The eyes of the galaxy are currently turned to Batuu, west of the Western Reaches in Wild Space, north-west of Endor, and Lonely Planet hones in on the real-world design and creation of this fascinating shadowport by chatting with the Vice President and Executive Creative Director of Lucasfilm, Doug Chiang.
Q: What’s it like to design a real place that’s not a movie set?
Chiang: One of the great challenges and joys we had was designing and building a real location. When you’re designing movie sets, they’re false – because that’s movie making. You’re experiencing a place from a very specific point of view of the director. Here, the point of view is you. So the challenge is how do you design a space that’s so immersive, that’s real?
One of the first things we did was create a new place and a new identity that fits seamlessly within the Star Wars universe. That’s really important.
I first started working for George [Lucas] in 1995. I spent seven years with him learning about designing for Star Wars. There’s a very distinct visual vocabulary, and a lot of it was established by Ralph McQuarrie – the original Star Wars concept designer. Ralph McQuarrie is Star Wars, and Star Wars is Ralph. As you notice in a lot of Ralph’s early designs there’s a very distinct iconic shape which are domes, spheres, and spires. We wanted to lean into that. We also wanted to be very careful that we created our own identity. Our goal was to anchor the land in something that was very sincerely Star Wars but add a freshness to it.
Part of what we do in terms of design is actually do a lot of homework. So we go on location scouts. We decided to figure out what should this place be; how rich can it be? It had to have layers and layers of history and story, and visually it had to reflect that as well. So we went to the Middle East. We went to Istanbul, Turkey to do some research in terms of what is so iconic and interesting.