Author Archive



Star Wars Artist Gets Liverpool Exhibit

Pete Vilmur | June 25, 2007

European fans who enjoy the many styles and talents of those who have illustrated for the Star Wars universe may want to check out a new exhibit showcasing the art of the late Josh Kirby, whose work included the well-known British poster artwork for Return of the Jedi.

Currently hosted by the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, “Out of this World: The Art of Josh Kirby” includes events such as an “SF Illustration Demonstration” on August 14 and a workshop showcasing Kirby’s images of robots and space on August 15 and 16.

For more information, you can visit the exhibit site here. A listing of events at the exhibit are posted here.

Bidder Pays $950 for Empty Box

Pete Vilmur | June 22, 2007

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On May 28, while most fans were packing up their hard-won figures and prints to make the trip home from Celebration IV, a few hardcore collectors stayed back to battle it out for rare toys and other items pulled from Lucasfilm’s Licensing Archives — including a rare Kenner shipping carton that originally held four remote-controlled Jawa Sandcrawlers.

Now, while the Sandcrawlers themselves are quite valuable and among the most coveted of early Kenner Star Wars toys, what made this somewhat non-descript shipping carton so unique was who it was addressed to back in 1979: one George W. Lucas Jr. of San Anselmo, CA. Final price paid for the empty box: $950. All proceeds benefitted the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

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The Clone Wars Panel Discussions

Pete Vilmur | May 27, 2007

The first two panel discussions with The Clone Wars producer Catherine Winder and supervising director Dave Filoni have finished, and here’s a brief listing of what fans just witnessed:

First, an introduction to Winder and Filoni, with a great video short showing director Filoni wearing his scratch-built Plo Koon costume to the premiere of Episode III (before getting hired on at Lucasfilm).

Interview details:

  • When Filoni initially got the call from Winder to direct The Clone Wars, he thought it was a joke staged by his friends. Winder assured him it was not, and proved it by letting him call her back on her Lucasfilm line.
  • Filoni got the job moments after his initial interview with Lucas. As a fan, he was just glad to meet Lucas and visit Skywalker Ranch just before the opening of Episode III.
  • Lucas is very involved with production – he is mostly focused on the story. He and Winder both work on the scripts with the writers.
  • The episodes will be 22 minutes long, so as a result, there is opportunity for a lot of character development. The tone of the series is based on that of Episode IV – in addition to action, there are also light moments and comedy.
  • In the new series, there will not be a “Justice League of Jedi” as Filoni puts it – the Jedi can’t do anything more than Luke, Mace, Qui-Gon, and Obi-Wan from the films. They can be vulnerable but are intelligent – they need to think themselves out of situations. It will show how war was a challenge for the Jedi to fight, and how the moral principles they clung to began to disintegrate.
  • According to Winder, it’s not being directed as an animated series, but more like live action in terms of its story and cinematography.

Clone Wars Panel

(Photo by Scott Ruether)

Filoni then walks the audience through a series of slides which showcase some of the sculpture designs for characters such as the clone trooper, Anakin, Obi-Wan, Count Dooku, and General Grievous. They will share some of the stylization from the 2-D animated series but also some of the reality from the filmed saga. Filoni describes the style as “leaner and more elegant.”

 

A video is shown which introduces much of the team at Lucasfilm Animation housed at Skywalker Ranch.

Q&A questions revealed:

  • Lucasfilm Animation had nothing to do with some 3-D animated stills recently “leaked” on the internet. They were fan-produced.
  • While continuity is being taken very seriously by the creators of the series, Lucas retains the right to make slight adjustments for the sake of the story. Filoni is extremely well-versed in Star Wars mythology and Expanded Universe, so rest assured it is in very good hands.
  • General Grievous will have a cough. When asked whether any of Grievous’ past will be revealed, the only response is, “You’ll be happy.” Filoni also says that when it comes to big legacy characters like Grievous, Lucas is consulted directly.
  • The series will debut in Fall 2008.
  • A lot of background characters – from the films and otherwise — will get to do a lot more.
  • The series is being produced in high-definition.

The audience was then treated to a preview trailer of The Clone Wars, which is currently available to view by all fans at the new starwars.com! Click here to see the new Clone Wars trailer.

Stay tuned for a more comprehensive rundown of the The Clone Wars panels at Celebration IV!

Ben Burtt Explains Why He Used the Wilhelm

Pete Vilmur | May 26, 2007

The following was actually part of the Ben Burtt panel highlights blog below, but we felt the subject of the famous Wilhelm scream deserved its own separate listing.

“The ‘Wilhelm’ was a scream that was in a western called Distant Drums,” says Burtt. “When I was growing up, I loved recording movies off television – just the audio – and I would listen to films at night in bed with headphones. I became very interested with how sound contributed to the success of a movie. And I began to notice that many sounds were used over and over in some movies – the same gunshot, the same thunderclap – it was kind of a language because each studio had its own collection. I just love recognizing familiar sounds and how they were used.

