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The Art Of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge by Amy Ratcliffe (book review).

August 6, 2021 | By | Reply More

The Art of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge by Amy Ratcliffe (pub: Abrams, £35)
© & ™ 2021 Lucasfilm Ltd

I haven’t yet been lucky enough to visit Galaxy’s Edge, a slice of the ‘Star Wars’ universe carved out of Disney’s two major theme parks, Disneyland in California and Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida. The closest I got was on a trip to the former in 2018 when the world of Black Spire Outpost on the planet Batuu was under construction and covered with scaffolding, which, in a way, suited George Lucas’ vision for a grimy, realistic universe.

John’s surveillance pic of Black Spire Outpost’s construction, Disneyland 2018

 

The prospect of an immersive ‘Star Wars’ theme park though was hugely exciting. Star Tours, the Star Wars themed motion simulator ride had debuted in Disneyland all the way back in 1987 and slowly ‘Star Wars’ had increased its appearances across Disney’s parks, with varying results. I find the breakdancing Darth Vaders to be fun, for other fans it leaves them horribly disturbed. With the acquisition of Lucasfilm in 2012, it was clear that Disney would want to capitalise on their new franchise and so Galaxy’s Edge was born. Revealed to fans and investors in August 2015. At the D23 EXPO, Disney CEO Bob Iger announced that ‘we are creating a jaw-dropping new world’ that would transport guests to a ‘a whole new Star Wars planet’. The press release was accompanied with several visuals that showed the rocky outcrops and marketplace of Black Spire Outpost, alongside a life-size Millennium Falcon.

These visualisations are the core of Abrams’ latest ‘Star Wars’ coffee table book ‘The Art Of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge’ by Amy Ratcliffe, which collects 250 pages’ worth of sumptuous landscape design, amusement ride concept artwork and multiple looks for costumed characters and droids. As usual this conducted to Abrams’ high standard, with Ratcliffe being as comprehensive as she can be in cataloguing the different approaches to creating the world of Batuu. Also present to provide his invaluable commentary is Lucasfilm VP and Creative Lead Doug Chiang, who it appears has moved seamlessly from designing for films to designing for theme parks.

The Art of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge by Amy Ratcliffe (pub: Abrams, £35)
© & ™ 2021 Lucasfilm Ltd

In fact, contrasting the artwork in this book with some of its predecessors is interesting to look at how artwork for a movie scene was co-opted for use in a theme park setting. The Imagineering team were keen for Black Spire Outpost to be as immersive as possible, you could be walking around and suddenly find Rey and Kylo Ren having a lightsabre duel, which is thrillingly depicted in the artwork here. The only difference is in this book, when a fight between a Jedi and Sith is happening, there’s a little girl in Mickey Mouse ears also featured in the frame, holding her Mom’s hand and pointing delightedly. Also not far away are other reminders of the real world, albeit incorporated into the ‘Stars Wars’ theme, a hover cart selling Coca-Cola bottles, is branded in the familiar red and white colours, but the logos have been mutated into Star Wars-speak.

Some of the artwork does get a little more technical. Draft design work for the Yavin-like Rebel base show where the entrances and exits to rides need to be located. Another note points to a ‘special events suite’ located behind the Smuggler’s Run ride, where the actual-size Millennium Falcon would be sat. The book offers other behind-the-scenes titbits, all the new rides had codenames. Smuggler’s Run had the non de plume of ‘Big Bird’.

It’s also interesting to note how much of the design was lifted from the films. The start-point for the design of Oga’s Cantina was from Ralph McQuarrie’s design work for Jabba’s palace. On top of that cantina design work originally commissioned for ‘The Force Awakens’ was also considered. The Imagineers toyed with the idea of placing a gigantic, animatronic sea creature in a huge aquarium over the top of the bar, sadly the impracticality of such a design stopped it from being realised. Not mentioned in the book is the lack of rest rooms in Oga’s bar, which means that any notion a visitor has about slowly getting wasted over the course of an afternoon in one of the few places you can drink an alcoholic beverage in Disneyland are sadly crushed.

The Art of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge by Amy Ratcliffe (pub: Abrams, £35)
© & ™ 2021 Lucasfilm Ltd

Like the other ‘Art Of…’ books before it, this is exquisitely produced and well-researched. My only complaint is that it doesn’t go far enough in describing the practicality of how the rides work or more of the behind-the-scenes. When I compare to Chris Nichols’ book ‘Walt Disney’s Disneyland’ which goes into great technical detail about the creation of the park, ‘The Art Of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge’ only sticks with the concept art and doesn’t go into the next step revealing how it all works in practice. Could we please, please have a ‘Making Of Galaxy’s Edge’ book? It won’t ruin the magic, I’m a theme park nerd, understanding how it all works is the magic for me!

This volume may not appeal if, like me, you’ve not yet visited Batuu, but I would argue that the book itself is unique, demonstrating how closely the design for a world lifted from movies can be and yet also strikingly different, too. While the pandemic has rendered many theme parks ‘far, far away’, I felt myself heartened that, when all this was over, a trip to Galaxy’s Edge would one day be possible.

The Art of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge by Amy Ratcliffe (pub: Abrams, £35)
© & ™ 2021 Lucasfilm Ltd

Just a final note, which I hope Geoff won’t mind me making. I’m lucky enough to review a lot of ‘Art Of’ or ‘Making Of’ books which fascinate me, especially when it comes to ‘Star Wars’ or other SF and fantasy properties. A great deal of these books wouldn’t have been possible without the work of JW Rinzler who sadly passed away last week from pancreatic cancer. His work to get the stories behind the stories published and provide comprehensive detail on how movie magic was made was not only great reading, but also great inspiration too. It’s within books like ‘The Art of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge’ that Rinzler’s legacy continues. A huge thank you to him and all the authors that have followed in his footsteps. Amy Ratcliffe’s book is a more than worthy continuation of his work.

John Rivers

August 2021

(pub: Abrams Books, 2021. 256 page large hardback. Price: £ 35.00(UK), $50.00 (US), $63.00 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-41975-012-0)

check out website: www.abramsandchronicles.co.uk and www.abrambooks.com

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Category: Books, Illustration, MEDIA, Star Wars

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