Category Archives: Star Wars

Proto Fett

Craig Drake has created a masterpiece of geek art from the original Joe Johnston white Proto Fett concept which he’s currently exhibiting at the Hero Complex Gallery, including these blue variants.

He couldn’t miss out on doing the full Boba Fett as well, but what I’m really looking forward to is the surprises he’s going to launch on us at Star Wars Celebration at Anaheim, and if it’s going to be anything like what he’s shown already, were in for a geekologie treat.

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Craig Drake’s Art of Star Wars

Star Wars Celebration is just a few short months and the official Star Wars website has just revealed some key art from the event. The posters are a pure Mondo art form unto themselves, and for an artist to capture the essence of Star Wars on a poster — the feel and look of the films, the drama of the stories isn’t easy…but Star Wars Celebration is in safe hands with my favourite Mondo artist, the incredibly gifted Craig Drake, who’s produced some stunning new  artwork for April’s mega-event.

These standalone Mondo portraits of Boba Fett and a ‘Original Trilogy’ Stormtrooper he posted on his Facebook page will make a timeless poster on any Star Wars fans wall.

He even posted some new Leia artwork on his Tumblr site, a standalone variant of Leia from the Star Wars Celebration poster, and ‘Empire Leia’ in her Hoth outfit, which is quite reminiscent of his first Leia artwork.

What I found out most recently about him, was his love of fellow Star Wars Poster artist Drew Struzan and the legendary concept artist Ralph McQuarrie, and also having been a senior designer at Star Wars.com, you know he has an inherent love of the SW Universe, which really shows in his work.

Craig Drake’s Interview with Star Wars.com

Drake loves and knows Star Wars, having worked at Lucasfilm for seven years as the senior designer of StarWars.com, and he has that rare ability to convey what we love about a galaxy far, far away in an immediate, almost subconscious way. In his poster, there are classic Star Wars elements: the overwhelming power of Darth Vader, dark and light colors in a sort of harmonious conflict, and a sense of Star Wars-branded danger and excitement. The style, however, is all Drake’s: the lines are sharp, the details simple, the colors bold. Ultimately, the image successfully adapts his style into the language of a movie poster. So how did he do it?

“I essentially took the basic line art that I usually do, that’s very recognizable, and painted over it,” Drake tells StarWars.com. “Before I even did that, I took a look at the [legendary movie- and Star Wars-poster artist] Drew Struzan’s of the world and how those color palettes feel. So, the basis for what I usually do is there, it’s just underneath a lot of color enhancement and free-hand painting, just to dial it up a bit, and I think it added a nice touch that made it feel more filmic.” It’s a method that allows Drake to employ his own style while still making something that’s familiar. Yet, upon closer inspection, it’s not THAT familiar — Han, the stormtrooper, Leia, and Vader all look and feel the part, but their poses can’t quite be placed in a specific movie scene. The expressions match the characters, but they’re kind of new, too. That unfamiliar familiarity, it turns out, is intentional.

“I like to go into the films and take screen caps for reference, versus the style-guide art,” Drake says. “Style guides are asset kits [given to artists and third parties]. It’s a wealth of images. You see those poses used quite a bit in posters and packaging, so I wanted to dig a little deeper into the films themselves.” His process involves scanning scenes with an eye toward the unusual, or something rarely seen. When it came to Vader, Drake had a clear goal. “I was trying to get this very perfect side view, a really great profile. You don’t see Vader from the side very often, and I think it’s a neat shape. I grabbed a shot from Episode V that worked really, really well.” The result is striking. Vader is cast as a grand, ominous figure, almost engulfing all others; the side view seems new, and the arched angle, with Vader looking upward, hints at the tragedy and internal struggle of the fallen Jedi.

..You don’t see Vader from the side very often, and I think it’s a neat shape

And if the star-filled Vader rings a visual bell, that’s because it’s meant to — the effect is taken directly from the original Empire Strikes Back theatrical poster. “That’s exactly what I lifted,” Drake says. “I’ll admit it. The very first soundtrack LP I got was The Empire Strikes Back, and that was the cover. So, that’s burned in my mind, and I kind of wanted to emulate it a bit. I like the stars sort of bleeding through. It’s a very cool effect.”

