key events in the lives of those who helped to shape the Star Wars story. Now, years later, the Updated Edition adds to that history by covering the past years, including the end of The Clone Wars and the start of the new era under Kathleen Kennedy. With new text by Pablo Hidalgo, Year by Year combines information in easily digested entries with the iconic images that capture the essence of these events into one enjoyable pictorial timeline. Developing such a comprehensive work is a team effort, and Sadie Smith, DK’s managing editor for Star Wars Year by Year, Updated Edition, shared with StarWars.com via e-mail some details of how it all came together.
Star Wars.com: What is Year by Year all about? How does this book present the timeline of Star Wars in the real world alongside other historical events?
Sadie Smith: Year by year, month by month, this fan-favorite title charts key events in the Star Wars universe -- from the birth and early influences of George Lucas, right through to the principle photography of Episode VIII. Interwoven are “real world” events including scientific news, space related events, key political events, and highlights of popular culture. These “news bulletins” give the reader context and background to what was happening in the wider world at the same time as all this great storytelling was happening at Lucasfilm.
There is an element of nostalgia to this book, too. As you flick through the pages you will come across an entry on the release of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (Aug 13, 1991), for example, and an entry in 2002 (May 28) charting the discovery of water on Mars. A ticker tape device at the bottom of every page bullets further news events from around the world.
The Star Wars entries are the main events, however, with the key stories from the “real world” adding an interesting extra dimension. All major entries are illustrated (beautifully, in the true DK way), making this a bit of a real “museum in a book.”
StarWars.com: What are some of the reasons why Pablo Hidalgo is the ideal candidate to author the updates, covering the time frame from 2010 to 2016?
Sadie Smith: First off, he is a fantastic, accomplished writer. Pablo also contributed substantially to the first edition, so he came to this update with a complete understanding of the format and the type of content that we were looking for.
But crucially, Pablo has an encyclopedic knowledge of the Star Wars universe. As a creative executive at Lucasfilm Story Group, working across all Star Wars related media, including film and TV, publishing, video games, and more, Pablo has a very broad spectrum of knowledge of what is happening in the world of Star Wars -- crucial for a book covering such an enormous franchise! It was great to have such an authority working on the update this much loved book.
Thanks, Sadie! With Year by Year, Updated Edition now spanning over 360 pages, it is an amazing and interesting book that can be devoured in tiny chunks or all at one go. Plus, it comes with two collectible prints of concept art from The Force Awakens, all packaged in a slick slipcase.
Star Wars: Complete Locations
Complete Locations builds on DK’s long tradition of fantastic visual guides for galactic geography, and is an update to the 2005 Complete Locations book -- after all, a lot of new places have appeared since then, and older places can now be seen in a new light. Like previous films brought to life in this series, The Force Awakens is represented through detailed 3D maps highlighting routes taken by the main characters, and cross-sections of key structures and sites during pivotal events to showcase many of the places seen in the film. Via e-mail, author Jason Fry and illustrator Kemp Remillard shared with StarWars.com some of the details from crafting this book.
StarWars.com: Star Wars: Complete Locations adds a new section covering the key places seen in The Force Awakens. How did the collaboration between the two of you work to craft these new spreads, especially with cross-sections?
Jason Fry: The artist should take the lead in such things -- Kemp knows what he needs to show and is drawing on an entire visual language that I barely speak to determine the best angle and stylistic approach. I’d just get in the way at that point, so I make sure not to. Instead, I’ll think about a location and develop a wish list of things I’d like to explain and tidbits that come to me as ideas. I’ll also generally have a “to-do” list of things either seen in the movies or in other sources that I either need or want to see for that locale.
So, for instance, for Rey’s home I went through the movie and made sure we had what we needed. Then I looked at Rey’s Survival Guide and Before the Awakening to look for things we could nod to. (If anyone’s curious, yes, I did have to go through my own book. You’re calling on a different part of your brain.) Also, because Rey’s living in a tipped-over walker, I looked at Cross-Sections and other sources of walker lore to see if there were cool possibilities we could bring into the text.
