Leaving Tatooine

New Hyperdrive? Check. Free slave who will grow up to be a Sith? Check. Step in icky icky goo? Check. Time to get off this dustbowl of a planet, but not without taking a few moments to say goodbye and clean up some loose ends. This page deals with departing that lovely yellow-orange planet we know and love: Tatooine.

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The Pod Race

The Boonta Eve Podrace from Episode I is definitely a highlight of the film, especially after George Lucas decided to extend and improve it in the subsequent video releases. No matter how much he expands it, however, deleted shots remain. This page will cover any deleted/alternate scenes that take place directly before, during, and after the Podrace.

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Jedi Diplomacy

The Trade Federation has stopped all shipping to and from the small planet of Naboo.  Two Jedi have been dispatched at the request of Supreme Chancellor Valorum to help negotiate the matter. This section deals with some of the shots and scenes deleted and/or altered from the opening of The Phantom Menace. Read More

The Star Wars Saga on Blu-ray Disc

In true Lucasfilm fashion, the Star Wars Blu-ray collection was announced at the 2011 CES show by Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment President Mike Dunn and the Dark Lord himself, Vader (flanked by Stormtroopers, of course). I guess it’s always fun to see Vader out there mingling with the little people. We’ll see the set on sale (of course) late in 2011 to maximize those Holiday sales.

The announcements at the show and on the official Star Wars site were of course filled with the usual hyperbolic marketing nonsense. Phrases like “The most anticipated Blu-ray release ever” and “the most anticipated Blu-ray collection since the launch of the high-def format” were aplenty. There was much talk of “product” and “customers” and the usual marketing stats. That stuff does not concern me, however.

As a customer, what I’m interested in is the quality of the set. I’m not only referring to the visual quality. I’m sure that the transfers to Blu-ray have gone smoothly, especially after some of the backlash from the DVD sets that were released a few years back. It wasn’t major backlash (most of it had to do with color correction and other technical things), but hopefully someone at Lucasfilm heard the complaints and will make some corrections.

What I’m referring to is the quality of the set itself. Yes, we’ll get the films and they’ll look great. Even the crankiest of prequel haters will most likely find themselves hard pressed to complain while watching Episode III in high definition. I know I’m looking forward to it. But are we going to get a real bang for our bucks here?

When the set was announced by George Lucas a few months back, he shared a never-before-seen deleted scene from the opening of Return of the Jedi that made me feel like a little kid again. I mean, my Star Wars interest has definitely waned in the past few years but seeing that video clip really jazzed me. I hadn’t been that excited about something to do with Star Wars for years.

I can only hope that there are lots more of those types of scenes on this set. If they grace us with one or two from each film, I’ll be a little disappointed. I’ll still be happy, but a little let down at the same time. I’ve had a keen interest in deleted footage from the Star Wars films for a long time and those types of scenes really make re-buying the films worth it for me.

What else will we have on the sets? According to Starwars.com, the sets will include “…all six live-action Star Wars feature films utilizing the highest possible picture and audio presentation, along with three additional discs and more than 30 hours of extensive special features including never-before-seen deleted and alternate scenes, an exploration of the exclusive Star Wars archives, and much more.”

Now we have to take the marketing into account here. Usually when these sets boast some huge number of hours of bonus footage, it’s a bit of an exaggeration. What I’m wondering at the moment is how much of that 30 hours is stuff we’ve already seen. Lucasfilm has been known to duplicate documentaries on various sets. They’ll add web documentaries or other previously seen things and then total up the running times to be able to boast “hours” of additional footage. That’s not lying, mind you. It’s marketing.

Even if we get something like an hour of deleted footage from each of the six films (which I highly doubt there will be – unless some of the scenes are long and include perhaps some rough takes) that leaves another 24 or so hours of stuff. Does that include the commentaries? Each one would then be 2 hours or so each, totaling 12 hours. That’s assuming there’s only one per film. Hopefully there are individual George Lucas commentaries this time and not those chopped up commentaries by everyone else.

