Welcome back to Fantha Tracks article series to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace. From behind the scenes to source, we go in-depth to hopefully show you the movie in ways you have never seen it before.
Our chronological look through the movie has brought us to Tatooine, and the exciting podrace through which Anakin Skywalker won his freedom.
Boonta Eve & the Podracers
To this day the name for the podracing event, the Boonta Eve, is a nice reference to the ‘Droids’ animated television series in which we had a planet called Boonta that hosted speeder races. But originally the Boonta Eve had a different name. In the revised rough draft of Episode I, the podrace was referred to as “Donic Day.”
This revised rough draft was also the source for many of the names, even if many of the names of the racers changed, as well as their home planets, many of them in themselves a nice list of references to the then-EU, currently Legends, continuity. This list is as follows: Teemto Pagalies came from the Moons of Iego, Clegg Holdfast from Sullust, Slide Paramita (and not Ben Quadinaros) called Tund home, while Wan Sandage came from Umboo. Dud Cullindaros was from Chuba and Aldar Beedo from Kamar. Bozzie Barada represented Kessel in the race was, while Neva Kee raced for Aquilae. Marso Guo hailed from Ophuchi, Toy Dampner from New Cov, Boles Roor from Ord Padrove and Ody Mysturall from Tatooine.
As usual Lucas gave his designers a small brief to start with and for the podracers he described them as two jet engines with a cockpit. Early designs had the pilots standing, or near-standing, just like we saw in the STAPs. With influences from a tractor and water skis added, the pilot would sit on a small seat and wear a seatbelt-type harness. This design was dropped because Lucas wanted more protective cockpits. Early designs had the engines also attached to the cockpit, or with very rigid beams, before it was changed into the loose cables we see in the final designs. To make the racers visually distinct and more noticeable on camera in the short screen time they were to have, every racer received a different and distinct color schemes. The sounds came from a variety of sources including: race cars, boats, war-birds, motorcycles, rockets, helicopters, Ferraris, Porsches, tricked-out amateur cars and, weirdest of all, an electric toothbrush.
For more information on Anakin himself, please refer back to our article from last month. As the most important character, his podracer went to many development changes. An earlier concept model of Anakin’s podracer looked vastly different and while it was not used for Anakin, parts of it did end up in the movie. The cockpit of this model was reused for Gasgano’s podracer, while the engines went to Ratts Tyerell. Anakin’s final cockpit received the blue racing stripes from a sport car that Lucas owned in his youth. The earlier mentioned sounds of Porsches mostly went to make Anakin’s podracer sound distinctive from the rest. Of course his podracer was build physically for the shoot in Tunisia.
For Beedo, like for many of the podracers really, detailed concept art was made by Terryl Whitlatch, which was followed by an equally detailed model built by the Lucasfilm Ltd. art department. The character was only realized in the film as a low resolution digital model that was used for medium and distance shots of the character’s Podracer. A graphic was created using the maquette to be used for view-screens in the film, though it could be seen only fleetingly. Beedo’s podracer cockpit was based on the model race cars that the brother of concept artist Jay Shuster build in their childhood.
Ratts Tyerell is one of the few podracers whose evolution can be tracked thanks to labels and dates on various concept art we have seen of him. He was first known as “Pod Racer – Long Head.” in his earliest concept art drawing, dated July 16 1996. The next piece, dated September 17 1996, only had him labeled as “Amphibian”. He finally received his name Ratts Tyerell in a sketch dated May 27, 1997. Ratts Tyerell’s podracer was among those physically build for the shoot in Tunisia.
Early script notes for Sebulba described him as “spidery,” and Lucas envisioned a character with a tangle of agile limbs that functioned both as hands and feet. Considering he was to be the best of the racers in the sport he had to be both light in frame yet powerful and deadly. Thus came Sebulba’s thin yet muscular build. His face was inspired by that of a camel with the color scheme of an Easter egg. Like with Watto early drawings gave him tusks that hindered lip-sync. Sebulba’s costume was inspired by medieval armor, and his goggles magnified his eyes to make his appearance even more unsettling. With this kind of body shape it became clear that Sebulba was to be a completely CGI character, but he was voiced by Lewis MacLeod.
Sebulba’s podracer was inspired by classic V8 engines and originally had a V shape before Lucas turned the engines ninety degrees, creating the now iconic X-shaped look. The color was just a color that designer Jay Shuster loved and that seemed to fit well. The reason why Sebulba’s podracer seems sleeker and more refined is because Lucas imagined that Sebulba had a bigger budget to work with, being a champion of many races. The sounds of Sebulba’s podracer came from combining P-51 Mustangs’ pass-bys (slow downed) with a go-fast-boat. Sebulba’s podracer was among those physically build for the shoot in Tunisia.
