Production on Star Wars: Episode VII officially began last week, bringing us one step closer to seeing a new Star Wars movie in theaters for the first time since 2005. Episode VII is currently filming in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates, and director J.J. Abrams took a moment to show off the location and offer fans a chance to win an onscreen appearance in the next Star Wars film!
We’ll get to the contest details in a moment, but there’s something worth pointing out in the above video. It’s that crazy-looking alien that walks past behind J.J., which is very obviously created using practical effects. Abrams and others had said previously that Episode VII would be using practical effects where feasible, which was a huge relief after the flashy but empty CGI excess of the prequels. If you look at the alien’s side profile, you can pretty much figure out how the rig works: it looks like the actor’s legs are in the alien’s legs, with his or her upper torso disguised inside the junk the alien is hauling on its back. It’s such a simple thing to create a great illusion, but it gives the creature a sense of life and weight that many CGI creations simply don’t have. Plus, the fact that they’re embracing old-school effects puts a big stupid grin on my face.
But let’s get back to the reason behind the message. Star Wars: A Force for Change is a new charity campaign created by Disney and Lucasfilm, in partnership with Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions. A Force for Change will strive to find “creative solutions to some of the world’s biggest problems.” The first charity campaign from the group will focus on raising money for UNICEF’s Innovation Labs, and I’m sure more groups and goals will follow.
So, we’ve got a good cause, but what’s in it for you (aside from knowing you did something good for the world)? If you donate, you’ll be entered in a contest to win an actual appearance in Episode VII! You’ll always be able to tell your friends, “Yeah, I was the third alien from the left in that scene where Luke and Leia are hardcore making out.” Bragging rights, yo.
Star Wars: Episode VII will hit theaters on December 18, 2015. It 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. You can read the full press release below.
To support the launch of Star Wars: Force for Change, Disney has committed $1 million, and fans can now donate directly at Omaze.com/StarWars for a chance to appear in Star Wars: Episode VII. By pledging as little as $10 through the Omaze fundraising platform, any eligible supporter will be automatically entered for a chance to win this once-in-a-lifetime experience. The campaign runs from 12:01am PST on May 21stth until 11:59pm PST July 18th.
The Star Wars: Force for Change Grand Prize includes:
- Airfare and accommodations to London for one winner and a guest
- Behind-the-scenes access on the closed set of Star Wars: Episode VII as VIP guests of J.J. Abrams
- Winner will have the opportunity to meet members of the cast
- Winner and their guest will then be transformed by makeup and costume teams into a Star Wars character and filmed for a scene in Star Wars: Episode VII
Visit StarWars.com/ForceForChange to learn more about this new charitable initiative and the work of UNICEF’s Innovation Labs and programs, and be sure to enter through contribution or free entry for your chance to win at omaze.com/starwars.