This year marks the 30th anniversary of Return of the Jedi. Lucasfilm has released a lot of goodies to commemorate the anniversary, including a Making of the Return of the Jedi book by J.W. Rinzler, and a rare teaser trailer that features the sequel film’s original title Revenge of the Jedi. Recently rare footage and alternative takes from Return of the Jedi surfaced. The missing footage was thought-to-be-lost until someone unearthed a rare laserdisc.
The finder posted a few clips from the missing footage on Facebook, but now they’ve released the entire 30 minutes of raw, unedited b-roll from the third film in the Star Wars trilogy. The missing footage begins with R2-D2 repairing Luke’s X-Wing on Dagobah, but mainly features Luke Skywalker’s reunion with Master Yoda on the swamp planet just before the 900-year-old Jedi Master dies. It’s pretty amazing to watch Frank Oz and Mark Hamill, just moments before takes of the iconic scene. Oz asks for lead-in lines, while Hamill reacts to the Oz-operated Muppet.
The laserdisc came from the EditDroid editing system, which was developed by Droid Works, a subdivision of Lucasfilm, in the early 80s. EditDroie was one of the first digital editing system and the precursor to Adobe’s Avid and Apple’s Final Cut Pro. For the first time, filmmakers could transfer footage from film into a laserdisc into a computer to edit it in a quicker and easier way than traditionally using a Steenbeck. Now you can shoot, edit, and share a film, just by using an iPhone. It seems people forget that Lucasfilm, not only made the Star Wars films, but Lucas’ company pushed the boundaries of digital filmmaking and technology.
Without these digital filmmaking tools, Star Wars fans could not create “re-mix” films from The Phantom Menace or Attack of the Clones, I.E. The Phantom Edit and Attack of the Phantoms. Fans could now “fix” the prequel trilogy just by replacing scenes or simply cutting out over-long and tedious ones. Recently, Jar-Jar Binks’ death scene from The Phantom Edit made the rounds, pleasing fans everywhere.
Now that Star Wars: Episode VII has a concrete release date, fans can appreciate a time when we all thought Return of the Jedi was going to be the last film in the franchise. Keep in mind; it was almost 14 years later until Lucas announced that he was going to make more movies. The rare footage is also a reminder of a time when movies used practical effects rather than relying on CGI. Considering that Yoda is now a fully computer generated character instead of a Muppet, the Jedi Master is the best case for this forgotten era.