The Incredible Invisible Practical Effects Miniatures Used To Create The Star Wars Prequels

We're all getting excited about the practical effects we've seen from the set of Star Wars Episode 7. Many people complain about the abundance of computer-generated effects in George Lucas' Star Wars prequels, but what they don't realize is more practical miniature models were created for any one of the Star Wars prequel films than were made for the entire combined original trilogy. I thought that bit of Star Wars prequels miniatures trivia might surprise many of you.

While I don't dislike the films as much as most, I'm in no way a prequel apologist — the movies are what they are. That said, there are some things to admire in the prequel trilogy. So take a trip with me back in time to look at some of the amazing handcrafted artistry that went into the most despised trilogy of films in movie history. You will be shocked at what parts and at just how much of it was created practically by the visual effects magicians at Industrial Light and Magic.

Star Wars Prequels Miniatures

Here is a look at some of the practical miniatures created for the Podracing sequence in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Not only did they create the huge podracing arena set but they also build incredibly detailed miniature versions of the podracing vehicles. Notice how the far shots of the podracing crowd were just painted q-tips. One of the shots below even features an actress on a balcony overlooking a small miniature model set.

Star Wars prequels miniatures


Here is a look at the incredibly expansive miniature set created for the lava fight sequence on Mustafar. They shot this miniature for five to six months in darkness. The 25 feet wide by 50 feet long miniature set was built on a tilt so that they could pour slime down the lava streams as lights would illuminate from below.



Here is a brief look at a few of the many miniatures used to bring Naboo to life:


And here is a few photos from the Geonosian execution arena sequence from Attack of the Clones. The arena was sculpted out of high-density foam.


And here are a few of the many other practical miniatures used to help create the worlds of the Star Wars prequels:



And lastly, watch Industrial Light and Magic effects veterans Lorne Peterson, Danny Wagner, and Fon Davis talk about making the miniature effects for the Star Wars prequels in a deleted scene from the filmmaking model maker documentary Sense of Scale:

We have only featured a fraction of the photos which can be found on various internet sites. Most of the behind the scenes images used in this article were found on forum threads and You can find many more examples of how practical special effects helped create the worlds seen in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith at those three links.