Activities for Design and Visual Arts students

Activities for Design and Visual Arts students
Star Wars: The Magic of Myth showcases original artwork
(including concept drawings and paintings as well as storyboards
with production notes), props, models, costumes and characters
used to create the Star Wars saga — Star Wars: A New Hope, The
Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, The Phantom Menace
and Attack of the Clones. The exhibition was inspired by Joseph
Campbell’s story of the ‘hero’s journey’ presented in The hero with
a thousand faces, and by comments on the Star Wars films in the
book and video series The Power of Myth.
The following activities are designed to help the classroom teacher
stimulate student discussion, investigation, research, and creative
practises. These activities are suitable for students studying various
aspects of Design and Visual Arts in secondary school.
# Activity A
# Activity C
A collaboration of artists
Design of the airspeeders
Movies require a story line to start and the
creation of the movie requires many skilled
professionals: cameramen, costumedesigners, set-designers and builders, sound
technicians, lighting technicians, and others.
Research the requirements for these ‘offcamera creators’ and explore the educational
requirements for each.
The Coruscant airspeeder chase stems from
writer/director George Lucas’ love of classic
automobiles, and his teenage years racing
hot rods. This love is best epitomised in his
film, American Grafitti, so perhaps it’s more
than just a coincidence that Anakin’s
appropriated speeder bares a passing
resemblance to the yellow deuce-coupe
featured in that film. With its exposed engines
and teardrop seats, the speeder also has
similar lines to Anakin’s podracer from The
Phantom Menace. The students can view
Anakin’s speeder in the exhibition. Ask the
students to select their favourite motor
vehicle as inspiration and design an
# Activity B
Inspired by Star Wars
Select an artwork, storyboard, costume, prop
or model on display in the Star Wars: The
Magic of Myth exhibition that you find
interesting. List, draw, sketch, and describe
your chosen object.
Zam Wesell’s airspeeder pursued by Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi’s airspeeder on Coruscant.
Star Wars: The Magic of Myth, Star Wars™ and © 2002 by Lucasfilm Ltd. All rights reserved.
# Activity D
Military costumes, weapons and aviation
Chewie carries a pouch slung across one
shoulder that is similar to the Dyer pouch
developed in 1870, a combination carbine
sling and cartridge pouch. But his actual
weapon dates to a much earlier era, for it is
based on a medieval crossbow. Luke’s rifle
with its extra-long barrel and crooked stock,
evokes the Arab jezail . Other Star Wars
weapons were created by decorating real-life
firearms with various devices to make them
look futuristic. Perhaps the most notable is
the blaster used by Han. It is a ‘broom-
handled’ 7.63-calibre Mauser; one of the
earliest and most successful of all automatic
pistol designs, it was used in both world
wars. The prop department simply added a
fancy looking scope and an emitter nozzle at
the end of the barrel. Discuss with students
how the artists on the movie took existing
materials and modified them to look
futuristic. The examples in the table are
starting points.
Excerpts from Star Wars: The Magic of Myth
by Mary Henderson in regards to the above
objects can be found online at: http://
Aspect of Star Wars
Historical source
Imperial TIE fighter helmets
Japanese WWII pilots
Rebel pilots’ orange jumpsuits
US Navy flying suits
Rebel pilots’ knee cartridges
Luftwaffe, WWII
Rebel footsoldier headgear
British AnH 15 summer flying helmet
Rebel boots
Eskimo mukluks
Imperial officer’s uniform
19th-century German lancers
Imperial officer’s hat
German, Austrian alpine field cap WWII
Jedi robes
Medieval monks
Jedi under robes
Japanese kimonos
Vader’s helmet
Japanese feudal helmet
Luke’s Tatooine jacket
Japanese short kimono
Stormtrooper’s back canister
WWII troopers
Wookie shoulder pouch
Dyer cartridge pouch 1870
Luke’s rifle
Arab jezail
Luke’s & Han’s blaster
WWI ‘broom-handled’ 7.63-calibre Mauser
Tripod blaster
Vicker’s machine gun WWI
Trenches and rotating cannon
WWI trench warfare
X-wing fighter
F16 fighter aircraft
Millennium Falcon
Cruisers and destroyers
naval aircraft carriers
# Activity E
# Activity F
Character design
Costume design
Read the article ‘Designing a Sith Lord’ on
page 6. The article describes the process that
concept artist Iain McCaig undertook to
develop the character Darth Maul. George
Lucas described Darth Maul as a figure from
your worst nightmare. Imagine you were the
concept designer/artist responsible for the
villain Darth Maul. Sketch and describe your
character and present it to the rest of the class
as if you were making a presentation to
George Lucas.
