The Mandalorian‘s blending of practical and digital effects is one of the major reasons for the Disney+ show’s success. The new technology, which allows the filmmakers to create controlled environments with screens that project real-time sets behind the actors, was cutting-edge, but the effect was of an old-school Star Wars film. But there is an even greater connection to the original Star Wars films hidden in The Mandalorian‘s visual effects — and the reason that the series feels so close to those first films.
ICG Magazine published an extensive piece about the intersection of technology and cinematography in The Mandalorian through the use of the show’s brand new real-time technology. It was through that technology that The Mandalorian‘s visual effects team was able to forge a greater connection to the original Star Wars films. ILM VFX supervisor Richard Bluff said to ICG:
“There has been an enormous number of practical elements shot for previous Star Wars films, so we leveraged as much as possible from ILM’s asset library. For example, there’s a scene in episode five when Mando sees two Banthas off in the distance. I was adamant we shouldn’t build a fully animated and rigged furry Bantha for just two shots and suggested we pull out the plates from A New Hope’s dailies. I knew I could come up with a shot design to leverage the Banthas from that.”
That’s the reason the series feels at home alongside A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi — it actually uses footage and dailies from these three films. Bluff revealed that footage was not the only element they used in their effects. In further homage to the original films, the team used an original Ralph McQuarrie matte painting, in homage to A New Hope‘s distinct, tactile and low-budget style.
“When Mando flies toward Tatooine, we are actually seeing the [Ralph McQuarrie] matte painting seen early in the original film,” Bluff said. “We reused another painting of Mos Eisley for a fly-in; in that case, I sent a photographer out to the exact spot George shot his original plate, capturing high-res elements so we could up-res as necessary.”
The Mandalorian season 1 is streaming on Disney+ now. Season 2 is set to debut in fall 2020.
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