When J.J. Abrams, everyone’s favorite genre director, posted online yesterday a video inviting fans to enter an auction to win a role in Star Wars Episode VII, it offered a tantalizing look at the Abu Dhabi set of the film, and then some weird look ostrich man carrying a bunch of cages walked out behind Abrams, and everyone said, “Hey, that looks cool.” Cool-looking aliens are no stranger to the Star Wars set, but they usually only look cool after several months of post production, since during the prequels it seemed like George Lucas had abandoned practical effects completely. But inquiring fans want to know, did Abrams go pro with his ostrich man? Did he recruit the fine people at Jim Henson’s Creature Shop to bring these new alien creations to life? The answer comes right after the break…
No. No he did not.
While fans might have felt a stylish kinship between the ostrich man and the Old Junk Lady from Labyrinth, the connection merely ends in influence with no direct ties between the Creature Shop and the Star Wars production. According to /Film, who reached out the JHCS, while they’re not involved in creating aliens of Abrams, the actual puppeteers are contract players and thus free to work for whoever cuts them a check. So it’s possible some of the same people now working on Episode VII have previously worked for the Creature Shop, but it’s unknown if that’s actually the case.
Of course, there’s been a past connection between the worlds of Lucas and Henson, and a fairly pivotal one too. Frank Oz, who was one of Henson’s primary collaborators on everything from The Muppets to The Dark Crystal, portrayed Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.
Since ol’ J.J. seems to be putting the spotlight back on real life effects again and not just computer stuff, maybe someone else well-versed and well-known for his make-up creations can step up. Rick Baker anyone? Baker told The Hollywood Reporter last fall that he’d love another go at the galaxy far, far away because back in ’77 he contributed several aliens to the Cantina scene in A New Hope, but admittedly, it was a rush job. “So much of the stuff I did in the first Star Wars was very quickly done,” he said. “Nobody knew that Star Wars was going to be Star Wars.”
So, to recap, Henson Company: No. Henson Company puppeteers: Maybe. And Rick Baker: Has regrets.
Stay tuned for more Star Wars news as it trickles out.