Although the character appears as a Gran in the film, Mawhonic was originally conceptualized by Shuster as a never-before-seen alien species with a thin chin and six eyes. This design made it as far as the film’s animatic stages, but was ultimately scrapped. Terryl Whitlatch originally drew Mawhonic similar to Ree-Yees from Return of the Jedi, being a thin Gran with large hands. Ultimately, the new alien and the thin Gran designs were combined, using the rotund nature, hands, and feet from the first design and the Gran likeness of the second, creating Mawhonic’s final design. Mawhonic was the only podracer to be portrayed by an actor in a costume. Mawhonic’s mask was created by the crew of special effects artist Nick Dudman with Mark Coulier being the actor behind the mask and costume. Mawhonic’s podracer was among those physically build for the shoot in Tunisia.
Dud Bolt replaced the character named Bozzie Barada from the film’s revised rough draft, and was first seen in concept art from Terryl Whitlatch dating to May 1996. Along with Mars Guo, Bolt was one of two Podracers who were portrayed in the film by a puppet instead of a computer-generated character or actor. A computer-generated version of the character was used for distance shots. Dud Bolt’s podracer was among those physically build for the shoot in Tunisia.
Ebe E. Endocott
Early concept art had Endocott as a much larger and much skinnier character than his final design. Like other racers, he was made into a detailed sculpt and was realized in the film as a low resolution digital model that could be seen in the cockpit of his Podracer. He can also be seen on a view-screen behind Fode and Beed.
The conceptual maquette of Gasgano was designed by Richard Mills and Robert E. Barnes. His appearance in the film was computer generated. Gasgano’s podracer was among those physically build for the shoot in Tunisia.
Originally referred to as “Shaggy” in the concept sketches of Whitlatch, Roor received his name in the revised rough draft. As said earlier many names changed around, and one of them is Roor’s original home planet of “Ord Padrove.”. That name seems to have been evolved to Ord Pedrovia, the model of Gasgano’s podracer. Boles Roor’s podracer was among those physically build for the shoot in Tunisia.
To help the animators of ILM, Whitlatch also created concept art that included a bone structure, for Pagalies. Teemto Pagalies’ podracer was among those physically build for the shoot in Tunisia.
Mak was described by Animation Supervisor Paul Griffin as “not a really super bright guy, he’s kinda like a few fries short of a Happy Meal.” Like other racers he had a detailed maquette built and concept art created. And he was also at first only brought to life as a low-resolution computer-generated model seen in distance shots of his Podracer. Mak received a more detailed CGI model for the DVD release of the movie, which featured a deleted scene with Elan Mak shown in a close-up shot.
Along with Dud Bolt, Mars Guo was one of two Podracers who were portrayed in the film by a puppet instead of a computer-generated character or actor, even though a computer-generated version of the character was used for distance shots and for the DVD deleted scene. Mars Guo was Jake Lloyd’s second favorite podracer when he played the game Star Wars: Episode I Racer
Ark ‘Bumpy’ Roose
While a detailed sculpture was created, Roose appeared as a low res digital model for medium and distance shots. A more detailed version of Ark Roose’s digital model was created for close-ups for the deleted DVD scene. The basic model was later re-used in Attack of the Clones for the character Slyther Bushforb and several other background Nuknogs.
Early drafts of the film did not feature Neva Kee directly, instead introducing a character named Habba Kee. While it appears that it was simple a case of renaming a character, the novelization of TPM and ‘Anakin’s Journal’ does mention a Habba Kee. Kee’s design was originally intended for the Wan Sandage.
The rough draft and first draft of Star Wars A New Hope contained a character named Count Sandage, a noble at the court of King Kayos on Aquilae. He counsels the king to yield to the Galactic Empire, and later betrays the royal family to Darth Vader. He was omitted from later drafts, but the name was later reused for the podracer who started out as Neva Kee.
That multiple podracers can be combined or changed into one of the others has been mentioned a couple of times now in this article, and that appears to be the case for Ody Mandrell as well. During development, a character was created called “Ody Mysturall”, which looks like a creature with a round-shaped body with a face on his body, and having long arms and legs. Yet some of the older concept art that shows an Ody Mandrell closer to his movie appearance was labeled with the name of another racer, namely Boles Roor. Ody Mandrell’s podracer was among those physically build for the shoot in Tunisia.
Eagle-eyed readers realize that leaves the article with two more racers: Clegg Holdfast and Ben Quadinaros. However while resourcing this article no relevant information about their creation could be found that was specific to their characters besides the above concept art for Quadinaros and the model of Holdfast (as photographed by the author during his visit of ‘Star Wars Identities’). We can assume that they went through the same process of concept art, maquette, low-resolution CGI model for the distance shots and a more detailed model for their deleted scene close-ups as seen on the movie’s DVD release.
Sources: StarWars.com databank (current and archived older editions), Star Wars: Episode I Insider’s Guide, Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace DVD special features and The Art of Star Wars, Episode I – The Phantom Menace.