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

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by , Portfolio Creative Executive, Walt Disney Imagineering

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.