Rogue One: A Star Wars Story has been a massive hit for the Star Wars franchise, not only because it saw box office success, bringing over $1 billion internationally, but also because it effectively worked as the franchise’s first spin-off movie, returning the series to the era of the original trilogy to tell a new and exciting story.
The familiar trappings Rogue One shared with A New Hope are certainly an element in the nostalgic appreciation fans have for the movie, but it wasn’t all X-Wings, Death Stars, and the Yavin IV base that made the movie great. New characters, ships, and locations are introduced in a way that very much fits into that era of Star Wars, smartly avoiding any violations of established continuity. At the forefront of many of these designs were the concept artists, who, like the famed Ralph McQuarrie before them, were tasked with designing the reality of Rogue One.
In the weeks following the film’s release, lead concept artist Matt Allsopp has been slowly releasing some of his amazing work on from the film on his personal Instagram account, to promote the upcoming release of The Art of Rogue One book. While many of the scenes depicted in his art weren’t fully realized on screen, seeing the early designs of certain sets or vehicles is quite informative to the creative process behind the scenes, in some cases providing additional details the flesh out the world. The biggest example being the AT-ACT loading bay. The AT-ACT in Rogue One is clearly slightly different from the AT-ATs fans remember from The Empire Strikes Back, but the difference in the film is merely aesthetic. This concept art (as seen in the gallery above) helps give an idea of how the cargo walkers are put to use on the Scarif base.
There are also other flourishes seen in some of the art, such as an early design for Vader’s meeting with Krennic, which Star Wars Rebels fans might think looks a lot like the Sith temple on Malachor from the season 2 finale. It’s consistencies like this that help make Star Wars feel like one of the most cohesive shared universes across multiple mediums.
Allsopp recently attended a Q&A with other Star Wars artists and costume designers at Gosh! Comics in London where they discussed the creative process that goes into Star Wars in which a few interesting details were revealed. The very specific atmosphere people love about Star Wars is often referred to dismissively as “Star Wars magic”, but there are some specific practices that play into keeping that Star Wars look consistent.
One major influence of Star Wars has always been real life military designs, especially for weapons and uniforms. In order to keep their designs rooted in realism, the Rogue One team had a massive archive of military surplus gear they would use for inspiration. The designers also avoid 45 degree angles, constantly refer back to the work of Ralph McQuarrie and Joe Johnston, rely on the use of real models as much as possible, and try to make a backstory and purpose for all background characters. The fact that many of them worked on The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi and have continued to participate with the development of the Han Solo movie also helps keep a consistent voice in the art and costume teams.