Star Wars is in a bit of a transition phase right now. Despite a storied history with film, Disney CEO Bob Iger seems to want to move the series away from the medium, telling investors in a recent call “The priority in the next few years is television.” This is due in part to Solo and The Rise of Skywalker underperforming at the box office, but also the success of the recent Disney+ show, The Mandalorian. Still, despite the shift in medium, it seems The Mandalorian might be the closest thing fans have gotten to the original trilogy in a while, at least according to production.
In a recent feature in ICG Magazine, The Mandalorian’s technical team detailed the show’s behind-the-scene’s wizardry. Most of this focuses on projecting digital sets onto screens, which we’ve covered before, but the team also notes a few instances of surprise cameos from decades-old movie props.
“There has been an enormous number of practical elements shot for previous Star Wars films, so we leveraged as much as possible from ILM’s asset library,” ILM VFX supervisor Richard Bluff told ICG. “For example, there’s a scene in episode five when Mando sees two Banthas off in the distance. I was adamant we shouldn’t build a fully animated and rigged furry Bantha for just two shots and suggested we pull out the plates from A New Hope’s dailies.”
So, if The Mandalorian reminds you of the original trilogy, there might be a reason for that beyond simple nostalgia. It’s because it actually uses the original trilogy’s props and shots. And this apparently even extends to techniques that have fallen out of favor as technology has improved, such as matte paintings.
“When Mando flies toward Tatooine, we are actually seeing the matte painting seen early in the original film,” Bluff told ICG. “We reused another painting of Mos Eisley for a fly-in; in that case, I sent a photographer out to the exact spot George shot his original plate, capturing high-res elements so we could up-res as necessary.”
So while Star Wars might be changing its home in the near future- Iger also told investors that Disney is considering using The Mandalorian to introduce future characters who could be spun-off into their own series, like a small-screen MCU- it seems the tone of the original films is still in its blood for now. Perhaps even more so than in the new films.