Yesterday, when J.J. Abrams released a video from the Abu Dhabi set of Star Wars: Episode VII—as wary as most of us have become of this movie, it’s hard not smile when you read that—every got all hot and bothered by the appearance of the first creature from the film. People also instantly pointed out that this little buddy, a very practical and puppety addition to the film, bears a striking resemblance to characters from movies like The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth. In addition to being incredible films, both of those movies employ the vaunted craftsmanship of the artists at Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. This, as you can imagine, led to rampant speculation that the creative team at Henson could be involved in Episode VII. We’ve heard that the film will employ practical special effects instead of simply relying on CGI at every turn, and how incredible a team up would this be? Unfortunately, all this hubbub was for nothing.
The most common reaction to the alien puppet was that it resembles the Old Junk Lady from Labyrinth, which it certainly does. But that’s about as far as any potential connection goes. Slashfilm was able to get confirmation from the Creature Shop that they will not be involved in this latest adventure to that far, far away galaxy.
That said, it doesn’t mean that there will be no link between the two, at least in a Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon kind of way. While the Jim Henson Company said that they, as a whole, will not be involved, their puppeteers are independent contractors, and more than free to work with whomever they please. So the possibility still exists that some of these folks could in fact participate in Episode VII. And if you’re going to go the practical route, who better to have working your puppets than these folks?
No matter who is at the controls, our first glimpse at this creature is heartening. It reconfirms Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy’s statement that they’re going to use “every tool in the toolbox.” I’m not anti-computer special effects by any means, in this day and age they have their place, but this is still super exciting. What I’m against is the overuse of CGI, which is something that the George Lucas’ prequels are definitely guilty of. Everything in those movies is fake, and you totally feel that. Practical effects lend a weight and concreteness, and even though there’s bound to be a mix of the two approaches, it will only serve to ground things and make them appear more real.
For The Empire Strikes Back, Lucas actually approached Jim Henson about working on Yoda, but due to scheduling overload, he passed. Though he did, in fact, recommend a guy named Frank Oz to do the job, and the rest is Star Wars history.
Star Wars: Episode VII stars Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, Kenny Baker, John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, and Max von Sydow, and opens everywhere on December 18, 2015.