Star Wars Creature Effects Head Talks Force Awakens

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During a recent interview with IGN, Neil Scanlan, the creature shop head for Star Wars: Episode VII, discussed the film, bringing Maz Kanata to life, and more:

On the creatures in Kanata’s castle: “I mean, any challenge like that is fun. Of course, it’s daunting. It’s daunting from the practical perspective, but we all worked on a limited timeframe and with budget restraints. There are all of those things that come into it. But I think the idea of being able to say, ‘Here is a forum which allows us to use as many different techniques as we want, from hand puppets to people in costumes to people in prosthetics to rod puppets — I mean, it was just a play field for me and my team. We really did enjoy Maz’s world and creating it.”

On designs for Maz’s puppet vs the CGI creation: “They were very similar. Maz was a long design process, and I think that it was the first character we started on, way before we started on any others, because it was so important to J.J. But I think the reason we decided to go to CG was that — and it may not be completely evident from the film — but Maz’s development within J.J.’s mind and in the script, her role sort of grew. Certainly emotionally, it grew, and we felt there was a point where, in order for her to fully succeed and to liberate her from any constraints, to go to a CG version would mean that indeed. It also allowed us to continue to think and talk about Maz, even after we shot the scenes that Maz was in. So again, there was dual effect. One was that, yes, let’s develop her further and let’s talk about her and get to a place where J.J.’s completely happy. At the same time, he could develop her personality in-camera, along with Lupita [Nyong’o]. Had we gone practical, that would have obviously put a shorter timeframe on her development.”

On the most complex character: “The most complex thing we made was probably BB-8, just by the nature of what BB-8 had to do, the places he had to go, the surfaces he had to run on and the different demands that J.J. wanted of him. You know, how do you bolt together this sphere? How do you make this round thing that can come apart so that you can get inside and do all the things. There’s a lot of architecture inside BB-8 that created him as an entity, which you’ll never see. But he was very complicated. Lots of character work and prototype work to make sure we got him right before we committed to the final build.”