How closely were you watching that game of Dejarik in Solo? Now’s the time to take another look…
Pretty much every Star Wars film has fun Easter Eggs. But Ron Howard’s Solo has one of the coolest ‘inside visual effects’ hidden gem played out so far. And it’s to do with the game of Dejarik – or Holochess – that Chewbacca and Tobias Beckett play on the Millennium Falcon (which is at this stage owned by Lando Calrissian).
Holochess should be something that most avid Star Wars-watchers are familiar with. It showed up first in A New Hope, where Phil Tippett and Jon Berg animated stop-motion creatures that were composited as holograms into a scene of Chewbacca playing the game against R2-D2. A brief refrain of the game appeared in The Force Awakens, too. Then, in Solo, Chewbacca loses at the hands of Beckett.
But…something pretty cool happens during that most recent incarnation in Solo.
Let’s start with the actual clip from the film.
Did you see it? Watch it again and look what happens when Chewie gets frustrated and slams and wipes the board with his arm.
That’s right, two of the creatures actually ‘pop off’ as holograms, presumably because Chewie uses his Wookie strength to almost break the Holochess table.
‘Big deal,’ I hear you say. Well, it’s actually a completely intentional thing. That’s because those two creatures that pop off the board were actually two creatures originally intended to be in the game during A New Hope.
Well, here’s what happened, as described by Solo visual effects supervisor Rob Bredow at a recent Visual Effects Society screening and Q&A of the film.
The story was, Tippett had originally built 10 more characters, two more than he needed. Apparently George Lucas came out when they were lining up the shots for A New Hope 41 years ago and he said, ‘Oh it’s too crowded.’ So Tippett took a couple of them off the board and they were never seen again.
But…those pieces were not actually lost forever. Relatively recently, Tippett did find the original designs to the two creatures. What’s more, it turned out he’d given the unused stop-motion models to ILM visual effects supervisor Dennis Muren after A New Hope wrapped. And Muren had kept them, all these years.
Just to be sure, watch this clip from A New Hope, which shows just eight characters on the table.
The discovery of the two missing creatures seems to have happened as Tippett was simultaneously cleaning out his studio and preparing rewards for a Kickstarter for his short film project MAD GOD. His studio accessed the original models, scanned them via photogrammetry and moulded new versions for the rewards.
In fact, that Kickstarter project was all documented last year in a video for Tested, which showed how the new moulds were made and the figures crafted for awards.
Jump to production on Solo, and Tippett Studio – which had already re-made the original eight Holochess characters for a brief scene of Finn activating the table in The Force Awakens – was called upon to make this new Dejarik game between Chewie and Beckett.
That spurned the idea, as a story point, that perhaps there were originally ten creatures to the game on Lando’s Falcon, until Chewie’s meltdown.
Bredow related further on this at the VES event:
Tippett said, ‘Wouldn’t it be fun if the pristine Lando Falcon has two extra characters on the board?’ And then we realised when Chewie does this [mimes hand thumping], two of the buttons popped off the table. If you watch carefully…two extra characters for two shots. Then they disappear, never to be seen again.
Which just goes to show, it really is unwise to upset a Wookie.