When Drake can’t find a shot that matches what he sees in his head, he gets even more creative, mashing up different character appearances to create a new image. “Specifically, the one that [technique] worked for was the Leia profile shot,” he says. “I got that reference from the medal ceremony at the end of Episode IV. She had a different hairdo, so I got her face from that, and then did her hair from memory.” Leia wasn’t always a sure thing for the final poster, however. Originally, Drake explored different character options and color choices — with a much greater focus on the dark side (for lack of better term) of Star Wars — revealed below for the first time anywhere.

“I initially was given quite a bit of freedom to tackle a theme,” Drake says of the early process, “and that’s how I came up with the first version, featuring Boba [Fett], Vader, and the stormtrooper.” His inspiration came not from a specific love of the bad guys, though. It was borne more out of the spirit of Star Wars Celebration. “I really thought of it from the fan perspective,” he says. “You know, at those events, people dress up. Especially the 501st Legion, with everyone crafting their costumes. It seems to be the stormtroopers, Boba Fetts, and Vaders are the heavy focus in terms of costumes. Those are just iconic, wonderful shapes to actually illustrate. And I think through that process, we quickly decided, these are neat looking, but we actually wanted to include human faces and build it out like a traditional movie poster with a variety of characters.” This led to the second attempt, also seen above, which saw a new layout and added a certain sharp-shooting princess; finally, the third time was the charm, as the Han-focused illustration struck the right balance of heroes, villains, and energy. By looking at earlier versions of the poster in comparison with the final art, however, certain elements emerge that harken back to core Star Wars designs.

star-wars-celebration-2015-official-leia-poster-artwork-by-craig-drake
star-wars-celebration-2015-official-leia-poster-artwork-by-craig-drake

One motif visible in each stage of the poster’s evolution is a diamond or wedge shape — sometimes explicit, sometimes in the form of rays of light, sometimes swallowing the image up from Darth Vader’s cape or helmet. That, also, is intentional. “There’s a behind-the-scenes clip where George [Lucas] was talking about the wedge shape, the triangular shape,” Drake says, “and how it’s a repeated shape in ships in Star Wars. That’s something that always stayed in my mind. The Star Destroyer, some of the Jedi starfighters [have that shape]. That’s something that Ralph McQuarrie was able to just harness perfectly. Take the most basic shapes and make them even more iconic in spaceship form. So that is something that is always very present in my mind, and it worked into the framing element of the poster.”

In addition to shapes and characters, color plays a huge role in each version of the poster. From the deep red of his original concept to the green-blue of the final work, Drake’s use of color is a tool for conjuring the tone of specific films. “I have color associations with the first few films,” Drake explains. “For example, Empire Strikes Back, to me, is straight up orange and blue. Jedi is totally green. In that sense, I didn’t want to necessarily lean this toward Episode IV and V. I definitely did with the character selection, but I think my color association, with the use of the green there [in the final poster], is where I balanced it.” When StarWars.com points out that green instantly recalls Return of the Jedi for one reason — Luke’s lightsaber — Drake agrees. “When I was a kid,” he says, “and I saw that he all of a sudden had a green lightsaber, my friends and I freaked out. It was like, ‘Yes, this is awesome!’ That simple use of color. It was so powerful.”

Fans have reacted strongly to Drake’s poster, and for those who love his work, there’s even better news: Drake’s also creating the art for all Celebration badges. Revealed below, the badges will be in visual continuity with the poster (note the use of color and slanted lines) and similarly draw from a classic (and very cool) influence. “The actual format feels a lot like trading cards,” he says. “I’m eternally enamored with that format, the old Topps trading cards. In the end, I think we have 22 different characters, and that means 22 different badges. It’s been a really fun project to draw all of them. Super fun.”

Drake’s work doesn’t end with the badges, however. He’s also created a Star Wars Rebels variant poster — which was revealed exclusively on StarWars.com.

Swapping Han, Leia, and Vader for Ezra, Sabine, and the Inquisitor, respectively, as well as adding the Ghost starship and the Lothal cityscape, it’s a similarly great piece and successful on different fronts:

..The poster was like fresh new territory. I’m looking forward to exploring even more.

