MTV News has an interesting piece up today about the differing processes faced by Neal Scanlan, Star Wars creature supervisor, between Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Rogue One.
According to the piece, Gareth Edwards is seeking a more realistic tone for the creatures and aliens of Rogue One. Looking for more emotive faces and the ability to feel as if they are interacting in a real world with their human co-stars.
Scanlan on Rogue One:
“They move more realistically, they’re able to emote more than maybe the characters that we did for ’The Force Awakens.’ So they’re a closer part of the storytelling. They’re less of the world, and they’re more of this group who have a mission, and play a part in that.”
This is contrasted against The Force Awakens where JJ Abrams put the emphasis on creating background texture for the world. Trying to recreate the fantasy that sparked the imagination of so many back in the original Tatooine Cantina scene. In order to capture that texture and feel, Abrams employed a broader and more simplistic technique in his character creation, and using on a performance director to rough out the brush strokes of the stories of those creatures in Maz’s castle to make the world fell real and inhabited by these creatures.
But the rest of the 110 different practical aliens and droids for the film, many of whom were only on screen for a few seconds at a time, were a bit more simplistic in design. When there’s so many people in such elaborate costumes on set at once, the challenge isn’t making them as expressive as they can be, but creating an infrastructure around them. “How do you get these people dressed in the creature costumes? How do you keep them cool? How do they see? And how do the people who are performing them on the outside, the operators, get to see in them as well?” he said.
To help with these problems, there was a “performance director” on set whose job it was to speak to the creature performers through a microphone and act as the eyes of every person on set who couldn’t see out of the alien they were standing in. The creature team also created smaller character arcs and stories for each group of aliens to play out themselves during takes, “which allowed J.J. [Abrams] to just treat them as part of the cast and feel free just to shoot the environment without worrying necessarily that these were particularly special in any way.”
“We didn’t try to treat them as a special effect,” Scanlan admitted. “We just wanted them to be part of the ’Star Wars’ world, and to feel natural in that world.”
Elsewhere, MTV News also had a nice little piece on one of the most surprisingly captivating little details of world building in The Force Awakens. Rey’s re-hydrating bread rations. Although many would immediately assume this was created digitally, it turns out that was in fact a completely practical effect. MTV has the story here.
For the full story on creature supervisor Neal Scanlan, head to MTV News here.