I’m not trying to get down on the set. I’m just trying to make sure that your expectations as a fan are not too high. Hopefully I’m wrong about some of this and the set is just right and loaded to the gills with really interesting stuff. Frankly, a tour of the Lucasfilm archives doesn’t interest me unless I’m… you know… there. Hopefully it’s not some 2 hour walk-around.

Anyhow – despite my skepticism, I’m totally stoked about getting this set and checking out what they’ve done to Star Wars this time around. I’m sure the next set we get will have the acronym “3D” in it somewhere so for now, let’s enjoy this set.

 

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Star Wars and Indy Make Mania’s List of Films That Didn’t Live Up To The Hype

Mania.com recently posted a list of six films that, in their opinion, did not live up to their hype. Of course, The Phantom Menace made the list and even the most die hard fans would agree that the film was accompanied by a certain hype, the like we still have not seen again.

There was no way that film could have ever lived up to the hype but it fared well at the box office regardless and set the tone for what most feel is a lackluster trilogy, compared to the original three. I personally enjoyed the prequels but admit that they haven’t aged well with me, Episode III being the best of the bunch. In retrospect, I do feel Lucas went a little too far back and there probably was no need to show Anakin at 9 doing all those things he did. I don’t make the movies, however, and I digress.

The list also contains the last Indiana Jones flick which I enjoyed but thought had a less “organic” feel to it, for lack of a better term. I’m pretty much in agreement with the rest of their choices as well.

I did notice that they implied that “Episode IV” was part of the opening scroll in 1977.  Of course, this is not true and a common journalistic error.

Check out the full article at Mania.com.

Star Wars In Concert

Star Wars In Concert

Star Wars In Concert
Star Wars In Concert

July 23, 2009 Star Wars: In Concert, a unique multi-media event featuring music from all six of John Williams epic Star Wars scores, begins its worldwide arena tour on October 1, 2009 at Honda Center in Anaheim, California.

Narrated live by Anthony Daniels (the actor who portrayed C-3PO in all six films), the production features a full symphony orchestra and choir, accompanied by specially edited footage from the films displayed on a three-story-tall, high-definition LED super-screen  one of the largest ever put on tour.  The live music and film elements are synchronized in order to create a full multi-media, one-of-kind Star Wars experience.

We’ve taken the key themes from the music and cut together all the images that fit with each theme, so you can really get a sense of how the music played into the images, said George Lucas, creator of the Star Wars Saga. The whole soundtrack is a testament to John Williams creativity and his extraordinary ability to enhance the emotional aspects of the films.

Creating the music for the Star Wars films has been an exciting and wonderful experience for me, and I therefore have derived particular pleasure in assembling a compendium of themes from all of the films to be presented in Star Wars in Concert, said Williams. The editors at Lucasfilm have created original film montages to accompany each of the musical selections, and in the process, I believe that a singular and unique Star Wars experience has been born.

This event has been crafted to present Star Wars from many points of view; for the first time, the full dramatic sweep of Williams iconic scores can be heard performed live in one evening, said Another Planet Touring Producer Spencer Churchill. The show is a new way of experiencing the epic scope of the saga.

Accompanying the concert is an exclusive exhibit of Star Wars costumes, props, artifacts, production artwork and specially created behind-the-scenes videos from the Lucasfilm Archives. Many of these pieces are leaving Skywalker Ranch for the first time. The exhibit features many classic fan favorite artifacts, as well as several new and never-before-seen items, including:

Full costumes for Jedi Masters Kit Fisto and Plo Koon will be on display.
For the first time ever, pages from John Williams’ original hand-written sheet music for Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace will be exhibited for the public.
Also on display will be various never-before-seen props from the films, including blasters and helmets from Coruscant, Tatooine and other iconic Star Wars locations.

For more information, please visit www.StarWarsInConcert.com.

