Our UK Copywriter Peter Cooper talks about the incredible Luke Skywalker “force jump” puppet from Star Wars The Empire Strikes Back…
The next morning, the group met with their guides—Terje Olsen and Erling Nesbo. Terje has been around Finse all of his life, though he was too young to be involved with the filming of Empire. Erling, however, worked on the production of the film. As Erling did not speak English (and the expedition did not speak Norwegian), Terje served as the group’s protocol droid and interpreter. He provided the expedition with Erling’s specific curriculum vitae with regards to his work on EMPIRE.“[Erling] was the head of security, and transport, and things like that. Most of the people who stayed here at the time were extras in the film. His sister, and brother-in-law were extras.” They showed Erling their reference photos and Erling seemed to recognize the majority of them. It was a promising start.
“There’s nothing there.”
To Brandon Alinger, the words of location manager Philip Kohler were hardly surprising. That’s because he was seeking a place so frozen and remote that Kohler had chosen it to pass for the desolate ice planet Hoth in Irvin Kershner’s 1980 STAR WARS sequel THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.
Written by the Prop Store team
Tales abound of ILM being more like a university quad than a serious postproduction house. Hell, there was a hot tub in their parking lot. Another such anecdote stars the escape slide of a 727 passenger jet from a nearby industrial yard that was re-appropriated by the ILM brain trust and turned into a makeshift slip-and-slide in the same parking lot that would eventually house the Death Star trench. “[ILM] was described as ‘the country club’ by the executives and, I would assume to a certain extent, by the people who were on the production,” Dykstra recalls.
Written by the Prop Store team
For the explosion shots, Dykstra’s team built effects models that were pre-ordained to die out of a breakaway mold-making material that master modeler Grant McCune brought to the table called “fast tool.” “I didn’t want it all just to go bang,” Dykstra says. “I wanted it to go bang, bang, bang, bang, and, you know, have different parts explode at different times.” To create the appropriate symphony of bangs, ILM tweaked the chemistry of the fast tool in order to manipulate the material’s structural integrity to their needs. The internal parts of the pyrotechnic models also had to be painted so that discerning viewers going through the film in detail would not be able to pick out bare fast tool fragments tumbling through space. As with most of the STAR WARS visual effects, the exploding ships were not a simple, one-element process. Each explosion was the result of detailed compositing. “In some cases, we shot bigger explosions to overlay over existing, smaller explosions to help give more punch to it.” In the days before computer-generated anything, this compositing was not a quick process. It was often frustrating and always delicate and tedious.
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
While Arthur C. Clarke’s third principle of scientific prediction is most often applied to science fiction storytelling, it could just as easily be used to describe the age of enlightenment that began in cinematic visual effects in the late 1970s thanks to a little film called STAR WARS. The chief sorcerer behind the film who led the renaissance of not only visual effects, but also the entire movie business, was a 20-something engineering kid from Southern California named John Dykstra. In a recent discussion, he looks back on the experience of creating the STAR WARS universe from nothing more than a script and George Lucas’s unique vision.
In the summer of 2001 Prop Store team member Brandon Alinger traveled to Tunisia in search of the original filming locations for Star Wars: ANH, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and the Star Wars prequels. Seventeen-year-old Brandon managed to convince his parents the trip would make an ideal family vacation, and spent a week traveling the country and seeing the Star Wars sites. While many fans have visited the Tunisian locations over the years, at that point there had only been a handful of visitors and information was scarce. Gus Lopez had a website dedicated to Star Wars locations, and Jeremy Beckett had produced a guidebook which covered many of the sites.
Prop Store team member Brandon Alinger made two trips to Tunisia in search of filming locations from the Star Wars films and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Brandon had become interested in the locations after reading several articles written by other fans who had made the trek to North Africa. He was able to get travel tips and directions from those who had been before, and first headed to the desert in May 2001. Over seven days Brandon located the majority of A New Hope, Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and Raiders locations in the country.
When George Lucas began working on ideas for Star Wars in the early 1970s, he envisioned making his first “real movie”—a movie with art directors and sets, rather than the more real-world films he had created in the past. Star Wars fans know that Lucas made the films in the U.K., for cost purposes, and that much of the look of the world was initially established by concept artists who worked hand in hand with Lucas–Ralph McQuarrie, Colin Cantwell, and Joe Johnston. When production set up at Elstree Studios outside London, a team of art directors and craftsmen led by production designer John Barry set about expanding the world from existing concept artwork…
In our last instalment we took a closer look at the artistry that went into achieving an authentic transition between Mogwai puppets and their Gremlin counterparts. Of course, no matter how aesthetically impressive a puppet is, if it can’t move it’s not of much use to the production and last week’s featured lots were no exception to this rule. As we saw with the Gremlins puppets, whether by mechanical components, servos or even through simple marionette puppeteering, Rick Baker has been just as revolutionary in bringing his creations to life through movement as he has been in their design.
So far in this blog series, Prop Store has given you an exclusive look inside Rick Baker’s Cinovation studios and you’ve gotten a glimpse at the broad collection that was housed there. Given the span of Baker’s illustrious career and the number of his creations that he kept throughout it, it should come as no surprise that many of the lots going into the auction required some form of preservation, stabilization or restoration. In this instalment of the Rick Baker blog series, we take a look at some of these pieces and the strides taken to preserve them for posterity.
Have you ever wondered what Prop Store HQ looks like? If you’re envisioning rooms chock-full of some of the finest cinematic collectibles from movie history, you’re not far off the mark. Our offices and spaces in both LA and London are Aladdin’s caves of props, costumes, models, scenery and amazing movie paraphernalia. Why not take a look behind the scenes to see for yourself?
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