Director J.J. Abrams is well-known for his love of secrecy when it comes to his movies, but with Star Wars: Episode VII currently filming on location in Abu Dhabi with hundreds of people on-set, videos and photos were bound to leak eventually. Abrams somewhat pre-empted this by releasing the very first set video from Star Wars: Episode VII officially, revealing part of a Tatooine marketplace, but it was only a matter of time before less official images started making their way online.
Thanks to lead actor John Boyega documenting aspects of his working day on Instagram, we know that both he and Daisy Ridley are in Abu Dhabi for the first leg of filming, though its unclear how many of the other cast members also have scenes on the Tatooine set. Since an early casting call specified that the film's leads would have street-smarts, it's been speculated that the new heroes of the Star Wars franchise grew up in one of the rougher areas of Tatooine.
Abrams' set video already showcased one of Tatooine's more colorful residents, showing off some of the practical effects that are being used in the film, but now some new leaked set photos from Star Wars: Episode VII have emerged over at TMZ, revealing one of Tatooine's larger alien species (pardon the humanocentrism). According to TMZ's sources, this beast was operated by five men inside its belly and appears in two scenes within the Tatooine marketplace. We didn't recognize the species (it might be a new one), but perhaps one of you hardcore Star Wars fans will be able to identify it.
The photos also show some kind of machine that could be the engine for a pod racer, along with many merchants and residents of the Tatooine marketplace and a large structure that appears to be part gate, part building. The large alien looks like some kind of pack animal, but since it's not carrying any packs it could also be sentient. Perhaps it's just there to do a bit of window-shopping.
It's certainly gratifying to see a practical set for a big-budget sci-fi movie, and it's worth checking out these images closely to spot the extra details. A sign of the fence surrounding the marketplace says "Warning" in Galactic Basic Standard, and in some of the photos there is a fire with black smoke pouring out of it. A crash or explosion, perhaps?
After this first stretch of location shooting is complete, Star Wars: Episode VII will move to Pinewood Studios in London, at which point security around the production will become a lot tighter and set photos will be harder to come by. Enjoy these tidbits while you can.
Star Wars: Episode VII is out in theaters on December 18, 2015.