Take an In-Depth Look at the Creative Process for Designing Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in New Book

From the Disney Parks Blog and written by: Scott Trowbridge

When Imagineers set out to create a new land, attraction or experience, we sometimes come up with hundreds of options for every element of the project. And no matter how great all of those options or elements might be, we always have to make the difficult choices in determining which versions of which concepts will make it to the final product. While we rarely have the opportunity to go in depth on our creative process and be able to share all these many options with our fans and our guests, there were so many fantastic pieces of concept artwork developed by the creative team for both Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and for the forthcoming Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, we wanted to share these with you in a new book, The Art of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, written by Amy Ratcliffe.

Amy is a huge Star Wars fan and is very knowledgeable about our Star Wars projects. She has interviewed many of us from both Imagineering and Lucasfilm about this creative journey we undertook together. I sat down with Amy to talk about her involvement with this book and we have included a few of these conceptual images from the book throughout this interview.

New book, "The Art of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge" written by Amy Ratcliffe

You’ve written extensively about Star Wars:
Galaxy’s Edge in the past. What are some things that you learned while writing The
Art of
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge that you didn’t previously know?

I was invested in all things Galaxy’s Edge from the moment
it was announced. Star Wars and Disney Parks are two huge passions of
mine, so I couldn’t believe they were intersecting in this way. And while I
obviously knew Lucasfilm and Walt Disney Imagineering worked closely together
to create this immersive land, I didn’t know Imagineering went to Pinewood
Studios in London to work with the Rogue One: A Star Wars Story production
design team. The group that designed sets for the film applied their skills to helping
to imagine Batuu and Black Spire Outpost.

And I had an assumption that Imagineering generated a lot of
art and ideas when dreaming up new experiences, but I didn’t know just how much.
It’s kind of staggering.

There have been other “art of Star Wars” books before but never for a real or physical place.  Did you discover anything interesting about the design process for a place that either actually exists or will exist?

The Star Wars films and animated series are
beautifully designed. When artists and production designers imagine
possibilities for on-screen stories, they can take into account that sets can
show certain angles of a building, for example, but not the entire thing. And
also the sets will only last for as long as filming needs require—maybe days or
weeks. But with Galaxy’s Edge, everyone had to consider permanence and how
guests would see structures, interiors, and everything from multiple vantage
points. So it was fascinating to talk with you, Doug Chiang, Chris Beatty, and
so many others about using different techniques and tricks to guide the guests’
view a little.

Do you have a favorite piece or pieces of concept art and
what do you like about it (them)?

My answer is one hundred percent biased: it’s one of Iain
McCaig’s illustrations of Elee. First of all, it’s Iain McCaig, the artist
responsible for Darth Maul’s look and innumerable other designs in Star Wars.
Secondly, I adore Elee. She’s a sweet creature, a therii, who belongs to Salju
and I got to share her story in Elee & Me. I felt like I bonded with
her. Imagineering created models and thought about how to maybe bring her to
life, and I just loved seeing that exploration.

Could you please tell us some basics about the book – how
many pieces of concept art?  How did you
go about researching for this book? Who are some of the key people with whom
you spoke?

As a fan of the art books for the Star Wars films, I
knew The Art of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge would be packed full of
fascinating concepts. And it is. We included over 700 pieces of concept art. It
was enough to make me use a second computer monitor at home for the first time
because my 13 inch laptop screen just wasn’t the best way to appreciate the images.

Researching this book was a process—a joyful one. I went
through previous interviews myself and others conducted about Galaxy’s Edge and
revisited every bit of material I’d read about Batuu, including the fiction
stories. My many, many trips to Galaxy’s Edge as a fan (and all the Ronto wraps
I ate) hugely informed me. But the key was conducting interviews with the
talented folks at Imagineering and Lucasfilm.

I spoke with everyone from Carrie Beck (Lucasfilm), to Doug
Chiang and Erik Tiemens (Lucasfilm), to Margaret Kerrison (Imagineering), to
Imagineering designers who worked on graphics and fonts for the land. Basically
I talked with everyone I could to get both an idea of the big picture of
Galaxy’s Edge and all the details that make it such a special place.

Has the information you’ve discovered while writing this
book changed your perspective of the lands at Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney
World Resort?

I’ve spent a lot of my time in Galaxy’s Edge soaking
everything in. I like to hang out in the market and absorb the sounds and the
way the light shines through the coverings. I’m the person who gets really
excited about lovingly weathered stones and a carefully placed rust stain. So
now after learning so much in writing this book, I just have a whole other
level of reverence for the care and thought behind Galaxy’s Edge. On my next
visit I’ll be thinking about stories you shared about the early days or about
the paintings Erik Tiemens told me inspired him—I’ll get to see everything with
a new perspective.

This book includes a bit of a sneak peek at our next, and
in many ways, the most immersive experience we’ve ever developed. What were you
most excited to learn about Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser?

Ha, everything! I had the best
time talking to Ann Morrow Johnson about Galactic Starcruiser. Her enthusiasm
for the project came through in every conversation we had. But if I have to
pick a single thing it’s that I was happy to see how much of the ship, the Halcyon
starcruiser, guests will be able to explore throughout their journey. It’s
interactive in ways I didn’t expect.

Thank you, Amy! I hope our fans and our guests will enjoy this
glimpse into the creative process as much as we enjoyed bringing it all to life.

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