Art and design have been instrumental in the success of Star Wars ever since original paintings by Ralph McQuarrie convinced studio heads at 20th Century Fox to greenlight George Lucas’ ambitious space opera . Doug Chiang, production designer on “The Mandalorian” and “The Book of Boba Fett,” as well as vice president and chief creative officer of Lucasfilm, has continued McQuarrie’s incredible design legacy since he was chosen by Lucas himself to lead the artistic department of Lucasfilm. for episodes I and II.
During the Star Wars 2022 celebration on May 28, Chiang gave a riveting talk titled “Designing The Mandalorian” in which he spoke about the challenges – and fun – of creating the worlds of “The Mandalorian” and “The Book of Boba Fett” – and figure out how Slave I would work. (The panel is also featured in the official Day 3 live stream starting at five hours and three minutes.)
Chiang said that to create the first live-action Star Wars television series, he and his team wanted to create a “cohesive universe” that combined the aesthetics of the original prequels and trilogies with a nod to the artists and designers who started it all. .
“In designing ‘The Mandalorian’, we wanted to capture that essence that Ralph [McQuarrie] did so well. And Joe Johnston [concept artist, effects technician and art director for the original trilogy and co-creator of Boba Fett’s design], we wanted to capture his iconic designs, his simple and memorable creations. These are classic Star Wars designs.
In fact, one of the first paintings Chiang created for “The Mandalorian” was inspired by Ralph McQuarrie’s original Boba Fett concept art.
“Star Wars design resembles archeology in many ways,” Chiang said. “You dig into the past to discover ideas and make them your own.”
In fact, Chiang’s past work with Lucas on the prequel trilogy was a big influence on his design philosophy and process for “The Mandalorian” years later.
“We followed the guidelines set out by George. Keep it simple. Design something a child could draw. Design for the silhouette, design for the iconic logo,” Chiang said.
Chiang added that working with “The Mandalorian” writer and executive producer Jon Favreau even reflected what it was like to work with Lucas in a collaborative process in which concept art influenced scripts and vice versa.
But the design team faced a monumental task when it came to the series set in “The Mandalorian” universe: designing two and a half feature films each season with “half the budget and a third time”.
New technology and design workflows made this ambitious project possible, according to Chiang. Virtual reality allowed the team to virtually scout sets and make design decisions long before physical construction of the sets began.
Another challenge the team faced was distinguishing Din Djarin from the other Mandalorian viewers they had previously seen live, Jango Fett and Boba Fett.
“For the casual fan, our Mando could easily be mistaken for a Boba as the details are very similar,” Chiang said. “So we focused on changing the silhouette to differentiate them.”
They did this by giving Mando a longer cape with a pulse rifle reminiscent of the weapon Boba Fett first used in 1978’s Star Wars Holiday Special. Chiang noted that placing the rifle at a specific angle also helped distinguish the silhouette of the new character.
This strategy paid off and helped make Din Djarin a fan-favorite character. And after two seasons of designing for “The Mandalorian,” Chiang and his team set to work on “The Book of Boba Fett.”
In another nod to the past, Favreau wanted this series to return to the spaceport city of “The Phantom Menace”, Mos Espa. Some of Chiang’s concept art of the sunken city were never used in the films, although they were approved by Lucas. “The Book of Boba Fett” was the perfect opportunity to reveal these drawings to the public for the first time.
“And the great thing about putting the town in a sinkhole is that it completely changed the skyline and gave it a distinct new look which is very different from Mos Eisley, even though all the architecture is at about the same,” Chiang added.
Another design challenge the team faced was figuring out how Slave I, which Chiang called an “all-time classic” Star Wars vehicle, would actually function indoors when rotating from horizontal to vertical flight. . A partial cockpit was the only part of Slave I that was actually built for Attack of the Clones. This iteration of the Slave I cockpit pivoted on metal arms to stay upright like a self-righting gimbal. But the Boba Fett Book team had to conceptualize what’s going on in the rest of the ship as it spins.
Unfortunately, rotating the cockpit itself while the rest of the ship remained stationary was a bit too convoluted an idea, so they decided to take the opposite approach: in The Book of Boba Fett, the cockpit remains stationary in a position while the main cargo bay revolves around it.
The panel also showed an animatic — first seen in Disney Gallery’s The Mandalorian “Making of Season 2” on Disney+ — illustrating how Slave I’s cockpit remains stationary while the rest of the ship revolves around it.
It would have been difficult – not to say expensive – to practically achieve this engineering feat, so after building the floor, seats and some of the controls, ILM’s Stagecraft technology helped fill in the gaps by making the rest of the ship virtually in real time during filming.
“It’s one of those great examples where our new technology makes it a very reasonable set for a very low yet powerful visual impact,” Chiang said.
In the final scene of “The Book of Boba Fett”, the daimyo unleashes his rancor in Mos Espa to defeat the Pykes’ giant Scorpenek droids. Chiang said Favreau tasked the design team with exploring this idea during some of the show’s early weeks of production. How do you know what that would look like? You watch classic monster movies like Godzilla and King Kong.
“Jon and Dave [Filoni, executive producer and writer of ‘The Book of Boba Fett’] gave us full license to explore our wildest ideas, and it was our job to push them as far as we could. And unsurprisingly, Jon always pushed us further.
It’s this collaborative, out-of-the-box design process that Chiang says made “The Mandalorian” and “The Book of Boba Fett” so successful.
“That’s what excites me about designing ‘The Mandalorian’ universe. It’s always fun, fresh, and full of unexpected surprises,” Chiang concluded. “And when you think about it, that’s exactly what what Star Wars design should be.”