That’s it for this panel! Thank you for joining us for this live blog. Pick up The Art of the Force Awakens for more about this topic!
Abrams told the artists to imagine that they’re making an Abrams movie on sets built by George Lucas.
A: They tried to recreate the feel of the ’80s. Abrams directed them to “Design a sequel to Return of the Jedi.”
Q: What was the design sense? Was it a unified aesthetic or did you bring your personal taste into it?
Rayne Roberts was mid-answer when an announcement chimed in that the show floor for Celebration was now closed, but they’re going to continue taking questions!
Rey’s staff was also a story point…
Doug Chiang chased the design for Kylo’s saber for weeks, but it didn’t come until Abrams told him to think about sizzling bacon, amplified by a hundred.
A: We always try to do interesting things, but that’s the prop department’s job, too.
Q: How do you make iconic weapons?
The artists explain that they need to answer questions and sometimes art might be disposable in the search for those answers.
Gareth asked about how it feels to produce so much art that won’t make it into the film.
Gareth Edwards just showed up in full Stormtrooper regalia!
That’s it for the slides, it’s time for audience questions.
Art and story inform each other.
The swoop at the back of Kylo’s helmet was supposed to be a younger, sportier version of Vader’s.
Kylo Ren has a reverence for his grandfather, even though he doesn’t know the whole story, and so the story of The Force Awakens demanded that hint of Vader in his helmet.
Abrams came in, saw the poster, and approved it.
Dillon created a piece like the movie poster’s he loved in his youth and came up with the design for Kylo’s helmet on a poster with a Star Wars logo on it.
Abrams told Dillon that he wanted Kylo Ren’s image to be on the poster and make kids say, “I want to see that film.”
They knew Kylo Ren would need to be part of a gang or a group of some sort, before they’d develop the idea of the Knights of Ren. Dillon based some early designs for them on biker gangs.
Dillon: “For a long time, we didn’t know Kylo’s name, we just referred to him as Jedi Killer.”
An early design for Kylo Ren’s mask was the design that ended up as the soldiers of the Gauvian Death Gang.
Dillon: “In the original Star Wars the TIE Pilot is a Rebel helmet mashed with a Stormtrooper helmet and painted black and it’s just massive.”
Glyn Dillon is talking about how they wanted to cross-pollinate the physical parts between troopers’ costumes because it would make sense for the First Order to keep them maintained.
“Michael kept talking about what it would look like as an Apple/Mac Stormtrooper.”
The new trooper design took the longest to get approved. The flame troopers and snow troopers were much easier. But that one sketch by Kaplan was the direction they ended up taking.
On the screen is a sketch by Michael Kaplan, costume designer on The Force Awakens, of the new First Order trooper. Discussion has moved to how costume design works in the art phase.
Wallin’s interior of Rey’s home was approved almost right away and the concepts look incredibly similar to how they appear in the final film.
The quad-jumper from the finished film is tucked in under the belly of the AT-AT in that first piece.
The first painting Wallin did, based on the Jordan desert, was a concept of Rey’s AT-AT.
The sets for the Resistance base started massive and kept shrinking over time and the progression of art reflects that.
Andree Wallin discusses his art now, showing off interiors of his “blue sky” visions of the interior of the Resistance base.
They have the art department do concepts over locations they know they’re going to shoot at, to see how to make it look more “Star Wars.”
They used a portfolio of concept art to help with the key lighting decisions.
Q: How much does concept art affect photography?
A: It’s a continued influence through the shoot. Once the director and director of photography are involved, they get involved in the conversations with the art department. There’s a lot of back and forth and it’s very collaborative.
Allsop is talking about a design he worked on that looks like a mix between Dagobah and Yavin IV for the Resistance base.
There’s artwork of early designs for the Resistance’s base on the screen. In early stages, the Resistance was going to be housed in a forest.
Allsop: I didn’t count on The Force Awakens, but on Rogue One I’ve done maybe 650 paintings.
Q: How many concept art pieces do you make on one show? Do you keep records?
Matt Allsop: “We just rip Ralph McQuarrie off all day.” They reference him constantly.
When the art department is working on early art, they don’t always know what the characters might look like, so they sometimes insert themselves as the characters.
The question was, “How do we make it not the Cantina? And what does the interior of a castle in Star Wars look like?”
On the screen are early concepts of Han and Rey in Maz Kanata’s castle/bar.
Q: How close to the shooting date was art still being produced for Han and Kylo’s scene on the bridge?
A: Up until the night before
The design of the set for Han’s scene on the bridge was driven purely by the story.
The set where Rey entered the oscillator was designed to be Han and Chewie’s staging area for their “cold” conversation as well.
The most important thing in ship design in Star Wars, according to the panel, is implying the function of the ship.
The only thing on set was a door. They marked the width out on the stage and hoped the extras didn’t cross over it.
This ship was a stage for Han and Leia’s meeting, so they didn’t want a flashy design. It’s based on a tank, a Chinook helicopter, and a landing craft.
It went through many iterations.
The art team is talking about the Resistance Cruiser General Leia made her first appearance on.
Chiang knew there was a character living on the planet, but didn’t know it was Rey specifically, so the art team would make up their own stories to tell in the art.
Rey’s speeder bike wasn’t designed in the early art phases and so Chiang created imagery with her on the Endor bikes. Abrams saw these pieces and said, “Let’s take it one step further. What if the chase through the wreckage is with the Millennium Falcon?”
Chiang: “That reveal would have been too long.”
Abrams gave Chiang the idea to think of Rey as an ant crawling through an engine block, which set the tone for the visuals he began to work on.
Rey’s AT-AT, in Chiang’s original artwork, was dangling inside a Star Destroyer.
Chiang’s original idea for the opening of the film was the Star Destroyer coming overhead, but you realize it’s broken. And it’s not chasing a ship, it’s being tugged, and then that’s where we meet our scavenger heroine. A mirror of A New Hope.
An image Chiang made of the Death Star crashed on Tatooine inspired the early Jakku imagery.
Chiang was encouraged to come up with crazy ideas during their “blue sky” phase.
These artists are involved until the entire filmmaking process is over. Roberts: “They’re involved in worldbuilding, this is where it happens.”
They discussed small skirmishes between the Empire and the Rebellion in those months and that inspired the events of Jakku.
This was part of the process on The Force Awakens. One of the first things they did in story development, they had to think about the events in the galaxy post-Return of the Jedi.
Rayne Roberts explains how art and story works simultaneously, rather than one than the other, to create an ongoing creative dialogue.
Chiang had three months to work on “blue sky” concept work for the film, working with the story group.
Chiang talks about how work started on The Force Awakens began for him in January of 2013.
Then Doug Chiang, living legend, introduces himself.
Rayne Roberts, on the creative story group, helped with the art books and loves working with these guys.
Ken Jenkins, supervising art director of ILM London, isn’t sure what his role on Episode VIII is.
Andree Wallin and Glyn Dillon are next. Talking about working on the Han Solo film…
Phil Szostak, author of The Art of The Force Awakens, introduces himself. Calls himself a concept art guru.
Collins calls up to the stage Phil Szostak, Kevin Jenkins, Rayne Roberts, and others.
David Collins takes the stage!
The Galaxy stage seems filled close to capacity as we wait for the Art of The Force Awakens to begin!