As work continues to ramp up for a spring 2014 production start on Episode VII, Star Wars has been ramping up its social media presence in a major way, from launching an Instagram account to packing the official YouTube channel with all manner of goodies. We’ve seen vintage trailers for the films, as well as unused or deleted footage. Lately the channel has been on a bit of a behind-the-scenes rampage, courtesy of Star Wars visual effects maestro Dennis Muren. We love the one up top, especially, because it shows how old-school methods can be used to create timeless effects — in this case, how stop-motion animation brought to life the massive AT-AT walkers that tromped across the ice world of Hoth.
I love the notion that they actually considered building a five-foot working robotic version of the AT-ATs, before realizing that King Kong had already shown them the way some five decades earlier. And the logic that, well, the jerkiness lends itself to a machine anyway, that’s the sort of brilliant logic that’s necessary when your job is “figure out how to put impossible things up on screen.” It’s a sort of problem-solving that is refreshing to look back on when damn near anything can be rendered in a computer these days, for good or ill. Which makes it doubly satisfying when you have modern directors such as Peter Jackson who still blend old and new approaches to effects in their movies. (Even if he hasn’t discovered a technique to remove all the bloat from the freaking Hobbit movies.)
You can get more of Muren’s brain-pickings below, dishing on the challenges of handling effects for a series of films with such a diverse array of settings, from deserts to snowy hellscapes to forest moons. We’re even throwing in a storyboard-to-screen comparison for the unforgettable asteroid-field chase from The Empire Strikes Back, because who doesn’t love a good storyboard-to-screen comparison? No one we’d care to lunch with, that’s who.