Featured in the exhibition is Queen Amidala’s
Senate Gown. This costume is noted for its
fusion of Asian and European Art Nouveau
styles, it combines velvets, soutache braid,
beading, and appliqués. In this particular
costume the headpiece was actually quite
heavy. The headpiece had a cord attached to
the top which was then hooked up to a pulley
and someone would walk behind the actor and
pull down on the cord to lessen the weight.
Select a costume featured in the exhibition and
consider the restrictions that would have to
be considered in the design process (fragility,
heat, weight, movement, ability to breathe).
Concept drawing for Queen Amidala’s Senate Gown
costume by Iain McCaig.
Queen Amidala, Smithsonian photo by Eric Long.
Star Wars and © 2002 by Lucasfilm Ltd. All rights reserved.
Star Wars: The Magic of Myth, Star Wars™ and © 2002 by Lucasfilm
Ltd. All rights reserved.
# Activity G
# Activity H
Influences of design styles
Applying a design style
George Lucas describes his vision for C-3PO:
‘I wanted something elegant and beautiful and
human-like with Threepio. So I was inspired
primarily by the film Metropolis, which was
one of the first films that I ever saw with a
robot in it. And the robot in that film was very,
very art deco. Very beautiful. A lot of the art
deco elements in Threepio relate to the ribbing
on the legs, and the fixtures, like in his head,
has a series of little donuts put together in
descending order, which is a very art deco
image’. While watching the Star Wars films
or visiting Star Wars: The Magic of Myth what
other design styles can you notice? Excerpts
from the film Metropolis can be seen in The
steam revolution exhibition on level 3.
After viewing Star Wars: The Magic of Myth,
visit another Powerhouse Museum exhibition
such as: Mod to Memphis on level 3; Fruits
on level 5 (opens 21 December); and Colonial
to contemporary on level 4. Select your
favourite object from one of these exhibitions
and redesign a Star Wars prop or costume in
this style. For example below is an example
for an Etorre Sotsass inspired design of the
Millennium Falcon. You might like to visit the
following site for inspiration http://
Etorre Sotsass inspired Millennium Falcon.
Design by and © Justin Jorgensen. Used with permission.
C-3PO, concept drawing by Ralph McQuarrie.
Star Wars: The Magic of Myth, Star Wars™ and © 1997 by Lucasfilm
Ltd. All rights reserved.
Designing a Sith Lord
This article appeared on the official Star Wars
website ( on 28 February
2000 and is reprinted with permission. Use this
article as inspiration to design your own version of
Darth Maul.
The design of the villains from the original
Star Wars trilogy — from Darth Vader to the
Emperor to the Stormtroopers — came to
become icons for evil itself in popular culture.
When it came time to design Darth Maul, the
major new villain in The Phantom Menace,
the concept artists of Episode I had a tough
act to follow.
Episode I concept designer Iain McCaig
recalled the daunting task. ‘George Lucas had
described Darth Maul as a figure from your
worst nightmare. So … I drew George my
worst nightmare.’
‘At the time, my worst
nightmare was this’,
McCaig confides. ‘I’m
inside a room during
a thunderstorm. The
hours pass by and I
suddenly become
aware that there’s a
lifeless face pressed
against the window.
It’s dead, but it’s alive, staring at me through
the rain. I drew something like that for George
— adding metal teeth … and blood red
ribbons falling over the face instead of rain.
When George saw it, he quickly turned the
drawing over. “Okay”, he said, “Now draw
me your second worst nightmare …”’
That happened to be clowns, but we’ll come
back to that.
Because Episode I had a full three years of
pre-production, an almost unheard of length
of time for a feature film, McCaig spent a lot
of time drawing masks trying to compete with
the original design for Darth Vader by Ralph
McQuarrie. ‘What Ralph came up with was
perfect’, McCaig said. ‘Part skull. Part Nazi
helmet. I tried everything I could think of to
better it before eventually throwing in the
The breakthrough
for Maul came when
McCaig began trying
members of the
Department into Sith
Lords. ‘That’s really
where my character
designs come from —
personalities, and not just ideas dropped on
top of a generic somebody’, McCaig smiled.
‘So I took David Dozoretz, the head of our
animatics group, and I drew him with this
incredible mask, and all you saw were his
eyes poking through. Just for the heck of it,
because I wanted David to see his own face,
I included a picture beside it with the mask
off. Because it was David, I put a circuit board
on this face.’
