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Let’s Take a Closer Look at the New Alien in STAR WARS: EPISODE VII

We got our first glimpse into the world of Star Wars: Episode VII yesterday. Director J.J. Abrams appeared in a video from the set in Abu Dhabi announcing a new initiative, Star Wars: Force for Change. Besides learning about making a charitable donation to enter to win a part in the upcoming film, we also saw a new alien. That’s exciting, but the icing on the cake is the creature is a puppet that looks like it could be right out of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. Practical effects! Thank goodness!

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The danger of too much CGI is something the filmmakers are aware of. Kathleen Kennedy spoke at Star Wars Celebration Europe last summer, and in response to the constant question of how much CGI they would be using in Episode VII, she said, “We’re looking at what the early Star Wars films did; they used real locations with special effects. So we’re going to find some very cool locations, we’re going to end up using every single tool in the toolbox.”

She continued, “Using model makers, using real droids, taking advantage of the artwork that you can touch and feel — we want to do that in combination with CG effects.” The key phrase there is obviously “in combination with.” I’m okay with a mix of the two, as long as it’s balanced or leaning more towards practical.

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I suspect Episode VII’s tone, palette, and effects will be more in line with the original trilogy than the prequels and not just because of the timeline. The prequels showcased a different time in the galaxy; it wasn’t the same place before the Empire took control and it needed to have another look than the original trilogy. However, the use of too many computer effects for creatures and backgrounds didn’t do the trick. A lack of practical effects is one reason the prequels didn’t work as well as the original trilogy.

But now? It feels like we’re getting back to the roots of Star Wars. This alien on the set of Tatooine (not confirmed but it’s a reasonable guess for the location) is tangible and well-crafted, and the design is interesting. Maybe he’s a vendor selling wares or a consumer taking his vulture-chickens home. Whatever the case, seeing him gives me hope that we’ll be amazed by the creatures in this film.

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Remember the feeling you got the first time you saw all the wacky patrons at the cantina in Mos Eisley? The scene didn’t just paint a picture of scum and villainy, it showed us a tiny swath of the galaxy. If all those aliens were in one bar on a nowhere planet, what would a street in a big city be like? I want to feel that wonder again and not have it diluted by fake creatures.

Head to the comments and let us know your thoughts on the alien.

HT: Geek Tyrant

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18 comments

  • Well I honestly think it will be…. refreshing to have a more original look to the films, I don’t particularly care for the look of this guy but I collect the figures and if he’s made i’ll buy him. I don’t care for the look of him but I think it’s definitely awesome that they’re going old style with these films, I was born after the first three but I never cared for the CGI in the new films, especially Sy Snootles…… I just like the puppet. I don’t want to attack Mr. Lucas because I think he is a genius and I think his ideas are brilliant but I think the CG needs to lay low in these upcoming films. I truly do. I don’t care for this creature BUT just seeing him gives me so much joy, I believe these are going to be some good films! I think the older generation are going to be like “oh man….. there it is, that is Star Wars” and it’s going to sell good, I believe that. I mean it has Hamill, Fisher, Ford, Daniels and all the others… how could it be bad? I mean….. let’s say it turns out awful… just plain horrible! Crap! I will still love it and buy and watch it over and over lol, why? I will enjoy it because it is bringing back the original stars, the….. original cast and I think it’s going to be pretty awesome. I know i’ll like it. It sure will change the chronological events lol, but hey……….. it’s a new Star Wars movie…. come on! I don’t know… that’s all I have to say, I think it’s going to be good!

  • […] TMZ claims the massive creature in the first picture is being manned by five operators, making me excited about how many more practical creature designs we’ll see and if the director is taking a hard left away from fully-GC critters. This is on the heels of Abrams revealing some of the Henson Workshop-esque props and puppets making their way into the film, as Amy so handily documented two weeks ago. […]

  • I like him! Sort of ‘camel-esque’ in appearance, but more adorable. X)  Mixed with a little “wise ole’ merchant” feel. Glad to see the SW “franchise” going back to it’s roots.

  • I just wanna say that there is some puppets in new trilogy too. Especially in The Phantom Menace. People don’t remember it because of Jar Jar and all the other bullshit. ONE puppet showing in this video does not mean that they will go all out practical effects. I hope they do, but i expect a lot of CGI…

  • I don’t think he’s a major character. I honestly think he’s just a background character and will see more creatures in the background, done with practical effects.

  • George Lucas and many other film makers seem to have forgotten that making a film should be a challenge! A fun challenge, or why else do it? taking the challenge to make an 8 ft running taun taun, or Jaba the Hut had the whole ..”how the hell are we going to make that? I don’t know, but lets get started!!!” has turned in to “ok, ill send it down to the boys  in the Computer lab” Where is the fun? Boggles my mind that Lucas took the short cut of CGI rather than taking time to fabricate reality, and it absolutely shows! I am all for CGI! Jurassic Park is a GREAT example of how to use CGI! Practical FX with CGI, that is how it should be done!

    • Making a film should be creating an entertainment experience. Being a challenge is not the purpose at all, and in fact is a stress-inducing frustration most of the time.

      As satisfying as overcoming challenges can be, filmmakers prefer the fewer of those the better.

  • Keep in mind… in the prequels there wasn’t ONE clone trooper. Anywhere. All CG.
    With that in mind, think of all the money saved and realness added if George just would have made 10 suits and got 10 extras.
    That’s the realism that CG just can’t replicate.

    For example… Episode 2. Padme falls in the sand at Geonisis outside the lightsaber battle and a clone trooper helps her up. The only real element was Padme.. the sand, the trooper (even grabbing her hand in the wonderful fake-looking CGI/Human touching problem).. ALL fake. It would have looked so much better doing it in a sandy place, with a real trooper.

    Compare that to how real the Treks looked, and we all have something to look forward to.