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!
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 for 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!
MUPPET/STAR WARS GOODNESS