Visit the Star Wars Episode VII Set. No, Really!


More importantly, the world just got its first look at Episode VII in motion with a glorious practical effect!

While the jaded sarcastic baby in me wants to say something snide in regards to 18 more months of Star Wars’ promotional drip feed, I can’t help but be a giddy little girl banging my wrists together today. Following the slate and studio billboard tweets, there’s clearly still a childlike “THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING!” feeling many of us can’t shake, and JJ Abrams is now front and center to exacerbate that by providing us with our first look at the Episode VII set in motion, LIVE (to tape) from Abu Dhabi! You may think this is going to be boring, but give it about 30 seconds…

YOU SEE THAT SHIT?! Yes, it may very well be the first official character reveal from the new film, rumored to be subtitled “The Ancient Fear,” but I’m more far impressed to see a practical effect associated with Star Wars for the first time in 20 fucking years! The video is primarily there to plug a contest/charity thingamabob, where you can win a walk-on role in the movie (if I can’t play a Death Stick Salesman, I honestly don’t care) but my biggest, dare I say newest hope for now is that that bird-peddling turtle thingy A) gets a name, and B) becomes such an internet sensation they swap its name in for The Ancient Fear in the final title! STAR WARS: SLOWPOKE McGILLICUTTY!

Yoda.muppets (1)
I need to know EVERYTHING about this picture

Even if you’re a Star Trek purist who hated Double J’s movies, you can’t argue that they made one helluva convincing pitch for him directing a new Star Wars. And more relevant to my nerdy ass interests, I’m fucking out-of-my-mind excited to see a live-action creature sauntering around on a Star Wars set again. In case you haven’t already heard me blather on about reading Jim Henson’s biography, today’s news once again intertwines Star Wars with my fascination with The Muppets. Back in the 70s, The Muppet Show and Star Wars shared a production proximity at Elstree Studios in England, eventually working simultaneously across from one another.


Although some younglings find it hard to believe, Henson and his associates had zero involvement with the original Star Wars, nor its creatures, it’s true. While massive animatronic creatures and practical movie aliens would eventually become almost exclusively Henson domain as most studios made the switch to CG, such things were just “effects” back in the day (plus the Henson Company’s first foray into for-hire creature work for a project they weren’t actively involved with came much later and has basically been forgotten.) However, when it came time to elevate an otherworldly Star Wars character to a principal player in The Empire Strikes Back, Lucas decided it was time to consult the experts.


I’m sure many of you know that the man responsible for bringing Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear and Grover to life is also the same guy, Frank Oz, who fisted Yoda into iconic existence. But you may not know that the Muppeteers weren’t all that satisfied with the technical design. Sure, Yoda would come off as convincing to audiences, beloved even, but he was the product of a massive amount of cables, wires and thick material, a total bitch to operate and too unwieldy to move all that much in any particular shot. Or as Oz would go on to more poetically describe Yoda: “Really fuckin’ heavy.”


Fortunately, the experience was essentially a testing ground for an idea Jim Henson had been long banging around in his head involving a fantasy project featuring more elaborate Muppets, whom at that point, where almost exclusively basic cloth (sock) puppets or dudes in furry, full-bodied suits. That film was The Dark Crystal, but the Yoda experience not only laid the seeds forĀ one another cinematic collaboration with George Lucas, Labyrinth, it also coincided nicely with the 1979 founding of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, a visual effects company that’s produced onscreen effects for Harry Potter, Babe, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, among many others. Ahhh… I never get tired of pointing out that Jim Henson had a hand in everything you’ve ever loved!


14 thoughts on “Visit the Star Wars Episode VII Set. No, Really!

  1. The puppet looks cool, and definitely feels more reminiscent to the designs of the original trilogy rather than the bland ones of the prequels.

    Though for as much fuzz people nag about Practical effects being way better than CGI, I honestly don’t give a rat’s ass as long as it looks good on screen. Still, J.J. Abrams seems to be on a good path here, I liked the casting that was revealed so far, and I’ve liked the movies he’s made so far.

    As for the chance to participate on the set… That is almost certainly US only, isn’t it? if so, I couldn’t care less…

  2. this was my one hope that when they brought on J.J. Abrams that they would use real sets and real puppets

  3. First person to say that alien is racist gets my boot up their ass. In addition to just being an idiot in general.

  4. not that I want to be fed little pieces of a movie for 2 years either, but you can’t deny it’s a joy to see some silly practical alien effects again.

  5. What specifically about the JJ Abrams Star Trek movies suggests a good Star Wars movie to people? They were enjoyable, but watching them it never occurred to me that it felt like Star Wars. Even after people mentioned it, I still can’t see it and it’s somewhat frustrating when something is treated as obvious when you don’t get it.

    1. A lot of people actually think Abrams movies already felt more like Star Wars than Star Trek (bigger emphasis on the action/adventure than space exploration/philosophical themes). Maybe his Star Wars movies will feel more like Star Trek lol

    2. I think it’s because Star Trek was always more slower paced and technical. And while sure, aesthetically Abrams’ Trek films feel nothing like Star Wars movies, in pacing and structure they kinda do.

      Fans often argue that Star Trek is true sci-fi, whereas star wars is a space opera: One uses fiction to make a commentary on society of some sort or to explore the technicalities of what it would truly feel to live in the future/space/alternate reality, whereas the other uses space as a setting to tell a story regardless of commentary or point. Abarams’ Star Trek movies definitely fall on the latter.

      1. As a big fan of both Star Trek and Star Wars, I definitely understood the complaints that the Star Trek movies didn’t feel like Star Trek… but very few Star Trek movies actually feel like Star Trek, so that wasn’t really all that new.

        The pacing and structure part I somewhat disagree with. The JJ Trek movies felt like big, bombastic action movies to me, whereas Star Wars movies always needed a foot firmly in adventure.

        Or, it could just be that the fact that the tone is entirely wrong for Star Wars makes it more difficult for me to see the structures underneath.

        1. Yeah, the tone is different, but the way the story is told is definitely more akin to a Star Wars movie. Although I’ll say that the two Abrams Trek movies are perhaps a little too fast paced even for Star Wars.

          Anyway, there’s also the fact that Abrams admitted as much that he always a fan of Star Wars, whereas he only watched Star Trek recently. So one can only hope he’ll treat the Star Wars movies with far more reverence and care.

  6. Huh… I have to admit, I got really tingly when that creature walked onto the set. THE SET. not the blue/green screen room, the set! I think if star wars 7 can be magical for kids the way the originals were for generations of kids across the 70s 80s and 90s that’s a good thing, and physical sets and animatronics and models blowing up, that’s a good place to be. And it helps a lot of good creative folks pay the rent.

  7. Sigh, the blind internet hate runs deep in you. The prequels had much more practical effects than the original films. Also the original films used quite a few blue screen sets. As for the puppet, it is a pretty weak design and looks lifeless, just a poor effect regardless. It is looking like JJ is just trying to beg the internet hate boys to not hate this film really.

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