One of the top visual effects people for Star Wars: The Last Jedi revealed that director Rian Johnson changed the look for Kylo Ren’s TIE Fighter after shooting its scenes because of an error in a toy design. With or without the design tweaks, Kylo stood out in his scenes piloting the distinctive “TIE Silencer” ship. He memorably threads his way through the Resistance’s defenses before hesitating to destroy a hangar on their Raddus cruiser.
But as it turns out, Johnson decided midway through production to slightly modify the design of Kylo’s TIE Silencer, which looks similar to the TIE Interceptor. The change, of course, involved changing a lot of CGI frames. And it happened because Johnson got his hands on an early prototype of Hasbro’s toy version of the vehicle, but noticed an eye-catching design error. Interestingly enough, Hasbro’s mistake eventually made Johnson choose to change the movie because of the toy, not the other way around.
As revealed in a report from Radio Times, Industrial Light & Magic VFX Supervisor Mike Mulholland spoke about the change in Kylo Ren’s custom TIE Fighter at the VFX Festival in East London. The ship originally fired its missiles from the underside, but the toy positioned the missile cannons on the wings instead. So Johnson decided that would be easier for the Last Jedi VFX team to change the design of the TIE Silencer in the movie than to make Hasbro manufacture all new toys and leave fans with improperly designed merchandise.
“Initially, the plan was to have missiles on the underside, and shoot them off, and that was it. But halfway through production Rian got a toy, a prototype toy of the Kylo fighter. And they had the missiles on the side wings! So we went and redesigned a bit of it [in the movie] so that we could open it up and pop them out. I’ve heard of the toys’ influence in the past, but that was the first time for me.”
Star Wars toys have influenced the franchise’s popularity all the way back to A New Hope in 1977. But the designs of the products usually don’t influence how they end up looking in the movies. They do, however, give away plot details, new dialogue, and character names, and at times have revealed straight-up spoilers. Phantom Menace toy lines, for instance, spoiled that Padme and Queen Amidala (Natalie Portman) were the same character.
But in the case of The Last Jedi, Johnson was careful not to give any big spoilers. And for the TIE Silencer, he chose instead to honor the toys as they came out by changing the final design of Kylo Ren’s ship to match the merch. Johnson explained in a 2017 interview how playing with the toys from the original trilogy helped influence him to make his own movies with his dad’s video camera. So considering Johnson’s undeniably deep connection to Star Wars toys, it’s no surprise that he felt comfortable letting Hasbro’s version of the TIE Silencer dictate the official design in The Last Jedi.
It’s unclear whether the toys for Episode IX will have the same kind of influence on J.J. Abrams when those start to roll out. But you can be sure that when Johnson gets to work on his own original Star Wars trilogy, the designs of the toys and the look of the actual characters, vehicles, and settings will be consistent with each other.
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