Archive for ‘Behind The Scenes’
Photo by Joichi Ito (Creative Commons Attribution Licensed)
Photo published with photographer’s permission.
Director J.J. Abrams will be directing Star Wars: Episode VII, but he’s been a lifelong fan of the saga. In fact, his common appreciation for Star Wars led him to working with his regular collaborator Damon Lindelof, not to mention the endless homages to the films in his various projects such as Lost and Fringe.
Here’s a selection of quotes from Abrams from previous StarWars.com interviews about the impact Star Wars has had on his life and career.
What I’d like to write about I can’t. Two of the more interesting projects I’m working on still haven’t been announced. One should be announced in May; the other…who knows, but later than May. Stay tuned…
What I can say is that our video/doc crew is starting work on a sizzle piece for Jeffrey Brown’s heart-warming and funny Vader’s Little Princess; the Prequel Trilogy Storyboard book is nearly done — and set for a May release — and looks great; the next book in the Star Wars Art series is approaching final stage and I’ll show the designed pages to George Lucas in a couple of weeks; and the first designed pass of The Making of Return of the Jedi is also due in a couple of weeks. First pass is my favorite stage: images, captions, and text are all together and designed for the first time — but we can still make changes, correct errors, improve.
Back at Star Wars Celebration V, I thought I was being clever when I asked Dave Filoni what films they’d been looking to draw inspiration from for episodes of The Clone Wars that had not yet aired.
We talked for a while and he gave me quite a list of films that I would expect to be inspiration for an all-ages cartoon adventure. And then he hit me with one that dropped my jaw: Predator.
The R-rated, Arnold Schwarzenegger action/sci-fi movie?
The very same.
Western films have long served as inspiration in the course of film history. Orson Welles reportedly watched John Ford’s film Stagecoach repeatedly while preparing and editing Citizen Kane. Akira Kurosawa was said to have worshiped the work of John Ford and applied the Japanese sensibilities of samurai to a uniquely western genre of storytelling. Kurosawa made epic western-like films like Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, and Sanjuro.
One of his films in particular, Yojimbo, inspired one of the most influential directors of westerns, Sergio Leone. Leone turned Yojimbo, a samurai film inspired by westerns, into an Italian-made “spaghetti western” called A Fistful of Dollars. Seriously, it’s a direct remake with many of the same shots and lines directly paying homage.
It’s easy to watch Disney films and see the similarities between so many of the motifs of classic storytelling and the hero’s journey that is ever present in the Star Wars films. It’s difficult to pin whether the films and cartoons of Walt Disney directly influenced the creation of Star Wars (with a few notable exceptions), but the style of story and method of storytelling on display is so similar it’s hard not to feel they came from the same school.
Take The Sword in the Stone, for instance. It looks at young Arthur’s journey toward becoming king — with the help of an eccentric wizard that everyone thinks is just a crazy old man. Sound a lot like A New Hope? The entire movie plays like an extended, comedic training sequence of Master and Padawan, right down to the mysticism and hard life lessons. Parallels to Luke’s time on Dagobah in the cave could very easily be drawn to Arthur’s time spent as a squirrel or a fish. He learns hard lessons in a situation he doesn’t completely understand and has to face difficult truths about himself and his life.
Back in Season Two of The Clone Wars, there was a fantastic episode named “Senate Spy.” It told a story of intrigue among Senators when the Jedi Council asks Padmé to spy on a fellow senator (and former lover) who is working with the Separatists. To spy on him, she’ll need to rekindle their relationship. And they assign Anakin as her liaison.
If the story sounds familiar, it’s because it shares the same rough story as Alfred Hitchcock’s 1946 masterpiece, Notorious, starring Cary Grant (as Devlin, the liaison) and Ingrid Bergman (as Alicia, the reluctant spy). While this movie might have some relationship themes that are over the heads of younger viewers, it is a spy film dripping in tension, and the team on The Clone Wars paid homage to all the best parts of it.
One department head once remarked to me that there weren’t any storyboards done for the Star Wars prequel trilogy. What he/she meant was that, in the traditional sense, animatics had replaced storyboards by the mid to late 1990s, at least at Lucasfilm, so there weren’t any Joe Johnston-style storyboards created for ILM. Instead CG animatics served as the basis for ILM’s photo-real digital shot production. For the original trilogy, postproduction boards had acted as a guide for the camera crews working with actual models, miniatures, mattes, and so on, listing the elements needed for each shot, which would all be combined on the Optical printer, with a few exceptions. Those sorts of boards were effectively gone by the time Episode I rolled around. But what our newly announced book Star Wars Storyboards—The Prequels makes clear is that a whole lot of storyboards were created for the prequels (it’s scheduled for a spring 2013 publication from Abrams).
I can hardly believe it. When I first arrived at Lucasfilm and George and I had our first meetings to discuss the The Clone Wars, he spoke of doing at least a hundred episodes. Well, in Season Five we will pass the 100 episode mark, and keep right on going. At the time, back in 2005, it was hard to imagine 100 episodes; we had a very small staff back then, and barely an idea of what the show might look like, or how we would achieve some of the ambitious visuals we were exploring.