I was sitting in ILM dailies, early 1995. Our show was “Star Wars - A New Hope - Special Edition”.
The I-NET transmission brings up one of my shots (I had four in progress at all times), a plate showing the central Mos Eisley plaza. I‘d been instructed to add a ‘ronto’, three quarters behind, walking away. Ronto added, shot done, just need to hear that magic word, “Approved.”
I’d animated the ronto lumbering along just like all the other approved ronto-in-background shot. In the foreground i’d animated a slender speeder slaloming his way through the crowd.
I was waiting for that word.
George was rubbing his beard.
“George?” piped Tom Kennedy with optimism brimming.
George adjusted his seated posture. “What is that ronto doing? Don’t we have a guy leading that creature?”
Tom was frozen just a split second before he kicked back to life Ash-style (minus the cottage cheese!). Tom always reminded me of the priest from “M*A*S*H”. “Uh we did have a man leading in two shots where we matched to the existing extra in the plate already.”
Tom was good in that he was always on top of his game. Daily.
“Well we need this ronto to be carrying something. Can we give it platform with something bulky on back?”
“Oh.” I thought. “Not a final today then. Uh well adding something on back will make these creatures having reason to stomp through town. I can go with that.”
“Yeah” George continued. “We need a guy riding on the platform.”
“Ok” I say to myself. “Not so bad. Where do i get a guy from?”
“Do we have any jawas?”
The room fell silent.
Somebody answered in the negative.
“Well can we make some? We have a jawa riding on back and wait!..... Wait!!!.... What if we have the speeder come in much more quickly and scare the ronto…”
“Yeah the ronto acts like a horse, you know when they rear up on their hind legs? It rears up and its fore legs kinda scrabble at the air.”
“No no no no noooo….. What happened to my final?”
“It rears up so fast the jawa falls off. No wait he falls and is still hanging from the reins, so it swings back and forth under this bucking ronto…”
I am in stunned silence wondering how we had gotten so far in seconds.
“What if we have TWO jawas. One falls off the front and the other falls back and splat! lands on the dusty ground kicking up a cloud of dirt.”
How quickly things can happen in this business. For the record it was a square peg, round hole scenario. There was no way to shoehorn all this into a plaza that isn’t going to react to any of it. Plus i didn’t see why we should distract and make this forgettable shot in the original something of a comic moment.
Plus back then ILM was experimenting on recycling character rigs. Taking “Jurassic Park” rigs and retro fitting skins around them, making the ronto from the brachiosaur rig, the scurriers from velociraptor rig, and the stormtroopers were what, would you guess?
The stormtroopers were poorly modeled armor clad onto a black hi-res skin. The hi-res Robert Patrick skin from “Terminator 2” where he walks out of the fire. Hi-res back then on the old Softimage was downright heavy as hell.
The helmet was awful. Not just bad or slightly disproportionate. I mean terrible. It looked more like 4-LOM than a stormtrooper if you can picture that. The modeler (no names) was openly not a fan of Star Wars and his ability to follow reference (when the reference is the actual prop on your desk!) was in my humble opinion shabby and that’s being nice.
The lenses were aviator sunglasses shape.
The nice round flare at the helmet base had a right angle in it, I kid you not. A ninety degree right angle, i thought “I can’t animate this and have this ride the dewback it’s too near to camera. Everyone will see the right angle. The 70’s cop sunglasses. So i went and asked if the stormtrooper could be remodeled or at least made to look right. Nope. ILM back then had a very linear approach to the pipeline. No cross over. No discussion as to what might be needed and what is a waste of time building in. Very arrow-like.
So I got Bill Fletcher to show me basic modeling tips. Lattices especially I liked. lattices provide virtual cages which you can squash and stretch a piece of geometry.
I so wish I had a before and after. The helmet i apologise is not perfect. Not even close. I am not a cg modeler, not at all. But the one you see in the movie I made from something far, far more unperfect.
I also had to model the prod-staff from a single cylinder. The last thing I modeled was the sandtrooper’s backpacks.
I might add to this if people read it and comment a like.
This is merely a vague memory and i mean no ill-thought to anybody mentioned above. I apologise and will gladly ammend if notified.