Star Wars: In Concert is produced by Another Planet Touring in association with Lucasfilm Ltd.  Performances will be conducted by Dirk Brossé and the production is directed and designed by Steve Cohen.  Star Wars in Concert had its world premiere at the 02 Arena in London on April 10 and 11, 2009.

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Lucasfilm, STAR WARS and related properties are trademarks and/or copyrights, in the United States and other countries, of Lucasfilm Ltd. and/or its affiliates. TM & © Lucasfilm Ltd.  All rights reserved.  All other trademarks and trade names are properties of their respective owners.

The “Lost Cut” of Star Wars

There are many phases associated with making a film. First there’s the preproduction phase where much of your time needs to be invested, otherwise you’re flying blind for the rest of the production. There’s the actual shooting of the live action, known as the production phase, which is where you capture your vision on film. Then there’s the postproduction phase, where everything comes together and you use your skills and talents to create and end result that’s pleasing to you and hopefully to everyone who sees it.

In between those three phases, however, lie many sub-phases too numerous to mention here. From writing and casting to lighting and cinematography to editing and looping dialogue; the process can be very involved but it’s that end result, the zenith of the director’s vision and the crew’s hard work, which makes it all worth it. Getting to that point is the real challenge.

One of the steps filmmakers find helpful takes place near the end of the production phase, going into the postproduction phase, called making a “rough cut” of the film which is a general assembly of all of the available footage shot during the production phase in sequential order according to the script.

There are no rules that say a rough cut has to follow the script but usually the key is to make the film flow as it was originally intended with the assumption that it will be heavily changed as the postproduction phase continues. This rough cut gives the filmmaker a good look at what’s been shot and how it flows from scene to scene. Some things will work, some things won’t. Some scenes will be too slow and some scenes won’t be necessary at all to advance the story. Some scenes will be moved to different parts of the film, if needed. Whatever the case may be, the rough cut provides a nice work print or blueprint for the film, much like a blueprint drawn by an architect gives a construction company the visual toolbox it needs to build a house from the ground up.

Star Wars was no different from any other film at the time of its production. No one could foretell its future success or the influence it would have on filmmaking. It was just this idea in George Lucas’ head and he was translating it to film. Therefore, all of the usual production phases took place without prejudice or expectations from fans. The budget was low, the schedule was tight, and the director was relatively new. Lucas went about things the only way he knew how and decided that he would like a rough cut of the film assembled.

He enlisted the help of John Jympson, a British editor, and allowed him to take the production footage that was shot up until that point and create a rough cut of the film. This 13 reel blueprint was reviewed, logged, sealed, and put away in the Lucasfilm archives for years and there it still resides, dragged out once in a while by the archivists and lucky people like Dr. David West Reynolds (archaeologist and Star Wars author/fanatic; a lethal combination that contains aspects of two of Lucasfilm’s best known film series)  and others who have been privy to seeing this one-of-a-kind Star Wars rarity.

This rough cut of the film was later dubbed the “Lost Cut” of Star Wars.

How it got the name, I’m not sure. I can only venture to guess that because it sat in a box for years and was looked up a considerable time later that someone decided it was “lost” and then found again. I doubt that people on the inside of the production completely forgot that it existed. Even Dr. Reynolds says an article he wrote for the Star Wars Insider that it was “carefully stored in the archives for over 20 years” and therefore never truly lost, but nonetheless the name “Lost Cut” stuck. Now, this original cut of the film has become a sort of “holy grail” to many Star Wars fans and historians like myself.

The best description of the Lost Cut of Star Wars so far, without being able to actually see the footage itself, comes from Dr. Reynolds. The reason Reynolds knows so much about this subject is that he’s actually seen the elusive Lost Cut, having been allowed to extricate it from the depths of the Lucasfilm archives, much like the remains of an Egyptian mummy. After a little maintenance and dusting off, the reels of film were once again exposed to light and projected on a wall for careful analysis and research.

