by Cole Taylor of Legacy Effects
It’s pretty clear to anyone that knows anything about filmmaking, that special effects artists everywhere, the ones responsible for mind-blowing, eye-popping modern day special effects, are all enormous fans of Star Wars.
This is also very evident within the walls of Legacy Effects where, not only does a bust of General Ackbar reign above the snack bar, but also every Thursday is “Star Wars t-shirt day”. A weekly event that the majority of the studio takes part in.
So, naturally, when Art Andrews contacted Jason Lopes of Legacy Effects about the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s Boba Fett project, it was clear a team of people would be excited to get involved.
“We were actually contacted about this project a little late in the game,” Jason said, “But that didn't stop us from wanting to take part in it. Not at all.” Legacy was approached to provide an art piece after another vendor backed out.
When Jason presented the project to the owners of Legacy Effects, he knew exactly which one would jump at the chance to be involved. Alan Scott, a longtime practical FX pioneer, co-owner of Legacy Effects, and huge Star Wars fan, was thrilled to be considered for the project. He immediately announced it at the next all-staff meeting, and gathered anyone interested in getting involved.
“I had seen the Vader Project at Star Wars Celebration IV several years ago with my sons and was blown away by it,” said Scott, “So to be approached to participate, even as a runner up, was a great thrill. An opportunity to do a take on any element of Star Wars is always an exciting one,” he gleamed. “I wanted to do something that reflected what we do here as a studio, as a team. Most of the Boba Fett helmets went to individual artists. Most of these artists have a signature look, or a signature style. You can identify their work at a glance. Legacy, however, isn’t a fine art studio. We work on about twenty feature films and 180 commercials each year. We create characters and effects for other people all the time, from Avatar, and AFLAC to Iron Man and Zicam. While we create memorable characters for others, there isn’t one sole character that defines us as a Studio. We have a studio full of incredible creations, created by the team here. Each one of the roughly 100 employees at Legacy is an artist. All collaborating to create memorable characters and special effects.”
The team of interested artists began meeting weekly to discuss the potential designs for their take on the Boba Fett project. Several of the artists presented concepts and ideas. Some of the obvious choices, such as an Iron Man theme, a Terminator take on Boba Fett, or an Avatar concept, were dismissed. “We didn’t feel like we could pick just one of the many characters that we helped create over the years to represent the breadth of our work” Scott said. “We are constantly creating characters for film and TV. We take the written word of the script and breathe life into the characters to help tell a story. We help realize other people’s vision, so it seemed like we should create a new character and tell a new story.” The crew came up with several clever concepts that would enable the collective crew to participate. Some of these ideas included a classic Grey Alien Boba Fett or Boba Hep, an Egyptian themed sarcophagus-like helmet that featured a mummy version of Boba Fett inside, or another great concept that converted the helmet into lunar lander, complete with moon surface and alien astronauts. After a great deal of discussion and a number of drawings were presented, the Legacy crew ultimately voted on artist Cari Finken’s idea.
“Well, we create characters for film and television,” Cari said, “So I thought, ‘why don’t we create a character in the Star Wars world that could further a story from the film itself’? And, what story could we tell?” For ages, fans and filmgoers alike have wondered what happened to Boba Fett at the end of “Return of the Jedi”. “Boba Fett falls into the Sarlac pit and there’s been endless discussions as to what his ultimate fate was,” Cari continued, “So we figured, after his untimely demise, perhaps a small inhabitant of Tatooine discovered his helmet… and moved in like a hermit crab.”
Alan added, “It was a great idea because it allowed us to help tell a story even further. A story we’ve all thought about a million times, and that has been deliberated for years. Cari’s concept was very clever and it gave us a great starting point for collaboration. It allowed for organic creature work, model shop work, working animatronic movement, lighting effects, and ultimately, a mini movie within the piece. This approach allowed for the whole team to participate and creatively contribute to the end result.
After the idea was selected, Cari went back to the drawing board to flesh out the creature itself. After a collection of concept alien life forms were presented, the team collectively determined the best of all the elements, to create an extraterrestrial being that fit within the world they were trying to expand. In the end, the entire team decided the final design of the creature.
More to come in Part 2!
NOTE FROM TDH: It is incredibly rare to see a professional effects company like Legacy imagine, design and build a creature from start to finish and this is a unique opportunity to see how this process works! Legacy has been kind enough to share over 100 images with us of the design and build process and we are in turn sharing them with you. Watching a company of Legacy's reputation do this type of work is almost as exciting and incredible to see as the final project! Please click the link below to see some behind the scenes photos of Legacy's early team meeting and concept art behind "The Scavenger."