CELEBRATING FORTY GLORIOUS YEARS OF 'THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK' AT STARWARS.COM

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

AN 'EMPIRE' AT 40: THE ART OF ECHO BASE!


Hidden far away in a system devoid of human forms, the icy sixth planet of the Hoth systems seems the perfect choice for one of the larger Rebel cells led by Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa to set up a base away from the pursuant forces of the Empire, as seen in this terrific conceptual art by Ralph McQuarrie and Joe Johnston from 1978-79.

An X-wing fighter departs. Art by Ralph McQuarrie.

Inside one of the Rebel base hangars. Art by Ralph McQuarrie


A very early Rebel ice cave hangar idea from Joe Johnston.


The Millennium Falcon in the bay. Art by Ralph McQuarrie.

The Falcon and other craft in the bay. Art by Ralph McQuarrie.

Exterior entrance to the base by Ralph McQuarrie. The production painting art would be adapted for use in the later Marvel Comics adaptation.

The massive but vulnerable exterior power generators for the base. Art by Ralph McQuarrie.


Monday, 29 June 2020

AN 'EMPIRE' AT 40: PROBOT PRACTICAL!


Built by the UK's practical effects team at Elstree Studios, based on the original Ralph McQuarrie design, the shadowy Imperial Probe Droid/Probot was an intriguing addition to the location filming of The Empire Strikes Back in Finse, Norway, during March 1979. The prop would be able to turn itself and had some mild articulation, with a special all-seeing iris, though its movements along the Hoth surface were mostly achieved by having it move along a dolly camera track. In the end, very little of the practical 'Probot' footage was used in the film (either deleted or replaced in several shots by a small miniature built by ILM fused with matte plates). The practical model's biggest scene, ultimately, would be its eventual ambush destruction from Han Solo. More on that in another blog entry...



Deleted moment of the Probot destroying a Rebel sentinel outpost, as described in the novel.

Deleted moment of the Probot turning to fire (presumably on Han Solo), from a TESB teaser trailer.

Readied for use in the Elstree Studios car park.

Attaching the head base on location.

The Probot's builders/operators have fun on location in Norway.

Sunday, 28 June 2020

CLASSIC IMAGE: ENTERING MOS ESPA!


Our disguised heroes enter the Mos Espa community in search of a new hyperdrive for their disabled ship. It will surely be a difficult task whilst trying not to attract attentions, dealing with all kinds of scum and villainy, in the process. A terrific image showing the specially built exterior sets for Mos Espa in Tunisia (heightened with extra ILM work) during the long hot summer there in 1997.

Saturday, 27 June 2020

CLASSIC IMAGE: AWAITING ABSOLUTE POWER...


In one of the Death Star conference rooms, the many top Imperial officers gather for a secret meeting with Grand Moff Tarkin, of which the most impatient for action and most power-ambitious of the assembled must surely be Admiral Motti (played with relish by Richard LeParmentier), born with the kind of thirst for evildom with the soon completion of the battle station that knows no end...

Friday, 26 June 2020

AN 'EMPIRE' AT 40: IMPERIAL INTRUDER!

Phil Tippett supervises the stop motion/model photography of the Probot arrival sequence.

Had Luke been able to check out the crashed 'meteorite' that hit near him, he'd have been in for a shock as to what it contained: an armed Imperial Probe Droid (aka 'Probot'), soon out of its steaming shell and into the arctic wastes in search of enemy activity, its targeting blaster even shooting one of the Hoth's system's smallest forms of animal life in a filmed on location with the practical prop built in the UK, but ultimately becoming a deleted scene.

Emerging from the pod, as seen in the ILM model filming.

Moving into patrol in front of a composited live action frame.

Disturbed ground would also be filmed and composited on by ILM.

ILM clapperboard for the stop motion filming.

A look at the crash crater without Probot model.

Early test footage.

Readying the shot.

Joe Johnston checks the background alignment before filming.



The Probot uses its force fields and ability to camouflage in its search parameters - three effects storyboards presumed never filmed.


Two Ralph McQuarrie concept pieces.

The Probot demonstrates one of its multitude of weapons.

One of the ILM crew makes some adjustments.


The Probot as seen in the Lucasfilm Archives.

Richard Edlund with the model and life size version of the Probot.

Checking the life size model with the miniatures/model building department at ILM.

A detailed look at the model pod carrying the Probot.

Thursday, 25 June 2020

AN 'EMPIRE' AT 40: THE ILM WAMPA!


With disappointing results from finished live-action footage shot in Norway and London, for the most part to be deleted from the film's editorial process, it's decided to show the Wampa creature's face in just one major shot, a scene now to be handled by Phil Tippet and ILM with the instigation of a far more scary and animalistic puppet face and partial shoulders/torso to the all too cuddly visage, and its further successive fly-like variation, prior created by Stuart Freeborn and his team during late 1978/early 1979. This ultimately successful insert shot of the Wampa would be filmed outdoors in Marin County during The Empire Strikes Back's post-production phase, with the Wampa face operated by Tippett himself.

Wampa face design idea by Phil Tippett.

Filming the Wampa's surprise attack on Luke.

As seen in the finished movie.


It looks like the close-up scene was also filmed at ILM.

Just hanging around during stop motion animation!

More detailed close-ups of the terrific Wampa face. 


Wednesday, 24 June 2020

AN 'EMPIRE' AT 40: THE BRITISH WAMPA, BY STUART FREEBORN...

Stuart Freeborn with the all too cuddly Wampa head and body at Elstree.

Alongside and opposite to the benevolent Tauntaun, British Makeup genius Stuart Freeborn and his workshop team at Elstree Studios were tasked with creating another unique creature resident to the ice planet Hoth- the deadly snow monster known as the Wampa, whose run-in with Luke Skywalker would soon become a difficult-to-realize, but nonetheless classic, sequence in The Empire Strikes Back.

Of the new creatures, Freeborn sculpts the Wampa’s head whilst son Graham-and others in the department- build the rest of the suit, under Freeborn senior's direction, made of fiberglass and covered in goat fur, to be worn by 6 foot 10 performer Des Webb. Eighteen–inch stilts are built into the creatures legs which will increase his height, with Webb’s hands located at the Wampa’s elbows to control arm extensions, giving him further reach with huge mechanical paws. Once the costume tests are underway, Webb’s body frame in the suit rises to eleven foot.


Here's a selection of photo's from the creature's evolutionary process from 1978-79...

A gorilla-like early idea.

Working out the facial operations of the face mask.

Close-up of the completed mask that was used for ultimately abandoned footage filmed on location in Norway. It's eyes would be barely visible in the footage, and looked far too cuddly.

Joe Johnston's formidable creature design for the Wampa.

Stuart Freeborn shows Irvin Kershner the work-in-progress Wampa face mask adhering to Joe Johnston's above design. This version ultimately was either never used, or adapted to have fly-like eyes for a later insert filming shot that was deleted from the film.



The fly-like mask variation by Freeborn used for a brief insert against Luke Skywalker, who attacks it with his lightsaber, setting it aflame. The insert shot was filmed later in production on the Rebel Base corridor set where another of the creatures would attack Artoo Detoo.