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Special Effects maestro Kit West overleden

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Kit West

Zojuist bereikte ons het bericht dat Kit West op zaterdag 16 april is overleden.

Hij is bekend van zijn werk voor Raiders of the Lost Ark (waarvoor hij een Oscar won) en Return of the Jedi (dit leverde hem een BAFTA op). Ter nagedachtenis onderstaand het interview dat ik in mei 2010 met hem had.

Kit WestChristopher ‘Kit’ West 1936-2016

What got you into the effects business? Was it a movie, an experience or something else?

On leaving college my first employment was as a trainee camera assistant with a documentary film company, Realist Film Unit, producing Government and Military training films.
My national service (2 years) was spent in the army in Malaysia, and Singapore during which I experienced my first introduction to pyrotechnics, detecting booby traps and explosive devices.
On leaving the army, I was re-employed by the same company but by now they had a branch producing cinema and television commercials.
It was in the TV commercial world that I eventually became a DOP but also specializing in photographic effects.
Later I joined a company owned by a feature Special Effects Supervisor, Les Bowie, and for many years I was his in-house cameraman, photographing elements for matte shots miniatures, and in camera photographic effects for feature films.
It was whilst working at Bowie Films I took an interest in the practical and mechanical side of the special effects world, and started to learn the ‘tricks of the trade’.
I was in 1964 that I was first credited as Special Effects Supervisor on a feature movie.

How did you get approached to work for ILM?

I wasn’t actually ever directly employed by ILM. I had just completed working on Raiders of the Lost Ark and it was at the film’s end of picture wrap party that George Lucas approached me, and offered me Return of the Jedi.
I was directly employed by the movies production company – Chapter 3 Productions UK.

You were the mechanical supervisor for Return of the Jedi. What was your exact task and how did your days look?

After completing all the location reccees in Arizona and the Redwood Forest in California, I returned to my base at Elstree Studios in England and signed on most of my crew from Raiders of the Lost Ark. We prepared all the mechanical, atmospheric and pyrotechnic effects that were to be filmed on the sound stages in Elstree Studios, then concentrated on all the major mechanical rigs required in the States.
We built all the speeder bikes and their travelling and gimble mechanisms for shooting on location in the Redwoods, and the bluescreen shooting at ILM Studios in San Rafael.
Also built in the UK was the hover skiff which floated over the Sarlacc Pit, next to Jabba’s Sail Barge in the deserts of Yuma. This also included all the gimble support mechanism controlled by hydraulics.
The animatronic tentacle which rises up from the bottom of the Sarlacc pit was also one of my tasks.
The radio controlled R2-D2 and all the other robots made for the production were another of my responsibilities, both on the UK locations and in the States.

Which scenes from Return of the Jedi did you work on? If I’m correct one of the scenes you worked on was the speeder bike chase through the forest?

I worked on every live action sequence during the shooting of Return of the Jedi, both in the UK and in the United States. In the UK I was assisted by my usual English crew, and in the US I had the cooperation of Roy Arbogast and his LA team.

What difficulties did you experience working on Return of the Jedi? Was there any negative experience that stands out?

I suppose I could say the excessive heat of the desert in Arizona, and the constant downpours of rain in the Redwoods made working conditions rather difficult, but nothing that I have not experienced on other shoots around the world.
There were only maybe a couple of occasions when I found myself in between artistic difference from the director (the late Richard Marquand) and George Lucas the producer. As far as my memory serves me, the producers’ side usually won.
Besides the difficulties: what were the positive points regarding working on Return of the Jedi?

The positive side was of course that one was very aware that the production on which we were working on had tremendous potential with the success of the previous two Star Wars episodes. The crews in all departments were a joy to work with, meaning from the producers right the way down to craft services.

Before Star Wars, you worked on another Lucasfilm production: Raiders of the Lost Ark, for which you won an Oscar. Can you tell something about working on that movie? For instance: which scenes did you work on?

Once again, I supervised the physical, atmospheric, mechanical, and pyrotechnic effects, throughout the entire production. Again shooting the interiors on the sound stages at Elstree Studios in London, and the locations in Hawaii, France, and on the edge of the Sahara in Tunisia.
This was my first time working with director Steven Spielberg, and although I found it very demanding I always had the feeling that his demands and criticisms were well justified, and also had the feeling we were working on a product which was to be successful. How true that was.

You have worked with the legendary George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. What is in your opinion the one thing that really defines these two men?

One must remember that I only worked with George in his capacity as a producer and never as director. With Steven he is usually wearing both hats, director and producer.
They are both of course both Grand Masters of the movie business, and I have learnt so much from both men, taking knowledge and tricks of the trade with me on subsequent productions. I THANK THEM BOTH FOR IT.

Since the mid 90’s CGI is taking over from the ‘old’ effects. I am always interested what someone who is in the effects business thinks about this. Do you think it’s good or bad that the old effects crafts are disappearing and computers are taking over?

I would not say, for one moment, that the CGI industry is replacing the standard practical live action effects, if anything they are enhancing a lot of what I create.
I am finding more recently that producers are asking me if I could come up with some of my old techniques, to try and keep some of the CGI costs down.
The CGI departments on all shows I have been involved on have requested numerous practical ‘elements’ to include in their effects shots.
There will always be a need for a practical effects department, as long as the movie has live action artists in the show.

During your career you have worked with some legendary effects people: Joe Johnston, Dennis Muren, Phil Tippett, Richard Edlund….just to name a few. What are the most important things you have learned from your colleagues?

