Sunday, 22 April 2012


I really like Phil Tippett. Ever since I saw him clowning about with the eventually unused Rancor costume in the CLASSIC CREATURES RETURN OF THE JEDI documentary way back in 1984/5, he was one of those people whose work and dedication, and his devilish and cheeky streak of humour, really made him stand out. With a voice that, though a little higher pitched, is reminiscent of Droopy’s affectionate drawl at times whenever I’ve seen him talking on television, Phil, to me personally, always seemed to have an air of “my fun hobby has a tuned into an amazing Hollywood job. I don’t believe that this is happening” aura about him, mixed with a kid in the candy store character, and with a flavouring of an early 1970’s Joe Dante film type of beach bum/ hippy innocence about him, that same kind of energy that also lingered within people like Joe Johnston and John Dykstra when they first started work on STAR WARS-the we’ll work hard to get these shots down at ILM and then have a great party at the beach type attitude. I liked that-that sense of fun but hard work seems to be missing from special effects film-making now. It’s all so dour and serious. Though he’s probably matured a little bit over the years (though probably only just a little bit!!), he was great to hear talking about the STAR WARS films on one of the US CELEBRATION IV panels back in 2007, but sadly, because there were other cast and crew taking part in the same talk, he didn’t get as much to say as I would’ve liked.

Going back to those early days, as well as in depth about his most recent pioneering monster/effects projects (in which he is candid and truthful about the possible overuse of modern effects in today’s summer blockbusters, and audience expectations each year), Phil is interviewed for one of the recent STARLOG magazines (May 2008 Issue 365, which can still be purchased through WWW.STARLOG.COM) and his enthusiasm for his work on the original STAR WARS movies still clearly shines through after all this time, as he recalls one classic fun incident of the “we had a hunch this film was gonna be big” variety, that I think all of you people in cyberspace might like to read. He recalls: “We looked at the scenes we were gonna put our work into that George (Lucas) had assembled, and it was pretty darn clear that this was the movie we had all been waiting to work on! We knew it was going to be that special. In 1977, I went to an SF convention with Dennis (Muren), George (Lucas) and Gary Kurtz. Where they got on stage in a room filled with 300 people. George and Gary said, “Hey, we made this movie called Star Wars, and we made it for you, and we hope you come and see our show!” I was there that day-it’s like being there when Jesus walked across the water. I was there, and I saw it with my own eyes.”

I personally never get tired of hearing stuff like that. The “we knew that it was going to be very special”, or the “somehow they beat all the odds to come through” type of stuff that has now become part and parcel, almost in a symbiotic way, with the legendary making of the original first film. Stories and quotes like the above always make me feel good about STAR WARS and they way it has touched the hearts of worldwide audiences.

As his pioneering work continues beyond the Original Trilogy (how about a book on your work-something like Lorne Peterson’s?), with such notables as STARSHIP TROOPERS, JURASSIC PARK, CLOVERFIELD and THE SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES under his belt, its nice to see that he’s still a big kid at heart.

Keep that flag flying for us wannabes, Phil!

Video interview (2014): See how one man made all those insane Star Wars creatures in new documentary | Blastr

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