When Lucas saw the drawing, he was
intrigued by the circuit board idea. McCaig
continued along those lines, conscripting the
likeness of Episode I’s production
photographer, Greg Gawlowski, peeling
pieces out of him like he was a pumpkin. ‘It’s
always a balancing act’ McCaig recalls. ‘Greg
is such a soft-spoken, gentle soul that he was
the perfect foil for the Sith’s evil. I put a
glowing orange light inside him’, McCaig
recalls, ‘and George liked that even more’.
McCaig’s next ‘victim’ was production
designer Gavin Bocquet whom McCaig said,
‘has a sweet face — but can look quite evil if
you get him in the right light’. McCaig
struggled with the illustration, but didn’t
want to give up on it. ‘There was white-out
all over it. There was marker on top of the
white-out. I got a knife and carved into it,
and finally when I was done … I hated it.
With pieces of tape I eliminated everything
that wasn’t working … and was left with a
kind of Rorschach pattern on his face. And
that DID work. And I knew. When you’ve got
a drawing and you’ve found it … a little light
comes on. So I showed that to George, and
he felt the same way. We were on the right
track at last.’
McCaig started looking
for similar patterns in
real life. It proved to be
a simple task. ‘If you
were to strip the flesh off
your face right now …
the muscles would form
a Darth Maulish pattern.
The idea of a flayed flesh
face was both beautiful
and frightening to me. In addition, there are
markings on all kinds of dangerous animals:
snakes, tigers, wasps — a dark black stripe
on top of red or yellow is often a warning
sign to other animals to keep away.
Defenceless animals will even adopt this
pattern to scare others off.’
Similar markings could be found in human
culture as well. ‘I looked at a lot of African
tribes’, McCaig said. ‘Some of the facepainting seemed quite frightening: blood-red
and shiny. It looked like the owners had hit
their heads real hard.’
‘Of course, it really all comes back to clowns.
Clowns have always scared the pants off me.
Who knows what they’re feeling behind those
painted smiles? I’ve had nightmares about
Bozo the Clown since I was three.’
McCaig also created a series of real
Rorschach designs by dropping ink onto
paper, folding it in half, then opening it up,
until he found just the direction he was
looking for. ‘I still have all those. A bunch of
splattered ink patterns. The final pattern was
a mixture of those, my research, and my own
In the end, McCaig used his own face for the
final design for Darth Maul. ‘I know my own
evils and darkness better that anyone else’s’,
he said.
As a final touch, McCaig
sought to balance the
beastliness of the head
with a little beauty. ‘To
balance a design as
horrible as a flayed-flesh
head, you might give it
a soft hood … or long,
flowing hair … or, in this
case, feathers. These
were beautiful black feathers, bound like
Native American prayer totems to a length
of piano wire. And every morning I imagined
Darth Maul would get up and bind his head
with this piano wire, and that the feathers had
to end up at the right points — it was just a
part of the focusing of the Sith.’ Nick Dudman,
creature effects supervisor, and his crew later
interpreted those feathers as horns.
character’s costume is
not an afterthought,
but an integral part to
the design of any
character. ‘I had done
reflected the peeled
flesh thing, so the
costume was also
dissected into muscle patterns’, he said. ‘The
first costume was quite big — making him
larger than life. He had Batman spikes sticking
outside of his neck. For most of the
storyboarding, that was his costume. But
George kept referring to the Sith-Jedi battle
as a cockfight, with a lot of spinning and
jumping — and I realized what a waste it was
to have him in this tight body suit.’
Once again looking to nature, McCaig noticed
a trend for large manes and features that flare
up when attacking. Consulting with costume
designer Trisha Biggar, he devised something
similar to Samurai pleats, ‘so that when he
spins, they can all flay out to the side’.
Given the challenging
task of creating a
villain to hold his own
in a universe with
Darth Vader, McCaig
is pleased with the
positive reaction to
Darth Maul. ‘It’s
drawings are just different from the other
ones … they stand out even from the
beginning as icons. That’s where we are with
Episode II right now — looking for the new
Concept drawings for Darth Maul by Iain McCaig.
Star Wars™ and © 2002 by Lucasfilm Ltd. All rights reserved.
Star Wars: The Magic of Myth
For more information on the exhibition
Star Wars: The Magic of Myth,
visit the Powerhouse Museum’s website
For more information or to make a booking, contact:
Education and Visitor Services, Powerhouse Museum
Telephone: (02) 9217 0222
Fax: (02) 9217 0441
Email: [email protected]
Post: PO Box K346, Haymarket NSW 1238
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Unless otherwise stated, all photographs © Powerhouse Museum.
For non-commercial educational use only. Unauthorised uses (eg duplication, sale or resale) strictly prohibited. © 2002 Lucasfilm Ltd. All rights reserved.