Star Wars: The Force Awakens is full of eye-popping effects, both practical and CG. And if you were paying attention, you may have noticed a bit of stop-motion animation thrown in there as well. After the jump, watch a video showing the Force Awakensstop-motion sequence came together under the guidance of VFX wizard Phil Tippett. (Minor spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens ahead.)
The Force Awakens stop-motion sequence comes as a little Easter egg for fans. When Finn is aboard the Millennium Falcon, he accidentally hits a button that turns on the Dejarik holochess board. He stares at it for a moment, attracting Chewbacca’s attention, before turning it off. The moment has no real impact on the plot; it’s really just there as a fun callback for fans of the original.
As teased way back in July, Adam Savage dropped by Tippett Studio to see Tippett and his team work on the stop-motion animation sequence. If you’re interested in Star Wars making-of lore, or just stop-motion animation in general, the video is worth a watch. Tippett and his team discuss the process of animating these little monsters, and also about Tippett’s work on the original film.
It’s interesting to see that J.J. Abrams’ preference for practical effects over CG ones for The Force Awakens extended even to the holochess set. It probably would’ve been simpler to recreate it in CG, but it wouldn’t have felt quite the same.
As Tippett explains in the video, bringing back the holochess set wasn’t as easy as dusting off the original models. “We got a call from [Lucasfilm president] Kathy Kennedy saying that they wanted to restore the original chess set from Star Wars, and the problem was that the characters that we had made, you know, close to 40 years ago, were in a horrible state of disintegration,” he said.
Though they knew exactly where the originals were — on a plaque presented to George Lucas — the figures were beyond repair. “They were made out of a rubber that disintegrates over time, and turns into like graham crackers,” said Tippett. So he and his team went into the archives and used photogrammetry to reconstruct the characters for 3D printing. The new figures are made of silicone, and should last longer than the old ones did.
Best of all, Tippett reveals that the holochess game as seen in The Force Awakens is actually a continuation of the holochess game from A New Hope. “We elected to pick up where we left off … and we just swapped out who wins this time,” said Tippett.
The Star Wars: The Force Awakens stop-motion sequence, along with the rest of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, is in theaters now.