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'Star Wars Storyboards: The Original Trilogy' review

(C) 2014 Lucasfilm Ltd. And TM. All Rights Reserved. Used Under Authorization
Maya Bradford (Abrams Books)

Star Wars Storyboards: The Original Trilogy


On May 13th, 2014, fans were given a scarce and uncommon glimpse into the Lucasfilm Archives via the “Star Wars Storyboards: The Original Trilogy.” J.W. Rinzler returns to the Star Wars scene after his highly praised “Making of” books. Rinzler takes us some thirty years into the past and shares never before material from A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi (commonly referred to by fans as the “Original Trilogy”). This beautifully detailed book chronicles the iconic storyboard artwork for all three movies, giving us a spectacular display of the conception behind the movies.

The book contains a Forward by Joe Johnston, an instrumental person in the production of the “Original Trilogy” movies and the head of the storyboard group. Johnston is known for creating the design of fan-favorite Star Wars character, Boba Fett, alongside Star Wars legend Ralph McQuarrie. Johnston opens this book with a foreword that really sets the tone for the book. He recounts his early involvement with George Lucas and Industrial Light and Magic. “I didn’t know what a storyboard was I started for George Lucas, and I was smart enough not to ask. If I had, I’m sure that visual effects supervisor John Dykstra would have patiently explained it to me and then wisely pointed me toward the parking lot.”

The book also contains an Introduction by Nilo Rodis-Jamero, who served as the assistant art director of visual effects for The Empire Strikes Back and as a costume designer for Return of the Jedi. Nilo was a relative amateur in the field when he was hired and describes his early days working with Joe Johnston. “I was beyond scared, not knowing anything about movies, having been dropped in the deep end…before this fear completely paralyzed me, Joe walked we to an art store…to pick up supplies. By day’s end, the ground didn’t feel as slippery, and, along with Joe’s casual company, a sense of security overtook the fear.” Nilo goes on to describe his work on the visual bible for the movie and shares many early experiences he had.

The Preface is donw by J.W. Rinzler, an executive editor at Lucasfilm Ltd., and author of New York Times bestseller, The Making of Star Wars. Rinzler shares many stories behind the research and writing on this book. Rinzler’s Preface is filled with excitement that shows he truly is a fan of the franchise and he elaborates on the work of those involved in the storyboards. The Preface really expounds on the ambiance of the storyboard collection and will have readers on the edge of their seats to start turning the page.

The Foreword, Introduction, and Preface are rare treats that fans of the franchise will appreciate and leave them hungry to dive in. Once readers get into the actual storyboards they will be delighted by the detail and care given to give fans as much information as possible. Fans will get a treasure trove of over 1,000 boards and sketches by Joe Johnston, Alex Tavoularis, Ivor Beddoes, Roy Carnon, Dave Carson, Steve Gawley, Paul Huston, George Jenson, Gary Myers, Ken Ralston, David Russell, Ronnie Shepherd, Brook Temple, and Ralph McQuarrie. Some of this artwork has never been seen by the public before now.

As I gazed upon the first page of sketches, which showed the Star Destroyer coming over Tatooine, it brought me back to the first time I saw A New Hope. The amazement and excitement experienced on the big screen is enhanced by these sketches and in some cases expanded my understanding of the intent behind classis scenes seen in the movies. As if the masterpiece collection of artwork wasn’t enough, several of those involved in the construction of the storyboards and Rinzler, share more information with us throughout the book. The margins are filled with insights about particular scenes that give detailed descriptions, anecdotes, and glimpses into the thought processes behind the work.

A classic scene from The Empire Strikes Back, when Vader reveals to Luke that he is his father, contains a note about Beddoes’ depiction of the scene. “Beddoes did not know exactly what Vader would say at this point in the film, as this part of the script was top secret. His note reads ‘Beelzebub offering the world…end of dialogue.’” The book also contains what would eventually become deleted scenes such as Luke constructing his lightsaber on Tatooine in Return of the Jedi. Johnston elaborates on the scene, “Hidden in a cave on Tatooine, Luke builds his new lightsaber; outside, his X-wing and the Falcon are parked on the desert sand.”

A book like this truly is a gift to fans and this review can only scratch the surface on the material provided inside. Rinzler outdoes himself and shows the outcome of his hard work and research in this book. I highly recommend this book to any Star Wars fan and will treasure it for years to come. Make sure to pick up this book on May 13th from Abrams Books to experience the Star Wars Original Trilogy like never before. Available for only $40.00 (pre-order now at this link for just $30.15), fans will definitely get their money’s worth with this collection.

I would like to thank Maya Bradford with Abrams Books for providing an advanced copy of this book for review purposes.

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