Reynolds wrote a lengthy piece on the Lost Cut in Star Wars Insider magazine (Issue #41) and it provided answers to many old Star Wars questions, giving fans unique insight into what it’s like to make a film like the original Star Wars.

In his article, Reynolds describes the Lost Cut as an early prototype of the original Star Wars edited by John Jympson from Britain who also cut together such famous films as Zulu (which Peter Jackson cites as an influence for his Lord of the Rings films) and A Hard Day’s Night. What he did was take whatever footage was completed at the time (1976) and assemble a rough cut of the film, putting the shots in their proper sequence, to give Lucas an idea of the narrative flow of the film. It was, of course, a work-in-progress as there were no visual/special effects, music or sound effects. There were slates for missing scenes that had yet to be filmed or that Jympson didn’t have access to yet.

It was also cut together without the help or vision of George Lucas or producer Gary Kurtz.  Reynolds refers to it quite a few times as “documentary-like” and very different from the final cut of the film, but still getting all of the main points across. The Lost Cut just took a little longer to get those points across.

Reynolds’ article was enlightening and brought up a few new things about Star Wars that were previously unknown and unseen. At times, it left me with more questions than answers but still brought up some amazing points and cleared up quite a few issues. I highly recommend it if you can find a back issue.

Will we ever see this Lost Cut? It sure would be great, but I’d have to guess that no, we probably won’t.  I think that perhaps parts of it will become available here and there, and in fact already have been made public on items like the old CD-ROM called Behind the Magic released by Lucasfilm many years back, and also in the Star Wars Holiday Special from 1978. Entire black and white scenes can be found on the CD-ROM that perfectly match Reynolds’ descriptions of the Lost Cut, so one can assume that these scenes are taken directly from there. You can see Luke out on the desert flats fixing a moisture vaporator and witnessing the space battle above, some deleted scenes with Luke and Biggs, and an alternate cut of the cantina scenes including more aliens and a girl named “Jenny.” Almost all of the shots contain noticeable differences from the final cut. The only thing that doesn’t match Reynolds’ description on some of these scenes is that there is sound with some of them. Reynolds describes the Lost Cut as “silent.” Reynolds is not exactly specific as to whether there is any on-set audio at all or if the entire cut is truly silent.

So while it seems that parts of the Lost Cut may eek out over the years as little bonus features, I really don’t think the entire thing will see the light of day, even on a DVD – at least anytime soon. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for it, I just don’t think it will happen. This version of the film was a blueprint and never meant to be seen by anyone outside of Lucasfilm. Lucas didn’t have much to do with cutting it together; therefore it can’t truly represent his entire vision. I don’t think he’d want people seeing it, but I’m not him and can’t know for sure. The Lost Cut will most likely remain one of those things talked about but rarely seen.

Quick Lost Cut Facts

Here are some quick facts about the Lost Cut that Dr. David West Reynolds mentions in his article:

  • Silent, Black-and-white, 35mm, 13 reels
  • Cut together by British editor, John Jympson
  • 30-40% different footage (including alternate/longer takes and deleted scenes)
  • Reel cans labeled “The Star Wars” which was the original title
  • Less dramatic feel than final cut; more documentary-like
  • Used live projected backgrounds in place of bluescreen effects wherever possible
  • More time given to both main and secondary characters
  • Meant to be a work-in-progress, nothing more or less

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the moments from the Lost Cut mentioned by Reynolds in his article:

