Now that Star Wars: The Force Awakens is in theaters, we’ve seen many ways that the new film has dazzled and wowed audiences around the world with its exciting journey and special effects. Since Disney acquired Lucasfilm back in 2012, the plan has been to bring Star Wars back to its former glory when it comes to visual effects — opting for more practical ones instead of overly relying on CGI.
Not to say that The Force Awakens doesn’t have a lot of CGI elements, it’s just that the computer effects blend seamlessly with the practical ones. Disney and Lucasfilm wanted to stay so true to the original trilogy that they brought on some of the people from the original special effects team to help make The Force Awakens – namely, effects wizard Phil Tippett. Warning: Minor Spoilers for The Force Awakens Below.
Tested released a video with host Adam Savage making a trip to Tippett Studio in Berkeley, CA to see how they re-created the Dejarik holochess board scene for the new Star Wars movie. While on the Millennium Falcon in The Force Awakens, Finn (John Boyega) accidentally activates the holochess board, as a not-so-subtle nod to the original film. Phil Tippett created the original stop-motion holochess pieces for A New Hope back in 1977 and explained that Lucasfilm wanted him to return to “a galaxy far, far away.” He explained:
“We got a call from [Lucasfilm president] Kathy Kennedy saying that they wanted to restore the original chess set from Star Wars, and the problem was that the characters that we had made, you know, close to 40 years ago, were in a horrible state of disintegration.”
The original holochess pieces were put on a plaque and given to George Lucas, while the stop-motion figures – which were originally made from rubber – were too far gone to salvage. So Tippett and his team had to go to the Lucasfilm archives and used photogrammetry to scan the originals into a computer to create new ones for the movie. The new 3D printed-chess pieces are now made from silicone that should last much longer. After the chess pieces were reconstructed, Tippet’s team used good old fashioned stop-motion animation to bring them to life on the big screen.
Interestingly, the Dejarik holochess game from The Force Awakens picks up immediately from the one between Chewbacca and C-3PO in A New Hope. “We elected to pick up where we left off … and we just swapped out who wins this time,” admitted Tippett.
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens is now in theaters. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story will be released December 16th, 2016, Star Wars: Episode VIII on May 26th, 2017, and the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25th, 2018. Star Wars: Episode IX is expected to reach theaters in 2019, followed by the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.