Exclusive: ILM Legend Bill George Returns To 'Star Wars' With 'Resistance'

Bill George is one of the living legends of ILM. He's been with the company since 1981 and has built some of the most iconic models in sci-fi film history, from Star Wars to Star Trek. He built the models for Ghostbusters 2 and even won an Academy Award for his work on Innerspace. In the world of Star Wars, he built the incredibly detailed models for the B-Wing, the Shuttle Tyderium and the second Death Star all at the dawn of his career.

These days, he works with Walt Disney's Imagineering department to work on attractions at the theme parks. He worked on updating Star Tours, the incredible new vision of Pirates of the Caribbean in Shanghai Disneyland, and is currently working on Galaxy's Edge.

You can imagine our surprise when we discovered that he'd built models for use in Star Wars Resistance, the new animated Star Wars television show that begins airing this week.

George created models of both the Fireball and the Colossus. The Fireball is one of the chief ships on the show and the Colossus is the platform where the show is set.

We're able to exclusively unveil a look at the models and had a chance to talk to Bill George about his career in Star Wars and building these models in particular.

Can you tell me about your start in Star Wars in '81? How did you get that and what was the first thing you worked on?

I was hired in 1981 at Industrial Light & Magic to work in the model shop on Star Trek II: the Wrath of Kahn. My goal at the time, of course, was to work on another upcoming film, Revenge of the Jedi. (That's what it was called back then.) By the time Jedi was ramping up I had shown that I was really fast at building model prototypes and was pulled into the art department to work with Joe Johnston on a bunch of the new ships. I was in heaven! After that, I returned to the model shop to help build the stage models for the movie. I worked on the B-Wing, Shuttle Tydirium and the under construction Death Star.

How did Dave Filoni approach you into making models for Resistance? 

He didn't! We were having lunch and he mentioned that he had always wondered what a Corsair version of the X-Wing would have looked like. That night, I went home and ordered a Corsair model kit. When the kit arrived, I "kit bashed" a design based on the plane's main fuselage and distinctive wings. When I presented it to Dave and he exclaimed, "That's going in the new show!" I thought it would be used as a background ship. I was shocked to find out it's the ship belonging to the main character.

Talk to me about what you were going for with the Colossus and the Fireball? Did the team point you to any inspirations?

Dave [Filoni] and [Art director] Amy Beth Christensen came to me a bit later about designing the Colossus. They laid out how it related to the story, as well as its purpose and history. They also turned over a huge amount of "scrap"- images showing details of things like oil derricks that they liked. Then they sent me away to design and build the model. Dave had explained that it was an Imperial design and so I used the classic Star Destroyer as my main design influence. He stated that it was like an aircraft carrier only the landing and launch areas were on the underside of it. It was also explained to me that, like a luxury liner, there were different "classes" of people who resided there. That drove me to try and isolate out the "first class" area high in the center and have negative space between it and the surrounding industrial area. Like the original Star Destroyer model, I used a lot of battleship model kit details in the design.

How did working on models for an animated show differ from making models for, say, Return of the Jedi?

Nothing was different, I used the exact same process. Part of the Star Wars aesthetic is derived by how the models are constructed, so I used the exact same techniques for this show that I would have used on Jedi.  

Is it nice going back to building models like this after doing more supervisory work?

It was great fun, and working for Dave and Amy is completely amazing. They allowed me a creative freedom that is rare in the industry today. My first love has always been building models, so I was excited to have this opportunity.

Is there anything you can tease us with about your work on Galaxy's Edge?

Yes, it's going to be EPIC! The new land, and the attractions in it are going to blow people's minds. 

Star Wars Resistance premieres on October 7 on the Disney Channel and DisneyNOW.