  • Luke at his vaporator with Treadwell droid
  • Luke and friends (including Biggs) at Toshi Station
  • Han Solo and a human Jabba the Hutt (later restored with CG Jabba fro Special Edition)
  • References to the Rebel’s “Hidden Fortress” (Kurosawa reference?) via dialogue from Darth Vader and Tarkin
  • Alternate establishing shot of Kenobi’s hut and landspeeder parked outside
  • One long shot of landspeeder traveling from trooper checkpoint to the cantina
  • Longer indoor shot of the “cantina snitch” who alerts the troopers to Kenobi’s confrontation
  • Han Solo and “Jenny” in the cantina booth watching the Kenobi confrontation and kissing afterwards
  • Luke decides not to replace C-3PO’s restraining bolt in Kenobi’s hut
  • Luke and Han congratulate each other after the TIE attack on the Millennium Falcon
  • Footage Luke and C-3PO in the landspeeder looking for R2-D2
  • More footage of Kenobi sneaking around the Death Star in search of the tractor beam
  • Many extra Death Star corridor shots including gags like heroes walking calmly past officers hiding weapons
  • Random Mos Eisley citizens and aliens
  • More Rebel Briefing Room shots
  • Jawas and a partially built sandcrawler
  • View of Mos Eisley from cliff before matte painting added
  • Aunt Beru using a blue milk dispenser
  • Darth Vader and Chief Bast walking and talking on the Death Star

* Many thanks to Dr. David West Reynolds for all of his invaluable research on the Lost Cut and on all things Star Wars. You can read more about him and his work HERE.

The People vs. George Lucas

The People vs. George Lucas is Coming Soon!

The People vs. George Lucas
The People vs. George Lucas

Hi folks! You may or may not have heard of the film, “The People vs. George Lucas” but uh…you will now!

THE PEOPLE vs. GEORGE LUCAS is a no-holds-barred, no stone unturned, completely uncensored, yet balanced cultural examination of the conflicted dynamic between the great George Lucas and his fans over the past three decades. Chock-full of impassioned interviews, stop-motion and 3D animation, Super 8 action figure films, puppet rants and many other surprises, this unique participatory doc is the ultimate expression of the fans’ obsession for a man and a universe that defined an entire generation.

It’s a fun and interesting take on George Lucas, Star Wars, and the wide mix of fans that either love the whole thing, hate the whole thing, or are somewhat unsure what to believe. Some think Lucas has lost his mind and refuse to forgive him for raping their childhood, others can’t fault the guy for following his vision, and yet others remain ambivalent.

This film documents all of the above in a fun way, without taking sides, and will hopefully be entertaining. It’s well shot, has some budget behind it, and is going for a worldwide theatrical release, starting this year at SXSW in Texas as a headliner. (See the info/press release below)

I was contacted by the producers a while back (going on two years now I suppose) and was asked to be interviewed for the film. I agreed and I believe some of that footage has made it into the final film.  It’ll probably just be a few seconds here or there so keep your eyes open for the old T-bone!

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FILM INFO

Revered by some, feared and demonized by others, George Lucas is undoubtedly one of the most passionately debated and vilified filmmakers in movie history. Why have so many of his original fans turned against him to decry the release of the Special Editions and the Prequel Trilogy? Why is he still the recurring target of bloggers, critics and self-proclaimed devotees? And why are millions of others staunchly prepared to defend him in the face of innumerable allegations?

THE PEOPLE vs. GEORGE LUCAS explores the titanic struggle between a Godlike filmmaker and his legions of fans over the most popular franchise in movie history. The film combines key testimonies from the likes of Gary Kurtz (Producer of AMERICAN GRAFITTI, STAR WARS and THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK), Neil Gaiman (THE SANDMAN, AMERICAN GODS), Dave Prowse (aka Darth Vader), Anthony Waye (Executive Producer of the BOND franchise), and Dale Pollock (George Lucas’s Biographer, Author of SKYWALKING) with fan footage from around the globe, and impassioned testimonies from George’s staunchest fans and foes.

A tribute to the YouTube generation, this unique participatory documentary examines and articulates the many contentious issues that have become an integral part of the Star Wars mystique, and deconstructs George Lucas’s cultural legacy through the prism of his fans. Fundamentally, THE PEOPLE vs. GEORGE LUCAS is about how new media interacts with old media, as well as ownership and copyright in the digital age.

