star wars creature panel

As an event, Star Wars Celebration seems to be evenly divided between looking to the exciting, unknown future and gazing adoringly back at the past. This dynamic was captured perfectly in the “Creatures, Droids & Aliens of Star Wars: The Force Awakens” panel, which gathered eight practical effects geniuses from the Star Wars creature shop to discuss their work on last year’s film while offering a peek at their work in this year’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. You can find everything you need to see below…and most importantly, there’s a lot more of that guy pictured at the top.

Hosted by actor Warwick Davis, whose Star Wars credits include roles as creatures in Return of the Jedi, Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the panel got started with a brief montage showing these hyper-talented men and women at work, offering a glimpse at what it’s like to design and build creatures and robots for a living. I especially enjoy the images of the Luggabeast before he has been given the gift of skin.

From there, the panel went through the basic process of how a Star Wars creature comes into existence, with Davis working his way down the row of guests and asking each of them to explain how they contribute to bringing a character to life. In the broadest possible strokes, it goes like this: concept designers collaborate with the director to create sketches that everyone likes, those sketches are rendered as 3D sculptures, those sculptures become the basis for full-size molds, those molds are utilized by the body department to build torso and limb pieces that an actor can wear, these body pieces are enhanced by the animatronics department who create lifelike facial movements, the hair department covers all of the work so far with the necessary amount of fur, the painters make it all look real, and then actors are trained and directed to make these sweltering and difficult costumes come to life on screen. The gallery below does a pretty good job of showing off this process from beginning to end.

After that, creature shop head and concept designer Neal Scanlan showed off a series of alien heads to Davis. While many of the animatronics here are next-level impressive, the alien on the far left was created for a tiny amount of money at the last possible second, which really goes a long way to showing off the ingenuity of these folks.

And finally, the panel offered a glimpse into the future when a new Rogue One character, nicknamed “Space Monkey,” took to the stage. We caught glimpses of this guy (who will eventually have a real name) in yesterday’s Rogue One sizzle reel and he looks weird and hilarious and just plain cool in action.

If you’re interested in checking out the entire panel for yourself, you can peruse today’s live stream feed in the embed below.

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