That takes care of annotations and art suggestions I might have to pass on to Kemp. When writing the main text for the spreads, I go by feel. Obviously you’ve got to describe the location and its importance, but the other chunks of text give you a lot of possibilities. I generally go for something that will deepen our feel for the character, then some technical lore or historical context, and then I let my imagination run. Ideally, each spread lets the reader’s imagination run too -- you can imagine other days and nights Rey spent in her odd home, what she would have been thinking about, and so on.
Kemp Remillard: For the new cross-sections illustrations from The Force Awakens, Jason Fry and I collaborated in much the same way as we did for the Star Wars: The Force Awakens Incredible Cross-Sections book, which was released to coincide with the movie and featured the film’s vehicles and spacecraft. We spitballed lots of ideas about what would be nice to include, and where we understood things to be. Jason and I worked with Pablo Hidalgo and the Lucasfilm Story Group to verify details and run by ideas. With Maz’s Castle and Rey’s home, Jason was able to supply me with a list of details about each location that was culled from the recently released canon story content. This can get a little tricky to pack in, but it’s a great way to make the content of the Cross Sections books stay consistent with the larger universe, and give a wink and a nod to the hardcore fans that are staying up to date with ALL of the new content. With Rey’s home, the idea of her having a work bench and a generator using the solar panels of an old TIE fighter are from the current fiction released about Rey’s home. One of my challenges was to place the solar panel on the side of the AT-AT leg that is just off camera in the shot from the movie. For me, it’s always a fun part of the job to see how I can make this seemingly impossible detail make sense in the picture and continue the viewer’s suspension of disbelief.
StarWars.com: Kemp, your style at first looks similar to the work of the earlier illustrators, Hans Jenssen and Richard Chasemore, but you also bring a great vibrancy, giving it a more cinematic feel. What’s your approach to designing a cross-section?
Kemp Remillard: First, let me say that the work of Hans Jenssen and Richard Chasemore is truly incredible and was a big inspiration when I was starting my career. The depth and breadth of their dissections of Star Wars vehicles really give it this great credibility that helps keep the universe alive in people’s minds. I can’t do what they do since our techniques and backgrounds are both very different. Hans and Richard did almost all of the original Inside the Worlds series cross-sections by hand, whereas I work almost entirely in Photoshop on a computer (with a tablet). I have a background in concept art for the video-game/film/commercial industry, so I was able to port a lot of my experience into making these images. To be honest, I was terrified when I was first approached to make the cross-section illustrations for the new films, but this now feels to me like it’s the fated accumulation of so many different art jobs into one giant digital art salad. The approaches are simply different and I’d like to think they’d be considered as different interpretations. In the same way a director sculpts a film.
Also, I’ve had the great ability to work with Lucasfilm and have access to the 3D geometry used in the actual film. Working with the fine folks at Lucasfilm, I was able to incorporate the actual models into my illustrations. This was incredibly helpful as it allowed me to stay as accurate as possible while concentrating on what was going on inside of a particular vehicle or place. I try to use 3D where I can since it’s so precise, incorporating it into an illustrated look.
StarWars.com: Jason, with the new chapter on The Force Awakens locations, how did you balance incorporating existing information from other sources with developing new knowledge and revelations?
Jason Fry: Well, I called it a to-do list above, but it’s more flexible than that. Whether you’re writing fiction or a guidebook entry -- what I sometimes call “non-fiction fiction” -- the storytelling is the most important thing. And the second-most important thing, and the third-most, and a whole lot more mosts. In fiction you’re advancing the storytelling directly; with a book such as Complete Locations you’re supporting it as it appears elsewhere. So it’s less about striking a balance between new and old information than it is thinking about what a spread needs in terms of information and then seeing what you have on hand and what you have to invent. Sometimes that means you wind up inventing a lot, and sometimes you’ve got a lot of what you need thanks to other storytellers.
Maz’s castle was a lot of fun because there was a lot of existing information we could leverage -- I included nods to everything from Landry Walker’s short stories to an interlude in Chuck Wendig’s Life Debt that I’d just read in manuscript -- but also plenty of room for me and Kemp to have fun imagining what might be tucked away in various nooks and crannies of the fortress. The hardest spread for me in terms of new material was undoubtedly Starkiller Base. Looking at that one, we realized we had to go into more detail about how, exactly, the thing worked. Alan Dean Foster’s novelization was a useful starting point, but I had to go beyond that, so I wracked my brain and came up with explanations and sent them off to Lucasfilm with crossed fingers.