“And one of them was that scream,” continues Burtt, “because it had been used in half a dozen or more films like Charge at Feather River and Them and many westerns, Helen of Troy, and so on. So when I got to USC as a film student, another student named Richard Anderson and myself got a copy of the Wilhelm off a movie print and put it in our student film for fun and as kind of an homage. Then Richard and I both became sound editors after we left school, and I put [the Wilhelm] in Star Wars to kind of show off to him. And then he put one in Poltergeist — and so I put one in Raiders — and this went back and forth for 20 years and nobody noticed. George Lucas didn’t say anything, Steven Spielberg didn’t say anything. And then the internet came around and it suddenly came out into the open — so now, I guess, it’s become folk art.”

Highlights from a Discussion with Ben Burtt

Pete Vilmur | May 26, 2007

Ben Burtt hardly needs an introduction for most fans attending Star Wars Celebration, but just in case you’re one of the few who doesn’t wait through the end credits of a Star Wars movie, we’ll fill you in.

Ben Burtt is the legendary sound designer for all six Star Wars movies – creating such iconic sounds as Artoo’s characteristic beeps and whistles, Darth Vader’s menacing rasp, and Chewbacca’s unforgettable howl. And that’s just three from the thousands of sounds Burtt has created for the Star Wars movies as well as the Indiana Jones saga.

Host David Collins invited Burtt to his Celebration Theater today to discuss some of the legendary contributions the sound designer has made to the Star Wars saga. Fittingly, Burtt came dressed in his original Star Wars crew t-shirt from 1976. Here are some of the highlights:

Voicing Artoo

“Artoo was a difficult problem. In the original script, it didn’t really tell you what Artoo would say or how he would speak. With Artoo it had to be a sound which implied the information and had the emotional content but were not words as we know them. At first I made a lot of electronic sounds with a synthesizer keyboard, and the results seemed kind of sterile – Artoo didn’t to seem to have a soul. What ended up working was to combine the electronic element of the keyboard which gave a machine-like quality and then add to it the human performance which ended up being me since I was available. [Artoo’s voice] is not actually recorded in real time – I do it slower at a lower pitch and then speed everything up. But out of that process came the idea that you can shape a performance with the intonations of sounds, like a little baby or a toddler who hasn’t quite learned to talk but can communicate a great deal of feeling without actually knowing the words.”

Duke Garindan

“I always wanted to do an insect man – we didn’t really have an insect man come along until Poggle the Lesser [from Episodes II and III]. We had that character that looked kind of like a mosquito from the first Star Wars [Garindan] that we found we needed a sound for. And I was wondering back a few months ago how I did it – because I keep notes and tapes – and I discovered it was an electronic buzzing which had come off of my synthesizer that was triggered by a human voice. And I listened to it and realized it was John Wayne – I had found some loop lines in the trash from the studio that had been thrown away. So the buzzing was triggered by some dialog like ‘All right, what are you doin’ in this town’ or something like that.

Charge of the Clones

“We tried this experiment in Attack of the Clones where we had these sonic charges in space. We were fooling around with that in the mix, and at first it was a joke, but I thought I’d try having silence for about a second and then delay the sound to give it scale – like the lightning occurring before the thunder. It worked great and reminded me that if you want something to have impact, you’ve got to design for it.”

Accidental Shooting

“Most of the good sounds have been accidents. The guy-wire, which became the basis for all the stormtrooper laser guns, was an accident. I was hiking with my family on vacation and we were going over the top of a ridge in Pennsylvania in the Pocono Mountains under a radio tower with guy-wires. My pack caught on the wire and plucked it as we went by, making this great sound. So I went back to California and auditioned guy-wire towers all over until I found the one that gave the most interesting sound.”

Highlights from the VFX Rock Stars Panel

Pete Vilmur | May 26, 2007

Today, host Jay Laga’aia invited several members from the Star Wars saga’s stable of visual effects artists to the Concourse Stage for a one hour discussion on their contributions to the various Star Wars films. On stage were John Knoll, Phil Tippett, Dennis Muren, Ken Ralston, and Richard Edlund.

Here are some highlights from the interview:

Early Influences

Knoll: I had a whole series of hobbies that I did because I lived in a cold climate – I grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where it was fairly cold for a good part of the year, so you spend a lot of time indoors and develop indoor hobbies. I got into photography and had a darkroom in the basement so I could learn to process and print my own film. I used to build models and do stop motion films. So I did the same sort of things that have often led to people getting into this industry.

Tippett: I got started off like most of us as a kid watching crappy horror movies. I think most of us were really taken by the Ray Harryhausen pictures. We pretty much learned in our own garages and our own backyards and bedrooms – you know, setting things on fire and ruining our parents’ tools — learning how to construct things on our own and kind of making it up as we went along. And at one point in time people hired us and we got paid for it.

Muren: There was no industry at that time – there wasn’t any opportunity to look ahead and say, hey, when I’m in my twenties I can get a job doing this, because there wasn’t any. But then George and Steven Spielberg came along – the baby boomers grew up and they wanted to see these movies, and we were ready for them after doing this stuff in our garages for years and years.

