Alternate Millennium Falcon Designs - Solo A Star Wars Story

In Solo: A Star Wars Story, fans get to see what the Millennium Falcon used to look like before it ended up in the hands of Han Solo. Since Lando Calrissian likes to keep his ships as stylish and clean as his closet full of capes, we’ve never seen the Falcon look so good.

However, even with a new paint job and an escape pod installed between the mandibles at the front of the ship, the Millenium Falcon in Solo doesn’t look much different from the ship fans have come to love. But as you can see above, there were some rather wild alternate designs that would have given the ship’s body quite the overhaul, and you can see even more alternate Millennium Falcon designs below.

What Does a New Millennium Falcon Look Like?

Over at StarWars.com, Lucasfilm’s design supervisor James Clyne talked about their approach to creating a Millennium Falcon that hasn’t yet become a hunk of junk. Clyne explained:

“I think the big exciting thing about doing a new Falcon was the question of, we all know what an old Millennium Falcon looks like, but what does the new Millennium Falcon look like? That was really exciting. What does a clean Millennium Falcon look like? I think that was the big thing that I always wanted to see going into the movie. As a kid, I just loved it for what it was. I thought it was perfect. But when it was proposed that you would see a cleaner, newer Lando version, I couldn’t get more excited about and more scared about that prospect. There was a certain level of sheer terror in taking this on. I mean, it’s like the most beloved thing you’ve ever seen in the Star Wars universe. It’s like somebody asking you to change the Eiffel Tower or something.”

Indeed, the challenge of redesigning the Millennium Falcon is something akin to creating a new recipe for pizza. That circle of bread, meat and cheese is already perfect the way it is, and so was the ship that felt like it could fall apart at any minute.

Alternate Millennium Falcon Designs - Solo A Star Wars Story

Back to the Past

At first, the designs were nowhere near as simple as the one we ended up with in the final movie. As you can see, with some of the alternate designs above, they tried to add even more parts than the escape pod that the script called for. Some have an extra cockpit, others have extra thrusters, guns and pieces where it’s not even clear what their purpose is.. There’s one design that even has wings that look like they were taken from a TIE Interceptor.

This approach drew inspiration from the hot rods and muscle cars, not unlike the cars seen in George Lucas’ film American Graffiti, but with some influence from the 1970s and 1980s, too. Clyne explains:

“A lot of the influence on Solo design came from the muscle car generation. It came from the ‘70s and ‘80s simply because I think these movies…they’re more historical dramas than they are futuristic sci-fi movies. They’re influenced by what George [Lucas] was influenced by, like Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, and car culture, so we should be influenced by that. If we’re not — if we’re influenced by other things — then I feel like it’s not Star Wars. So early on I showed a lot of reference of muscle cars and ’70s bike culture, motorcycle culture, which is what goes into Enfys Nest and then just car culture. There were a lot of other things, too, like New York in the ‘80s punk rock.”

Alternate Millennium Falcon Designs - Solo A Star Wars Story

The design crew also got their hands dirty and took a cue from how the Millennium Falcon would have been created back in the 1970s. Clyne says, “I always ask myself what would ILM or these artists and designers be doing…[in] 1971, 1970? What if they were around and they made this movie before A New Hope, what would they be building? What would it look like? How would they be building it?”

So Clyne and his team took the time to buy Millennium Falcon model kits that fans can pick up at hobby shops. Using the models and resources at Pinewood Studios, they started added and removing parts to change the design of the Millennium Falcon, trying to recreate the designs they had already thrown down on paper. That might be surprising with all the digital tools at their disposal, but Clyne says:

“To do it in a physical way, rather than a digital way, that really got us into the conversation. We’re always going to take this and put it in the computer, but as a design tool, what if we just went old school and built it from the kits? I think everybody really appreciated seeing something physical and holding it and being able to look at it as a tactile thing rather than spinning on a monitor.”

Alternate Millennium Falcon Designs - Solo A Star Wars Story

Ralph McQuarrie Strikes Back

In the end, perhaps the biggest influence on the new Millennium Falcon design was the original concept art created by master Star Wars artist Ralph McQuarrie. His original designs for the Falcon were actually much sleeker than the ship that ended up on screen. Clyne recalls:

“One of Ralph’s earliest Docking Bay 94 paintings of the Falcon was a big influence because it had less detail. We just went right back to the well and looked at all the Ralph McQuarrie stuff…a lot of the early designs were pretty clean, were pretty slick.

We found a lot of old storyboards when they didn’t quite know what the Falcon was and it was just a little cleaner. You could see a little bit of the influence and again I think this stuff is just gold. You can’t make this stuff up, it’s already there. And we’re making movies that are based on the history of all this stuff.”

So the end result is a Millennium Falcon that doesn’t look all that different from the original design. Clyne says, “It looks like something Ralph McQuarrie could have come up with and did in part.”

Alternate Millennium Falcon Designs - Solo A Star Wars Story

What seemed like a Herculean task to begin with turned into a refreshing take on a beloved ship. The alternate designs show that this cleaner, sleeker Millennium Falcon could have gone south in a number of ways. But in the end, it was the original idea for the ship that gave James Clyne and his crew what they needed. Combine that with a little ingenuity and style, and you’ve got something that Clyne never dreamed of doing:

“People ask me, like, is this a dream come true? And I say it’s not because it’s a dream I never simply had. It didn’t seem possible, but, in fact, I think Star Wars is the reason I work in the film industry.”

Solo: A Star Wars Story is in theaters now, and you can read more from James Clyne on designing the new/old Millennium Falcon in a much longer story at StarWars.com.

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