Andrew L. Jones (‘The Mandalorian’ production designer) on bringing ‘love and attention’ to physical and virtual sets [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]

“By the end of it, I had so much respect for the people who did the original film,” confesses “The Mandalorian” production designer Andrew L. Jones. He saw “A New Hope” at age fourteen, a film he believes “broke so much new ground.” The relatively low budget of that first Skywalker tale led to an iconic design aesthetic that Jones uses as a “touchstone” for his hit Disney+ series. Just as with the original film, “The Mandalorian” presented new design obstacles to overcome. Watch the exclusive video interview above.

“The range of looks is certainly a challenge,” admits Jones. Since “The Mandalorian” takes place in the Star Wars universe, a smorgasbord of unique alien worlds and dazzling spacecraft is required. Jones notes that the large scale “is a challenge. We don’t have a large footprint at the studio.” That means that unlike many series which can leave large scenic elements standing for the entirety of shooting, Jones’ sets have to load in overnight and immediately be taken down after the relevant scenes are completed. Jones appreciates that in many cases, there are only a small number of physical items to construct, so the team can “put all of our love and attention in these little beautiful sets.” That’s because, as Jones puts it, “the virtual set continues beyond the LED walls.”

SEE Emmy spotlight: Taika Waititi (‘The Mandalorian’ director) could use momentum from his Oscar win to score an Emmy nomination

“The Mandalorian” employs a new visual effects technology called StageCraft for virtual set building. A semicircle soundstage is lined with LED screens on the walls and ceiling, allowing for unparalleled filming opportunities in a live virtual world. Jones, who has designed for CGI heavy affairs such as “Avatar” and “The Jungle Book,” divulges that “The Mandalorian” requires cross-department collaboration “more than anything I’ve ever worked on.” Sets must be fully designed by the time of shooting, and Jones must stay involved with the process all the way through post-production to consult with the visual effects team. Jones said this new process was complicated but exciting thanks to the “generous, collaborative, and smart” members of the visual effects team.

SEE Emmy spotlight: Innovative new technology could help ‘The Mandalorian’ score Emmy win for Special Visual Effects

Jones has already picked up a nomination from the Art Directors Guild for his efforts on “The Mandalorian.” He previously won that guild prize for “Avatar,” and received additional nominations for “Alice in Wonderland” and “The Adventures of Tintin.” The recognition is welcome, though the designer  jokes that “when you’re in the trenches doing it, it’s just ‘oh my god how are we going to get this done?’” As for why he thinks the end result is so successful? “We’re all fans” he says, once again bringing back the reverence for the original film. “We just got really into this.”

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