Ralston: Mainly it was the work of Ray Harryhausen. The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad seared my mind and did something to me – I became really fascinated with how it was done. It was also his work ethic – this is just one guy who is creating Jason and the Argonauts and the skeleton fight. That was a real inspiration for me. I was just like these guys – in my garage trying to do claymation with an 8mm Bolex. Somewhere down in California there’s a wall in someone’s garage still covered in fake blood, I’m sure.

Edlund: I started out in photography in 8th grade and had a darkroom in the garage. Later I started taking pictures for the sports section of the Herald Examiner during high school. After the Navy I got a job with Bob Abel and started working with early motion control using an old teletype machine to program the camera. So there was this group of us who were just poised and ready to do a movie like Star Wars and were kind of pining for the opportunity, and here it came. Luck had something to do with it, but we all had chops and we all had the means in our experience to do this.

Pre-digital Days

Muren: The nice thing about [making Star Wars] was that it was a very touch and feel industry at that time. You could feel the models whether we were shooting them or picking them up and mounting them – the model makers feel them and feel the weight of them and have a real connection with the objects they were working on. I think it affected the way we thought about the shots – the fact that they were more real. It’s very difficult to have that same experience in CG.

Tippett: We worked on our feet all the time. We stood up and moved around a lot. We touched real things – we were burned by lights, we cut ourselves with Exacto blades. We worked in some dangerous situations where bombs went off and there were intense electrical supplies so you had to be aware in a real human kind of way as opposed to an artificial environment where you can change things however you want.

Ralston: We were able to cross a lot of lines there and do a lot of jobs – if you were capable of doing it, no one was holding you back. And you had a lot of authorship on the work that was being done on the movie – you felt personally involved with what was being seen on screen.

Edlund: It’s not the same kind of gestalt – you know, you had the models from last year still hanging from the ceiling, but now it’s workstations and computer-generated material so it’s a completely different kind of ingenuity. It’s certainly not less – it freed us up from this incredibly cumbersome process of photochemistry. It’s like going from being a blacksmith to a neurosurgeon.

Opening Ceremonies Statement

Pete Vilmur | May 26, 2007

At approximately 7:50 p.m. on Friday, May 25, the Los Angeles Police Department notified staff at Star Wars Celebration IV that a suspicious package had been reported outside the Los Angeles Convention Center.

The LAPD was in charge of the situation. All actions taken were at the order of the Police Department.

The decision to evacuate those still in line to attend the Opening Ceremonies was made for reasons of public safety and with the protection of those guests in mind. It was made to ensure that exits were not blocked in the event of a mass evacuation of the Opening Ceremonies, which at the time was still a possibility.

Celebration IV staff were under obligation to cooperate completely with the directives of the LAPD.

These orders were made out of an abundance of caution and concern for the safety of all fans in attendance, and we appreciate the swift response of the LAPD.

We also appreciate the cooperation and response of those fans affected by this police action, and deeply apologize for the inconvenience this serious situation may have caused.

Hasbro Previews 2007 Star Wars Line-up

Pete Vilmur | May 25, 2007

Hasbro07

Today, Hasbro revealed what it has in store for fans and collectors of the Star Wars line, with a bunch of brand new figures and vehicles lined up for release throughout the remainder of the year. Some great new figures — including a Boba Fett with Sarlacc “goo” — and some great new vehicles. Grievous finally gets his sweet retro-inspired ride, and Obi-Wan’s Episode II starfighter will finally do lightspeed. You can check out slides from Hasbro’s presentation here:

Hasbro’s 2007 Line-up

Classic Artists Rock Celebration

Pete Vilmur | May 24, 2007

I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with John Alvin and Lawrence Noble many times since our first phone conversations for The Star Wars Poster Book back in 2004. I was finally able to meet the both of them in person for the first time today, and was jazzed to see both had with them stunning examples of why they are considered masters of their craft.

John Alvin signs his magnificent Celebration print, and also has a great site which showcases his prolific work — johnalvinart.com

Lawrence Noble takes a break from sculpting as the work-in-progress Obi-Wan looks on impatiently.

Pre-tour of the Lucasfilm Archives at CIV

Pete Vilmur | May 24, 2007

Fans who saunter into the Lucasfilm Archives Exhibit today (room 403B) will find a rare batch of models, props and costumes stretching all the way back to the formative years of the Star Wars saga. Han’s Hoth coat is here (finally putting to rest the long-debated blue coat/brown coat question) as well as the full Fett (Boba) armor, Luke’s severed Vader’s head from his Dagobah cave confrontation, a collection of Padme dresses, Vader helmets, lightsabers, and lots more.

A rare treat is the handful of early concept models fashioned by Colin Cantwell back in 1975/76, when the familiar designs we’re all used to were not yet fully realized — don’t miss the saucer-shaped landspeeder and the battleship-inspired Star Destroyer (at the time, I called the “mystery” model a possible windmill or the like — these were actually the power capacitors from the Imperial bunker in Jedi). Here’s a few rare glimpses before the show during set-up.

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