Kemp and I also spent hours e-mailing stills from a digital copy of the movie back and forth with the very patient David Fentiman and Owen Bennett of DK yakking about the Starkiller Base command bridge and the trenches and the facility Han, Chewie, and Finn attack and trying to figure out how everything fit together. My brain hurt for days after that.
StarWars.com: Kemp, Starkiller Base is so big that it requires a page foldout to fit three different cross-sections. How did you tackle the depiction of such a large-scale location?
Kemp Remillard: Starkiller Base was tricky! Jason and I had a number of exchanges about where things were, and we worked with our fine editors Owen Bennet and David Fentiman at DK and Pablo Hidalgo at Lucasfilm about what we should, or could, include. We knew that the trench run and the thermal oscillator would be a great scene to show, since there was this giant dramatic scene of an air-battle going on all around it. The planet and the Starkiller weapon needed to be explained and detailed, but we also had to show how there were other facilities on the planet. The parade ground scene is obviously an iconic part of The Force Awakens but we have lots of scenes in the actual base, so I tried to do both! The distances seemed to work and after much fact checking and double fact-checking it seemed we could incorporate some of the parade ground scenes with the base scenes in the illustrations. Needless to say, it was big! And with all things Star Wars universe, we could easily fill volumes of foldouts.
StarWars.com: Jason, even though much of the book builds off of 3D maps and cross-sections of locations created for earlier books, every page has been re-formatted, and some older spreads now have updated information, like the Jedi Temple Complex, the Death Star, Mustafar, the Grand Republic Medical Facility, and Jabba's Throne Room. What types of surprises might fans encounter looking back at the locations from the earlier films?
Jason Fry: I find it hard to predict what will surprise people, so I’m not going to go there. I will say that reworking those older spreads was both a bigger job than I’d imagined and a more fun one than I’d feared. I’d underestimated just how much Legends lore was in the old Locations books -- which is a testament to how well the previous authors integrated it.
I approached that material by flagging everything that was Legends for Lucasfilm’s attention and weighing in on whether I thought a given reference needed to be reworked or could stand. In some cases other storytelling had overwritten things, but a fair amount of the lore was interesting color that still worked perfectly well. And, OK, in some cases I had no idea if something should stand or not and was really curious what the answer would be. Lucasfilm came back with their opinions, thoughts, and marching orders and away I went.
In some cases I think-- or at least hope -- that the reworked text grounds a location better across eras of Star Wars storytelling. For instance, the reworked Death Star spread now includes revelations from The Clone Wars, nods at Rogue One and foreshadowing of Starkiller Base. I think that lets us see the Death Star project in an interesting new light.
In other cases, inevitably, we had problems to solve. If the Grand Republic Medical Facility is Darth Sidious’ supervillain lair, why do Shaak Ti and Fives get invited there in The Clone Wars? It was pretty clear to me that The Clone Wars team saw the tower as just a medical facility, and my first inclination was to rework that spread accordingly. But we were committed to the existing art, so the place was going to have weird-looking crystals in its basement. That was an interesting challenge to explain.
That part of the book was an odd undertaking, but I wound up really enjoying it. Yes, some stuff needed to be reworked. But what I loved about the Locations books as a reader was the richness and depth that they gave the Star Wars galaxy -- all those annotations and explanations made you think of more tales, whether they were ones you’d seen or read or others just suggested by a stray fact or a bit of art. That’s what made me spend hours with those books, and preserving that feeling was uppermost in my mind whether I was writing annotations for a brand-new The Force Awakens spread or tinkering with an old favorite.
DK’s reference guides satisfy that thirst to know more about the Star Wars saga with their fantastic imagery and insightful information while leaving room to the reader’s imagination to tell more stories, whether it’s what is around that corner in Maz Kanata’s castle, or what was happening at Skywalker Ranch and the Presidio as new adventures are being developed.
Star Wars is set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, and with the new Year by Year and Complete Locations, you’ll be a master of both the time that produced the story and the places within it.
James Floyd is a writer, photographer, and organizer of puzzle adventures. He’s a bit tall for a Jawa. His current project is Wear Star Wars Every Day, a fundraising effort for a refugee aid organization. You can follow him on Twitter at @jamesjawa or check out his articles on Club Jade and Big Shiny Robot.