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Tag Archive: kitbashing


Known for providing George Lucas with the original designs for several spaceships for the original Star Wars, concept artist Colin Cantwell has revealed photographs of his actual model ships created for Lucas in 1975.  Cantwell, who we discussed here at borg back in 2017, has only in the past few years entered the pop culture convention circuit.  For thirty years Cantwell left the movie design business, working at a computer engineering firm in Colorado.  Now 87, Cantwell has embraced fans of his early work, traveling the country, signing prints of his original Star Wars concept art from 1974-75.

At the same time noted artist Ralph McQuarrie was designing characters and environments in his concept art for Lucas, Cantwell designed the first concept artwork for the X-Wing and Y-Wing Fighters, the TIE Fighter, Star Destroyer, Death Star, T-16 Skyhopper, and the original Millennium Falcon, which was rejected and repurposed as Princess Leia’s ship, the Tantive IV Blockade Runner–the first ship seen in the film.  He designed two other ships that were not used in the film, his Landspeeder and Sandcrawler.  Cantwell has been selling prints of his concept art for the past two years, but this month he began to release images on his Facebook page and website of the actual, original models he made–based on his own designs–that he presented to Lucas in 1975.  He’s selling autographed prints of these images now on his website here.

His models were “kitbashed”–he used existing plastic model kit parts and re-purposed them to make a real-world feel for his ships (and without the time, effort, and cost required for molding his own parts).  Industrial Light and Magic would use this concept to create the Star Wars aesthetic, and set decorator Roger Christian used the idea with real world tech to make the future look lived-in, earning an Oscar for doing so (Lucas offered Cantwell the opportunity to create and lead ILM, but he declined).  Cantwell used the body of a dragster kit, painted pill bottles, plastic Easter eggs, and a WWII bomber turret among other model kit parts.

Cantwell’s original designs were substantially used for the final production models, but Cantwell’s actual T-16 Skyhopper model was used by Mark Hamill as Luke’s own ship model in an early Tatooine scene.  Most recently, Cantwell was recognized by Disney and Hot Wheels with a series of replicas, including his Millennium Falcon/Tantive IV, TIE Fighter, X-Wing Fighter, Star Destroyer, and the unused Landspeeder design.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

We’ve reviewed dozens of books here at borg.com about the filmmaking process.  Great books like Special Effects: The History and Technique, and movie-specific, behind the scenes masterpieces like Dressing a Galaxy: The Costumes of Star Wars Limited Edition and Star Wars Frames.  More books have been written about Star Wars than most films, and accounts like Roger Christian’s Cinema Alchemist: Designing Star Wars and Alien really take fans back to 1976 and 1977 to learn how such an important series of films began.  With this week’s announcement from Disney that we can look forward to Star Wars spinoffs into the 2030s, the franchise has never had greater worldwide appeal.  One superb account of the Star Wars filmmaking process we have not yet discussed is Lorne Peterson’s Sculpting a Galaxy: Inside the Star Wars Model Shop Limited Edition, originally published in 2005, still available from Insight Editions in both its standard and deluxe format.

Sculpting a Galaxy: Inside the Star Wars Model Shop is the ultimate look at the making of Star Wars models by Lorne Peterson (shown above), about the fantasy worldbuilding work of Peterson and his peers at Industrial Light & Magic from Star Wars: A New Hope through the prequel trilogy.  More than half of this deluxe hardcover book features ships and other vehicles–large, full color photographs (more than 300), and many gatefolds, with sections on each major ship and nearly every minor ship and vehicle created in both 1:1 and small scale for the original trilogy and early prequels, plus those creations digitally rendered by ILM for the later prequel films.  ILM co-founder Peterson provides the creative vision behind each ship–like the fact the Rebel Blockade Runner was originally designed as the Millennium Falcon and why it was changed into its now famous form.  Many of the final models were the product of kitbashing–using parts from model kits of the day like car engines and World War II German tank components to create a look of tangible reality to the construction of the Star Wars galaxy, similar to the method of using “found” items for production used by Roger Christian to create sets and props for the original film.

 

Peterson also looks at set models created for many environments needed for the six films, plus those creatures and robots ILM worked on for the series.  Diehard fans will appreciate references to paint colors used, and sources for components for various ILM creations, including blood for the Tatooine Cantina scene and full views of the escape pod that R2-D2 and C-3PO used to get there.  Anecdotes like the fact that ILM used modifed Six Million Dollar Man action figures in the seats of many vehicles make this book a fun read.  (Guess who really drove the Landspeeder in its original trip to Mos Eisley!).  Those who may not be fans of the prequels will no doubt appreciate the artistry behind creating the vehicles and sets for the film, shown scattered throughout the pages of the original trilogy in a way that creates its own comprehensive history.  Boba Fett’s Slave 1, the Imperial Probe Droid, AT-ATs, extensive coverage of the Millennium Falcon, the Death Stars, the Star Destroyers (including the unused prototype), the Naboo Rebel Starship, X-Wings, A-Wings, B-Wings, TIE Fighters, and the Landspeeder–all the models fans want to see can be found here.

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