The foundations of Star Wars are, the hero’s journey, adventure and a new hope. Any film that gives us the great voice and brethren, John Boyega, is God sent in my book. If you are a Blerd like me, you were raised on the trilogy (the original 4, 5 and 6 that is). I remember as a kid, watching Star Wars on a VHS that we taped off of Cinemax because my mom had the free trial and we weren’t gonna let that go to waste. Yes, the nerd mom knows what makes the foundations of a good home, our own bootlegged sci-fi. We can remember our parents telling the stories of seeing these films in theaters, the wonder, the feeling of being a part of something new. No wonder this was the film I put on to lull me to sleep when the world is burning outside. Star Wars is, in fact, the gift that keeps on giving. Whether you open the wrapper and are disappointed at what you find or if you love it despite what your friends and family say.
We all watched The Mandalorian, the first ever, live action, Star Wars tv series. Whether you want to admit it or not, it was the most exciting moment for a lot of us sci-fi fans. The story of Mandalor has always been an exciting prospect since the elusive Boba Fett character was first seen. The story of the lone ranger, the bounty hunter whose helmet never came off, we never saw his face, was an intriguing mystery. The series itself was a bit drawn out, the story at times felt disconnected like a series of one-off journeys all driven by Mando and… the child
It doesn’t matter what you think about the show because it gave us Baby Yoda. That’s it. But I digress, we thought that was it. The show happened and all we knew was season 2 was on the way and apparently the build up from season 1 will have pay off in season 2. But that was not it – we were then blessed with The Gallery, the revealing aw inspiring series on Disney+. A behind the scenes on the elements that make up The Mandalorian. This review will have slight spoilers just to express the magnitude of the making – but in no way could I spoil it all. You have to see it with your own eyes.
From the first moment in episode 1 of The Gallery, my eyes had witnessed what it never had before. I immediately wanted to know who I had to call to get on that set. We see Executive Producer and Director Dave Filoni (Writer, Clone Wars) with a speaker shouting directions like the old time directors with the bull horns. But he isn’t in a cherry picker director’s chair, he is sitting in a regular ass canvas folding chair immersed within the stars.
I kid you not – he is surrounded by what looks like the most beautiful galactic space way and in front is the cockpit of Mando’s ship. We are watching Mando flying through the stars and I feel like I am in the void of space with him. I tear up, catch my breath and feel full of joy. How is this possible? What am I looking at? This is what creator John Favreau and the many Directors call “The Volume.” It is a digitally constructed real life blown up version of virtual reality goggles. That makes it sound so much less than what it is, but it’s hard to describe.
You know back in the day when backgrounds of scenes used to be mural paintings? When I found out the backgrounds of The Wizard of Oz were nothing but a forced perspective drawing, I was well into adulthood and my world was crushed. But “The Volume” brought my world to whole new heights. Beyond the green screen – John Favreau knew while making Jungle Book there was a simpler way to make this CGI world. He expanded on it with The Lion King. Basically The Lion King was his proof of concept to make “The Volume” for The Mandalorian.
Using virtual reality, they constructed a whole world that is then displayed out in digital screens that engulf an entire room. Imagine the largest curved Samsung tv in the world but not just all around you; it’s on the ceiling, too. This changes the GAME. Matter of fact, it’s not even the same system. The lighting is so real, because IT IS real. The images that are being projected create a desert wasteland, a misty forest – anything that needs to make the scene is there in the room. We can see the most magnificent sunset with 3 suns glistening off Mando’s helmet, because it’s happening all around him in real time. Favreau was like – you know those words, “we’ll get it in post”… burn them from every dictionary, we’re getting it right now.
Which brings me to my next bit. Previz, what is that? Girl, I did not truly know until The Gallery showed me what could be when one person knows there are no boundaries in front of them. Favreau wanted to be able to make a series that could be fully constructed in the digital realm. He’s walking around a warehouse with the DP (director of Photography) filming scenes with VR glasses on. The DP is moving the camera around and Favreau’s just walking around in this world making decisions.
From that point forward, they can make the wholeass movie before they even have an actor on set. They drew the storyboards, made a digital copy of all the scenes – so somewhere there is a CG version of The Mandalorian floating around. They got the directors, actors, crew, everyone to come on board already knowing what each episode physically looks like – because they made it in the digital space first. My heaven for that on a small scale. Do you know what that means? Post-production is a walk in the digital park. I’m getting my producer excitement all over the page, and I hope you are keeping up.
Here’s the part that truly matters, the team of people that get to operate and play in this world is so fantastic. We have BIPOC (Black Indigenous People Of Color) women, and directors who have never before stepped into the IRL live action realm. That is the mark of a good producer, I cannot lie. My dream is to be able to provide creators with magical tools and have them bring their spells to the table – ugh. To be able to see an indie Producer/Director like Rick Famuyiwa (Producer, Dope) be on set for a Star Wars film and Taika Waititi with his wit and keen eye bringing so much style – representing Maori is heaven sent.
Plus women Directors! You would think we have a shortage the way tinsel town operates, but no – just a shortage of studio execs and producers who care to look. We have Deborah Chow who directed Mr Robot and American Gods on the scene, her imagination and love for the craft so prevalent. Even Bryce Dallas Howard’s “I remember going to eat dinner with George Lucas and my dad” self, gets her hands dirty on set driving the story home. Sorry, no tea no shade, she’s got the chops and the love for it, just gotta point out she got keys to high places – just saying. It was exciting to see everyone at the table that is 100% real.
Then there is what you feel is Favreau’s partner in crime, Dave Filoni. This is the nerdiest man alive. His extensive love and knowledge of every intricacy of star wars lore written and in film is unmatched. The smile on his face as he talks will forever be a little kid, nerd grin. You know, the one where they don’t show any teeth, just a closed lip smile that can be seen from their cheeks all through the glint of their eye – yea that’s Dave Filoni. Once he gets going, you can’t stop him. You don’t want to either. You want him to have all the candy in the store – what a sweetheart.
This is the same for the actors. Pedro Pascal (Game of Thrones) is the patron saint of humble. He can’t help but give everyone else props – he’s literally the everyman wit the talent. There’s big names like Carl Weathers (Predator) on the scene and first time actors like Gina Carano. You see her on the show and you wanna rag on her. You see her on the behind the scenes and you’re like… I’m still ragging on her but she is the kindest person who is literally doing her best in a field she’s never been in before – bless her heart. The actors obviously have the chance of a lifetime to work on a Star Wars title (just watch out for dem Twitter Star Wars fans – they will eat your family…), BUT they get the opportunity to play within a world that feels so real and so fantastical. Being in a ship on a lava river when the scenery is projected all around you is unreal ways – welp getting into character never felt so good. Working with Jon Carlo Esposito too! Yo.
I won’t give much else away so you can experience the magic yourself, but the show brings together elements of the score, the puppetry and mechanics, down to the costume and performances.
I took The Mandolorian for granted, that is for sure. As an actor and producer, these are the sort of worlds we want to be real, the freedom you want to have. It comes with a HEFTY price tag, but when someone knows your vision is worth it the price is of no matter, that money will come back around of course. The creators who can wake up from a dream and go do it are making these worlds. I want to see a rise in that sort of opportunity being given to different voices and different faces our dreams are worth seeing and deserving of life.
Watch 7 episodes of Gallery Star Wars: The Mandalorian on Disney+ with the next episode airing June 19th.