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The Art Of Star Wars explores the work of the many creative artists involved in making the Star Wars films. In the beginning Star Wars was the dream of just one man: George Lucas. He invented the world of Star Wars, its characters and their stories. However, many people have played a part in bringing the ideas of George Lucas to the screen. They include graphic artists and model-makers, set and costume designers, and other artists working with special effects, sound and music. This exhibition considers their work.’

So runs the first paragraph of the Gallery Guide that gets thrust into excitably sweaty palms upon entering the new Art of Star Wars exhibition at London’s Barbican Centre. The exhibition - reputed to offer enough authentic Star Wars memorabilia and paraphernalia to provide even the most die-hard Star Wars obsessive with a lifetime of Wookiee-related wet dreams – wastes little time in whetting loins.

Dangling tantalisingly from the ceiling in the expansive foyer, well before the entrance to the Gallery Floor that plays host to the exhibition, is a full size Naboo starfighter in all of its glorious yellowness, complete with a little Anakin Skywalker, peering over the cockpit as if ready to loose green globs of novice Jedi phlegm upon the heads of visitors. It brings great pleasure to watch the purple cravat-wearing toffs turning up their noses as they pass such ‘crass imagery’, making their way to the alternative floors to spend hours stood looking at glass displays containing half cows soaked in elephant semen and that.


Entering the Gallery Floor, you are presented with a sleek, well-laid out corridor full of such gems as Joe Johnston’s original storyboards for Star Wars, a generous sprinkling of original Ralph McQuarrie’s original concept pieces, as well as the actual mattes used in all of the films. One particular stand-out piece, is a CGI ‘digital matte’ from The Phantom Menace. It highlights the absurd advances in computer design in recent years, and how it’s ever more difficult to tell the difference between real monsters and pretend monsters.


Peppered among the various corridors of the exhibition, in teasing transparent display cases designed to prevent drunkards and mental-faces getting their scabrous paws on the exhibits encased within, are a plethora of genuine production models. One that strikes as the most impressive, however, is that of Amidala’s slender silver spacecraft from The Phantom Menace - an absolute throbbing monster in dimensions when compared to the comparatively tiny X-Wings and TIE Fighters on offer.

Doug Chiang, commenting upon the time period in which The Phantom Menace was set has stated that ‘It was a craftman’s era’. In contrasting the old and new ships from all film series, it’s all too easy to fuel rumours of some kind of ‘nuclear winter’ taking place over the course of the forthcoming Episodes II & III. Either that, or the Galactic Senate eased drinking laws at some stage, causing lethargy and hangovers throughout the Star Wars universe, rendering its inhabitants useless at washing their ships… we don’t know. But then we’re drunk ourselves. A’gin…


This room is dedicated to the skilful audio prowess of Ben Burtt – Star Wars’ principal sound designer. The buzzing of lightsabers, the resonating sound of laser fire, the squelching of some angry Wookiee’s foot stamping repeatedly on Jar Jar Binks’ head - those wonderful sound effects that we all know and love are presented here for the patron’s aural delight, along with some rather surprising breakdowns of their individual constituents…

Did you know that the sound of a lightsaber’s powerful glow being initiated is that of electrical TV interference? Or the flapping of the Mynock’s wings on the asteroid in The Empire Strikes Back is actually the sound of a golden Labrador scratching its face against a tree or something like that? Better still, R2-D2’s trademark bleeps and screeches are actually the sound of George Lucas dragging his oiled scrotum along well-buffed joist.

Visual Effects

According to the Gallery Guide, the Visual Effects section takes a look at ‘how visual effects techniques have been used to create characters in the Star Wars films’.  Unfortunately, upon entering this section, visitors come face to face with a complete section dedicated to that universally detested guff-cretin – J.J.Binks. A triumph of computer animation he may be, but he’s an example of just how grandly Lucas has been known to misjudge the tastes of the movie-going public (for futher evidence, see Howard The Duck).

Resource Room

This particular room presents visitors with the opportunity to do things that every self-confessed Star Wars geek does every day already: visit the Star Wars websites and play Star Wars related games, such as the ever-popular ‘Stroke The Wookiee’ (or was that just us?). Alas, the computers are firmly fixed upon the official Star Wars website, and do not permit crafty visits to your favourite Jenna Jameson site. A selection of both good and bad Star Wars games are on offer here, as are the more ‘educational’ titles such as Droid Works. But moving swiftly along…


The costume section, is divided into two rooms; the first containing costumes from the first trilogy; the second containing costumes from Episode I. Standing close to the actual costumes that these childhood heroes wore in the actual films of the first trilogy is a strange experience, which compelled us to remove our trousers by way of a tribute. Looking up at the original Chewbacca costume, it is hard to believe just how tall the hairy mother actually is. Or, more pertinently, how tall actor Peter Mayhew must’ve been to play him. He must have a cock like a baby’s arm…

A quick gaze around the room reveals such gems as the tiny costume as worn by the diminutive Carrie Fisher whilst filming the Hoth scenes in Norway, both Luke and Han’s costumes, and one of the original Boba Fett outfits.

The highlight of the Episode I costumes have to be Trisha Biggar’s majestic designs for Queen Amidala, and they are resolutely present here in all of their splendour. However, that feeling of sentimentality that seems to reach forth and cast its icy grip around the heart as you stand and look at the costumes of the original trilogy seems to simply withdraw and disappear as you stand before these costumes. Also, the glass screens prevent you from touching, or ripping, the cloth.

Darth Vader

According to the guide blurb, ‘this section contains and original Darth Vader costume, and creates the experience of the Sith Lord’s brooding presence.’ Were there actually somebody situated inside the suit, running about punching people, and throwing bricks at them, then the desired effect may well be achieved. However, as you stand there – quite alone in the room – with the Dark Lord of the Sith himself trapped in his little cabinet, it is all too easy to make yourself look brave by swearing at the so-called “Dark Lord”, and thus dispelling any palpable air of menace.


The section entitled Creatures also finds itself divided into two rooms, representing the numerous creatures from the Star Wars universe in all their glory. One room plays host to various models and concept art concerning none other than the mighty Yoda. Standing there, trying to envisage the master of masters swinging his little lightsabre and cutting people up bad is a difficult task… Mr. Lucas and co. have got some task ahead should they choose to let the little green dude cut loose in future instalments.

The second room plays host to a controllable animatronic head of Ree-Yees – a sort of pink thing with three eyes – as well as various masks from the films. Seeing a suited-man stood in a mask of the Cantina band aliens from Star Wars is a genuinely scary sight for anybody to behold: even more scary than the thought of that Chewbacca bloke’s wanger.


The droid section is one seemingly dedicated to C3P0. The costume shimmers under the effectively positioned lights, and although a wonderful sight to behold for any Star Wars freak, everybody’s favourite droid just doesn’t seem the same when not wandering around limp-wristed, uttering inane comments in that oh-so camp manner.

The Story Continues…

Even as you ease yourself away from the exhibits, there is still plenty to look at. Various framed promotional posters of all the films adorn the walls of the exit, written in various indecipherable languages, as well as a replica of Mawhonic’s pod racer from the Phantom Menace, which, as we found out to the security guards’ chagrin, does not work.

In summary then, The Art Of Star Wars exhibition is an essential visit for anybody with even a passing interest in the most successful movie series of all time. However, it is strongly recommend that the more obsessive amongst us to prepare themselves by taking a rather large packet of Kleenex along to the exhibition, as there is a lot of stuff present has the potential to evoke rather strong, emotive feelings. And soiled undergarments.

The Art of Star Wars exhibition runs from the 13 April – 3 September 2000.






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