Production Notes

Genesis of the Project
As an ardent Star Wars fan and collector, Film Director Alexandre O. Philippe has found himself engaged in numerous debates about George Lucas’s legacy and the cultural relevance of the many debates surrounding the Star Wars franchise. While enjoying a crew meal on location in Waco, TX, for a commercial shoot, Philippe found himself in another impassioned debate with Robert Muratore, Director of Photography. “I had the title in my head for years,” recollects Alexandre, “but it really came to life during the summer of 2007. Robert seemed really enthusiastic about making this film, and he’s the one who convinced me to move forward with it.”

Documenting the single most peculiar relationship between a popular artist and his fans called for a participatory approach. We are talking about a dominant cultural debate that refuses to die, and about one of the most powerful and influential filmmakers in the history of our medium—a man who defied the system against all odds and revolutionized the industry. The project’s open call for contributions led to thousands of fan emails and submissions, including puppet skits, 3D animation, claymation, grindhouse commercials, vintage 8mm films, hours and hours of webcam rants, fanedits, fan vids, and even kids’ drawings.

Filming
Nearly three years in the making, and 63,686 frequent flier miles, 634 hours of footage, 14TB of drive space, 126 interviews, thousands of fan emails and submissions, and only three death threats later… THE PEOPLE vs. GEORGE LUCAS has been an odyssey in documentary filmmaking.

Principal Photography began in early 2008, and has spanned three continents. Additionally, fan submissions poured in from every corner of the globe, including Brazil, Poland, Germany, Spain, Canada, Mexico, Australia, Sweden, France, Japan, Antarctica, and more!

Post Production
The sheer amount of both original and submitted footage (634 hours total) led to months of painstaking logging work. Many impassioned fan submissions were several hours in length. Out of respect for the fans and the participatory process, we ensured that every frame was considered.

The eclectic mix of formats, frame rates and production qualities led to technical challenges that required innovative techniques and solutions from our editing team. An estimated 30 weeks of actual editing time were required to complete the project for our World Premiere at South by Southwest in March 2010.

Key Contributors
Gary Kurtz (Producer of AMERICAN GRAFITTI, STAR WARS and THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK)
Neil Gaiman (THE SANDMAN, AMERICAN GODS)
David Brin (Author, THE POSTMAN, STAR WARS ON TRIAL)
David Prowse (aka Darth Vader)
Anthony Waye (Executive Producer of the BOND franchise)
Dale Pollock (George Lucas’s Biographer, Author of SKYWALKING)
Wendy Ide (Film Critic, THE TIMES)
Sandy Lieberson (Former Head of Production at 20th Century Fox)
Ian Freer (EMPIRE MAGAZINE)
Todd Hansen (THE ONION)
Glenn Kenny (Film critic and author, A GALAXY NOT SO FAR AWAY)
Joe Leydon (Film critic, VARIETY contributor)
Jeff Bond (Editor-In-Chief, GEEK MONTHLY)
Jonathon London (Geekscape.net)
Eric Stough (Director of Animator, SOUTH PARK)
Chris Gore (FILMTHREAT)
Daryl G. Frazetti (Cultural Anthropologist)
Tony Millionaire (Cartoonist, SOCKY MONKEY, MAAKIES)
Chris Stompolos (Producer, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK: THE ADAPTATION)
Joe Nussbaum (Director, GEORGE LUCAS IN LOVE)
Kevin Rubio (Director, TROOPS)
Casey Pugh (Creator, STAR WARS UNCUT)
Paul Yates (Director, THE TRIAL OF HAN SOLO)

Festivals and Awards

THE PEOPLE vs. GEORGE LUCAS will World Premiere in the prestigious Spotlight Premieres section at the South By Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival in Austin, Texas, which runs from March 12th to 21st 2010.

Further screenings at worldwide festivals will be announced on www.peoplevsgeorge.com.