Making Star Wars The Han Solo Affair

The story behind The Han Solo Affair is really a story about 'keeping it real', as we used to say in the hood. The film came together in 2002, which was an important transitional phase for the Star Wars franchise as a whole. The Phantom Menace had been released some years earlier, but the world was still waiting for Attack of the Clones.

Episode 1 had bought about the now infamous explosion of Jar Jar toys, but the world was yet to be thrown fully into a revival of Star Wars mania. Sure there was a lot of peripheral stuff out there, but it was nothing like it is today - nothing at all.

In fact, as we were well aware, if the project happened it would be only the second time in Star Wars history that a short film had been produced under license, the first being the Boba Fett cartoon in the Star Wars Holiday Special.

This meant we had a responsibility to history, one we took very seriously.

The initial brief was to produce an Attack of the Clones animation. The movie was still months away, and while we had access to a certain amount of preview material, it just wasn't enough to tell the right kind of story. Sure our film was going to be a spoof, but it was a licensed spoof, and that was a big deal. We wanted to make something that fit neatly into the Star Wars universe without messing it up.

And we wanted Darth Vader.

So we started playing around with the original trilogy. Our basic idea was to take two consecutive points in the films, and make up our own story about what happens in between. So that, in theory, you could edit our lego sequence into the middle of the movie, and it would still make some sort of sense.

This same puritanism would guide us through the rest of the project, and dictate the look of the film. Strong shot compositions. Soft, analogue wipe transitions. Physical model spaceships. Hand rotoscoped light sabers. All more elegant weapons, from a more civilized age.

Sure there were easier ways to do some of the stuff we did, but we did it the hard way, and we did it on purpose...

The sets were built in the workshops at Legoland, where they create all the models for the park. We only had two days there to build everything, so made extensive notes on exactly what we would need.

The picture above is one such note, using a VHS copy of The Empire Strikes Back for reference.

This similarly, is a 'diagram' for the construction of the Bespin corridor sections. The idea was to build key locations which could be linked by 'Scooby Doo corridors' - sets designed to loop indefinately, like an old Hanna Barbera cartoon.

The conceit of retelling the most tragic part of The Empire Strikes Back using cheap cartoon mechanics was, to us at least, inherently hilarious. Plus, to the benefit of the finished film, working in this way kept the camera 'moving'.

The picture above illustrates the primary complication with shooting any lego animation, which is the enormity of the camera in relation to the 'actors'. In many cases the minifigs had to be positioned physically inside the hood of the camera, just to get a close-up. We've since switched to digital stills cameras, but its done little to resolve the issue.

Opposite is a capture from the camera, as it appeared before we cropped the shot to widescreen. This we did for reasons of authenticity, and because it looks better. Lego minifigs are short and rotund, so they well suit extremely wide compositions.

The shots were captured straight into the computer from the camera, and each one was 'frame blended' together from several identical frames, to reduce video grain.

Finally, we've compiled some footage from the studio shoot into a short making-of feature. You can watch the Youtube version below, or click here for a better quality MP4.