The stormtrooper remains, creating a thematic connection between this and the original; the animated heroes and villains of Star Wars Rebels fit seamlessly with Drake’s take on the movie characters; and Star Wars‘ themes of darkness and light, and its sense of wonder, are present and strong. With Star Wars Rebels still new, Drake had less imagery to pull from — a challenge he enjoyed. “It was particularly fun for that reason,” he says. “The poster was like fresh new territory. I’m looking forward to exploring even more.” With more badges and art to go, he’ll have his chance.

Taken together, Drake’s Celebration art spans and, fittingly, celebrates the saga. But for someone who started out as a fan, and is now giving a visual identity to the world’s biggest Star Wars fan event, the experience is even more special. “It means a lot to me on a couple of levels,” he says. “First, as an illustrator, it’s an honor to be given the keys to the Star Wars universe. Secondly, as a fan who grew up seeking all the Star Wars art inspiration I could find, this is an incredible project for me.”

Interview by Dan Brooks, Lucasfilm’s senior content writer. Copyright Lucasfilm 2015

Collect ‘Em, Trade ‘Em

The Force Awakens Trading Cards

Do you remember Topps trading cards? The ones that came with a stick of really hard dry chewing gum? I certainly do, and still have my treasured “1st” series of collectible cards featuring scenes and characters from around the galaxy for the original 1977 Star Wars movie. The top of my deck is No:1 Luke Skywalker, although it’s little tatty, but I prefer to consider it ‘well-loved’ after over 30 years ago of “Collect ‘Em, Trade ‘Em” which was the catchphrase of the Topps trading card company in those early days. There was five rounds of the Topps cards for that movie, each one designated by a different colour.

Now 34 years later, they return “surprisingly” via J.J. Abrams who is well-known for his “mystery box” approach to movies; he lets as little information out as possible before the film’s release, but he has benevolently buckled to Disney’s open approach to marketing and cracked open this Star Wars mystery box and put some names to the faces we saw in the first teaser for The Force Awakens. And in the charming retro style nod to the original “first fans” with a digital set of trading cards, cementing their long-running tradition of Star Wars Merchandising tie-in with Topps Trading Card Company.

As you can see for yourself below, the cards finally put some names with the faces, the card captions also give a hint about the state of mind of the characters. Abrams was also asked if there was significance to the numbering, Abrams replied: “YES.” …Time to get some of those Bothan spies to figure that one out. 🙂

His final retro homage on the subject was “I’m only sorry we couldn’t give everyone a stick of gum,”

At last we no longer have to call that adorable, rolling robot “football ball droid.” that character now has its own R2 D2 style alphanumeric moniker: BB-8.

Next were introduced to Finn, but we don’t know the last name of John Boyega’s character, so that could also be an important omission. But the extra three words of description—”on the run”—explains a little bit why he is seen jumping into frame and gasping in the opening moments of that trailer. Although he’s in a Stormtrooper uniform, we don’t know for sure if he is an actual trooper or if, like Han and Luke in A New Hope, he’s just using it as a disguise.

The most interesting reveal is Daisy Ridley’s character, who we now know is called Rey. For some time, it was rumoured that she was going to be called Kira, the so-called daughter of Han & Leia from the Expanded Universe…Well, this just goes to prove we can’t believe everything we read on the web.

That short guy in the middle, is that Finn before he goes “On the Run”… I think Princess Leia said it best, once upon a time in a galaxy far far away: “Aren’t you a little short for a Stormtrooper?”

Poe Dameron! now there’s a name weighted with significance. Some fans have already gleaned an intense, not necessarily welcoming vibe off of Oscar Isaac’s X-Wing pilot, and a first name taken from a writer who chronicled the sinister side of human nature would suggest that this is a character who is on the edge of the light/dark divide. His name is almost identical to Cameron Poe, the character Nicolas Cage played in Con Air. Coincidence?…Oh yeah, but in reverse…light to dark?

The original Ralph McQuarrie designed X-Wings skidding along the surface of a lake rather than screaming through the void of space is joy to see.

And that shadowy figure who’s clearly the Sith villain, mentioned in the trailer as the dark side of the awakening that has taken place. As he stumbles through the snow with his modified cross guard or claymore lightsaber is now called Kylo Ren which I’m guessing is Adam Driver.

