Star Wars Celebration Europe occurred over the weekend in Germany, and a slew of updates for director J.J. Abrams’ highly anticipated Star Wars Episode VII have been released, such as the announcement that John Williams will return to score the next film.

Actor Warwick Davis (Wicket the Ewok in Return of the Jedi) hosted a panel which included Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, who offered updates on the development of Episode VII, which is currently being written at Bad Robot by J.J. Abrams and his creative team. We have interesting statements from Kennedy made during the panel and above is a backstage video made after the panel with Kennedy and Warwick Davis in which they discuss the cross-generational appeal of Star Wars, and touch on the development process.

The most crucial – and speculated upon – aspect of the new series of films is easily the question of where the filmmakers intend to take the story and what the approach will be regarding new characters, along with the return of old favorites. Kennedy spoke to this issue:

“The story and characters are all we’re talking about right now. We have an amazing team at ILM, who can create fantastic effects, but if we don’t have a great story and characters, the effects mean nothing. I do think making huge popular culture – and I’ve had the good fortune to be a part of a lot it – is really hard to do and get right. And if you don’t spend the time you need on developing characters, and finding stories, complicated stories, the audience gets tired because they think they’re seeing the same thing again and again.”

These sentiments are to be expected, but they’re probably accurate, given director Abrams’ reverence for this universe. Despite the flaws of the various Bad Robot narratives, they typically have bold stories at their core.

Kennedy also addressed the role of special effects in the new film(s), specifically the use of practical effects versus CGI:

“It’s a conversation we’re having all the time in the development of ‘Episode VII.’ Looking at all the Star Wars movies and getting a feel for what even some of the early films did, combining real locations and special effects – that’s something we’re looking very seriously at. So we’re going to find some very cool locations that we’re going to use in support of ‘Episode VII.’ And I think we’re probably going to end up using every single tool in the toolbox to create the look of these movies.”

Part of the success of the original trilogy was the lived-in nature of the practical sets and models, created by a gifted team of effects artists who proved themselves to be geniuses at desperate improvisation. The prequel trilogy relied so heavily on CGI that the overall feeling was cold and distant for the most part. It’s likely that Abrams knows this, and as a fan will recognize that the physical reality of the Star Wars universe is the crucial to the audience’s belief in the universe.

As to what’s in that toolbox, Kennedy elaborated:

“It’s using model makers; it’s using real droids; it’s taking advantage of artwork that you actually can touch and feel. And we want to do that in combination with CG effects. We figure that’s what will make it real.”

Judging from her statements, Kennedy knows how important the seamless integration of CGI alongside real models and sets will be for audiences perhaps expecting another entry laden with computer-generated scenery. Will Abrams be able to re-capture the magic of the original trilogy? Time will tell, as always, but these comments sound like a step in the right direction. Expect more news on Episode VII as details become available.

Star Wars: Episode VII will open in theaters in Summer 2015.

Source: Coming Soon