Chris Corbould and Neal Scanlon Q&A: ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ visual effects
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” recently swept the Visual Effect Society Awards, winning four races including the equivalent of Best Picture. It was a triumph for the team of artists who strived to fulfill the expectations of millions of fans. In our recent audio chat, special effects supervisor Chris Corbould and creature designer Neal Scanlon spoke candidly of how they handled these challenges.
“There was a huge pressure, to be honest,” admits Scanlon. “It was a responsibility that I personally took very, very seriously.” He continues, “The first and foremost thing on our minds was to be respectful and to try and put aside any of our own ego to look back at the original ‘Star Wars’ films and see that we could be as respectful as possible, to hold onto that incredibly unique world that George (Lucas) had created.”
From the start, director J.J. Abrams wanted to employ many of the same techniques used by the special effects wizards on the original trilogy. “He wanted to do everything as practically as possible,” says Corbould, “as they did on ‘A New Hope.’ To me, that was the particularly appealing and challenging thing that interested me.”
Corbould, who won an Oscar for “Inception” (2010) and was nominated for “The Dark Knight” (2008), leapt at the opportunity to work on the project, saying, “I actively seek out films where I can explore the talents and skills of my incredible crew.” Owing much of his own interest in special effects to the original film, he adds, “It gave me a real challenge to do the new version of ‘A New Hope’ with modern technologies, and working with J.J.”
Scanlan, who won an Oscar for his work on “Babe” (1995), was excited to make his mark on a franchise known for its unique creatures. He spoke extensively of the process, which began with the assembly a concept team, “so that we could begin to understand what were the essential ingredients of design? How do we remain faithful to ‘Star Wars?’ What are those things that make a creature specific to ‘Star Wars?’”
They are nominated alongside Pat Tubach and Roger Guyett (check out our video interview with them here) and could well win again. Yet according to Corbould, the work is its own reward. “It’s such a wonderful collaboration,” he boasts, “between special effects, creature effects, and digital effects, all collaborating together to get the best end result, rather than just a showcase for each individual department.”