There’s certainly much more to reveal. We haven’t yet seen Lupita Nyong’o, Gwendoline Christie, Adam Driver, Domhnall Gleeson, or Max von Sydow—let alone any of the veteran stars Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, or Carrie Fisher. And we’ve heard, but not seen, Andy Serkis. Will we get more someday or see similar reveals with the yellow, green, and orange borders? Fingers crossed…

The Force Awakens

It’s finally here…”YEAHHH!” he screams, my first look at the new Star Wars. The teaser trailer runs 88-seconds long and here’s all you need to know: it looks frackin awesomesause. The trailer gives us a first glimpse at a lot of the new and returning stars, but it also shows just how great a job director J.J. Abrams’ appears to have done in putting back together the Star Wars universe. A great score from John Williams elevates that even further. This isn’t much for now, but it ought to get fans like me’ hopes way up…and it does.

“There’s been an awakening. Have you felt it?”

…Trailer Analysis

What a dark sinister opening voiceover for the new Teaser Trailer for Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens, as we see our first real scene lingering on the desert, which I’m presuming is Tatooine. But who was it doing the voice over…Benedict Cumberbatch or Max von Sydow? for me it sounded like Benedict…which is so bodacious on a geeky level.

Then we see John Boyega, clad in a Stormtrooper outfit, looking very panicked, especially with the ominous sound of some imperial probe in the background. But who is Boyega’s unnamed character, springing from out of shot at the beginning of this 88-second teaser, and why is he wearing stormtrooper armor? Is he an Imperial deserter? Or has he pulled a Han Solo and borrowed a set of the iconic white coverings to pass as a member of the military? Script leaks have suggested the former, but that raises the question of his birth. Republic troops in Star Wars Episodes II and III were clones. But in Episode IV it suggested that had changed, and new troopers are recruited from the populace, and is Boyega’s character is one of these recruits, how did he end up on this desert planet that’s probably Tatooine? Are the new stormtroopers in the shuttle shown in the other shot chasing him? …so many questions

And checkout the cute new little rolling astromech Ball Droid, or Football Droid as it’s been named on the NET. All I can say is…that’s something every kid will want next Christmas, and definitely something LucasFilm Merchandising will be glad of its addition…A Star Wars Football maybe?…keerching…££$€¥

Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens MilnersBlog New Star Wars Football Droid
New Star Wars Football Droid

Then we see that chunky speederbike, driven by The Force Awakens new star Daisy Ridley, which looks closer in appearance to a flipped landspeeder, but it has quite an industrial Tug/Loader look to it. And what about Ridley, who looks to be playing a Skywalker-esque figure called Kira, trapped on a desert planet and yearning for excitement and adventure, which it looks like she’s just found with the way she looks and her hastened departure towards the Ralph McQuarrie designed desert town.

Stormtroopers!!?

How do stormtroopers still exist? The end of Return of the Jedi a montage of the ‘New’ celebratory shots signaling the apparent end of the Empire. After the emperor’s death at the hands of angry daddy Darth Vader, are stormtroopers still Imperial stormtroopers? Have they been co-opted into a new government’s military structure? If so, why did they not change their super-evil hats? You’d think those would be the first things to go with a regime change. Perhaps some remnant of the Empire clings on, and that the Rebel Alliance’s victory in the Endor system was not as absolute as they would have had us believe… Yet again, so many questions.

Lets hope these troopers are better shot than the previous ones 😉

X-Wings

Oscar Isaac at the helm of an X-Wing, callsign unknown, but I bet its a Red Squadron.

Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens MilnersBlog X Wings Attack
X Wings Attack
Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens MilnersBlog X Wings Attack
X Wings Attack

My next question is compounded by the Rebel logo still plastered on the X-Wing pilots’ helmets. This shows that the Rebel Alliance is still a going concern some 30 years after the destruction of the second Death Star, with battles to fight that require the deployment of starfighters — starfighters, it should be noted, that are three decades old. Why is the organization that unseated the Empire flying around in aging tin cans? And why can’t its pilots afford new helmets?

