— Lupita Nyong'o (@Lupita_Nyongo) March 21, 2016
Star Wars has always thrilled the imagination with strange new worlds and amazing creatures. From the moment viewers set foot inside the cantina in A New Hope, they were enthralled by the strange cast of characters who populated this amazing universe. But these unique creations weren't just set pieces; Star Wars created three-dimensional creatures like Chewbacca and Yoda who aided the heroes in their quest and earned a well-deserved place in the hearts of fans.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens was no different in its attempt to bring in more unique life forms to enhance the film and support and guide our heroes. One of the most mysterious of the whole host of new characters is the thousand-year-old smuggler Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyong’o). Fans of the friendly rogue got a little more insight today into the efforts that went into bringing the wizened character to the screen.
In conjunction with Episode VII’s upcoming release on April 5, Nyong’o released a video via her Twitter and Facebook accounts, with the hashtag #MazMonday. The teaser, reportedly from The Force Awakens Blu-Ray/DVD release, offers a further glimpse into the extensive motion capture process. It even shows the character interacting with Daisy Ridley’s Rey on her knees, which was then translated into the finished film. View the clip above.
The mo-cap process Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) used to insert characters like Maz Kanata and Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) into the film is truly impressive and has come a long way since the days of the prequels. With a bodysuit and a headpiece, the crew and cast can watch the character come to life in real time – albeit not in a polished final version. The use of characters like Kanata and Snoke gave directors like J.J. Abrams the freedom to create a variety of unique alien creatures while keeping the actors mannerisms and facial features intact.
The behind-the-scenes footage and voice blurbs from ILM visual effects personnel and Abrams are interesting insights into the process and how they brought it to light. Originally intended to be a puppet, Abrams’ instead chose to use mo-cap, which worked well for the film, and ILM’s impressive work transitioned Kanata seamlessly into the story. Although practical effects enthusiasts were probably disappointed, Abrams choice to eschew a puppet character probably stems from Episode I’s failure to convincingly integrate the Yoda puppet.
The upcoming release of the Blu-ray/DVD in April promises to hold a treasure trove of cut scenes, features, trailers, and commentary about the making of Episode 7. Hopefully, it will also include more backstory on intriguing characters like Kanata – including the cut scenes where Kanata uses Force powers. She already had an important role in bringing Rey in contact with Luke and Anakin’s lightsaber and will in all likelihood play an important role in the struggle to defeat the First Order in Episodes 8 and 9.
Star Wars: Episode 7 – The Force Awakens is out on Blu-ray April 5th, 2016; Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hits theaters on December 16th, 2016, followed by Star Wars: Episode 8 on December 15th, 2017, and the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25th, 2018. Star Wars: Episode 9 is expected to reach theaters in 2019, followed by the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.
Source: Lupita Nyong’o, Disney/Lucasfilm