Here we get our first glimpse at what appears to be the Sith Lord villain of the piece. Considering the height of the man carrying it — the long limbs and notable stoop could show that this is actor Adam Driver, that’s what the Smart money is suggesting, as he angrily stumbles through that snowy forest. But who is he looking for? Or what? And now let’s talk about the new ‘Star Wars’ lightsaber

“An elegant weapon for a more civilized age”

That’s presumably a Sith wielding a distinctive (and already much-mocked) lightsaber. The black robes and red saber color give the game away, but note also the length of the hilt. It’s long enough for the wielder to grip with two hands, giving them the powerful swinging style used by Darth Vader. As that new lightsaber ignites it’s big, sort of flickers in a flame sort of way, and it has a crossbar.

Some on Twitter have taken to calling it a laser claymore.

Immediately, speculation began on twitter and the net about the possible wisdom or stupidity of this design. On one side, there are saying this is terrible design, and will cut your hand off, To which the other side responded: It solves a big lightsaber design problem, which is blades sliding down and cutting your hand off, like Anakin did to Count Dooku in Revenge of the Sith… You can’t win

The best explanation I’ve heard points out that the crossbar beams look unfocused and that maybe this guy is an old Sith “reawakened,” and that he has an early model lightsaber, which points to whether is could be Max von Sydow….More flaming questions!!

TIE fighters & The Falcon

Remember the dish that was knocked off the Millennium Falcon in Return of the Jedi? It’s still missing here, replaced by a rectangular box, which some leaked ‘GIF’ footage showed, although it wasn’t the scene we thought it would be in the trailer, which makes me think it was fake.

Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens MilnersBlog Tie Fighters attacks the Falcon
Tie Fighters attacks the Falcon

I’ve got to say, the Millennium Falcon really does bust some stomach-churning moves to escape from TIE fighters over the surface of a desert planet that’s probably Tatooine.

I especially like it when the Falcon goes vertical… you can almost hear Han Solo shouting ‘Well, we can still outmaneuver them’

While this is only a short glimpse at The Force Awakens, this is the first look that we’ve all gotten, Disney has been incredibly secretive about the production of Episode VII, but it’s also for a much simpler reason: the movie still isn’t done. Filming wrapped on Thursday the, 6th of November 2014, but the movie is still a long way from completion. That’ll be especially true for its special-effects shots, which are likely far from complete at this point, and hopefully been done at the new Industrial Light & Magic Studio in London .

I think this teaser is more about getting us fans excited and putting Star Wars back on everyone’s geek radar, which it certainly does. There’s a lot more to see, the Main Trailer, International Trailer — and we certainly will in time — but there’s still a long long ways to go before the film comes out next year on December 18th… Anyone got a DeLorean? 🙂

The McQuarrie Influence

It seems even after his death; Ralph McQuarrie’s visionary concept art from the original Star Wars saga is influencing a whole new generation of Star Wars film makers, especially the latest movie J.J.Abrams is working on (Star Wars VII The Force Awakens) with unused X-Wing designs and architectural visions from the LucasFilm Archives.

The early X-Wing design had a split single on each wing, until it was changed to the two-cylinder engine option on each side, but recent leaked onset imagery and J.J.Abrams special video message from the set of Star Wars: Episode VII, he announced the creation of Star Wars: Force for Change, a brand new Star Wars initiative from Disney and Lucasfilm, in collaboration with Bad Robot, dedicated to finding creative solutions to some of the world’s biggest problems. The first Star Wars: Force for Change campaign got fans to pledge funds to campaign and awareness for UNICEF’s Innovation Labs and its innovative projects benefitting children in need. By doing this one lucky Star Wars fan from Colorado  who contributed got to visit the set. What the video does confirm is the reusing of Ralph’s single wing engine design.

The other exciting resurrection of his work is the Silver Lightsabre wielding StormTrooper, which again has been seen in ‘more’ leaked on-set images, I wonder if the much talked about DarkTropper will make an appearance.

It also seems his early architectural concept art has made it into the film, as you can see from his concept and on-set photos show.

I wonder what other unused Ralph McQuarrie concept art will be used, the forest Jedi temple? the emperors cave temple? I guess we’ll have to wait a year to find out, but until then we can gracious in the fact the old masters work lives on.

Star Wars also released a five part video ‘Ralph McQuarrie, Star Wars Concept Artist: Tribute to a Master (Part 1)’