Of course working alongside the likes of Richard Edlund, Phil Tippett, Dennis Muren, and Joe Johnston was truly a pleasure, and I have always had a wonderful cooperation with all these ‘wizards’ of the CGI world. I would like to think that the assistance and cooperation has gone both ways.

What is your favorite scene of all the movies you did, and which scene was the most fun to do?

I think it has to be the opening sequence of Raiders of the Lost Ark. The rolling ball chasing Harrison Ford, and all the other mechanical and pyrotechnic effects are to me the most memorable and exciting in the publics mind.

Geboren toen de opnames van A New Hope van start gingen. George Lucas cultist en aanhanger van Legends (1976-2012). Voormalig assistent van Anthony Daniels. Vader van 2 Padawans. Auteur van de 'Star Wars Interviews' boekenreeks waarvoor hij 175+ cast en crewleden interviewde. Staat in de credits van de boeken The Making of Return of the Jedi, Stormtroopers: Beyond the Armor, The Star Wars Historical Sourcebook, The Star Wars Archives en Star Wars Icons: Han Solo.

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TIE Fighter comic en cover voor Alphabet Squadron

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All wings report in. Dit jaar wordt er volgens StarWars.com in nieuwe Star Wars literatuur namelijk heel wat afgevlogen. Het begint in april, als de nieuwe comic miniserie TIE Fighter van start gaat. De serie volgt de leden van Shadow Wing, een elite groep TIE piloten in de periode na Return of the Jedi. De comic wordt geschreven door Jody Houser (Age of RepublicThrawn/Rogue One adaptaties) en getekend door Rogê Antônio.

In juni gaan we dan door met Alphabet Squadron, het eerste boek in een nieuwe trilogie van Alexander Freed (Twilight CompanyRogue One). In deze boeken ontmoeten we de aartsrivalen van TIE Fighter‘s Shadow Wing, Alphabet Squadron. We zullen de rivaliteit tussen de twee dan ook van beide kanten meemaken.

Covergirl Yrica Quell is een van de hoofdpersonages in het boek. Waar deze pilote eerst zelf in een TIE vloog, spoort ze nu overgebleven Imperials op in haar X-wing. Haar commanding officer kennen we ook al: Generaal Hera Syndulla, die we nog kennen uit Star Wars Rebels!

TIE Fighter #1 ligt in april 2019 in de winkels, waarna de comic maandelijks een nieuw deel krijgt. Alphabet Squadron zal vanaf 11 juni te koop zijn.

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Nieuws

Disney bevestigt dalende verkoopcijfers Star Wars

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Last Jedi Cover

Dit weekend werden de fiscale jaarcijfers van Disney bekend gemaakt. Hieruit kwam slecht nieuws voor Star Wars: de verkoopcijfers zijn gedaald ten opzichte van het jaar ervoor.

De omzet van de divisie Consumer Products & Interactive Media division daalde over het fiscale jaar 2018 (dat loopt tot en met 30 september 2018) met 4% ten opzichte van 2017 en zelfs met 16% ten opzichte van 2016 (het boekjaar van de enorme winst waar The Force Awakens voor zorgde). De totale winst over deze twee jaar ging met 17% achteruit. Opvallend is dat het fiscale 2018 meer Star Wars releases (zowel Solo als The Last Jedi) kende dan het jaar ervoor.

De rapporten melden verder ook dit:

“The decrease in retail sales was due to lower comparable store sales, partially offset by an increase in online retail revenue. Lower comparable retail store sales reflected decreased sales of Star Wars and Moana merchandise in the current year, partially offset by higher sales of Mickey and Minnie merchandise.”

“The decrease at our publishing business was primarily due to lower sales of licensed and self-published books based on Star Wars and Frozen and a decrease in sales of comic books based on Star Wars.”

Kort samengevat: er worden minder Star Wars comics, boeken en merchandise verkocht.

Diverse media hebben op basis hiervan de conclusie getrokken dat dit mogelijk is dit een van de redenen is dat Disney baas Bob Iger al aangaf dat men gas terug gaat nemen met betrekking tot Star Wars releases, al zal dat in 2019 nog niet merkbaar zijn met Episode IX en de TV serie The Mandalorian die later dit jaar verschijnen.

Meer informatie over alle cijfers lees je hier.

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Star Wars Resistance

Resistance seizoen 2 en mid-season trailer

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Fans van Star Wars Resistance kunnen opgelucht adem halen. Niet alleen gaat de show binnenkort verder met het huidige seizoen, ook is zojuist bevestigd dat Resistance seizoen 2 eraan komt! Herfst dit jaar zal de show terugkeren om ons zoet te houden tot Episode IX verschijnt. Ook is er een nieuwe trailer voor de tweede helft van seizoen 1, die het allemaal nog spannender maakt. De trailer bevestigt namelijk dat de serie de gebeurtenissen uit The Force Awakens en The Last Jedi in gaat halen. Resistance zal daarmee een van de eerste media worden die zich tijdens de nieuwe trilogie afspeelt.

Star Wars Resistance is de nieuwste animatieserie uit het brein van Dave Filoni (Clone Wars, Rebels). De show speelt zich af rond de avonturen van Kazuda Xiono (Christopher Sean), een nieuwe spion in Leia’s Resistance. De serie is te zien op Disney XD.

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Merchandise

Nieuwe Star Wars LEGO sets in April 2019

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Nadat we enige tijd geleden al melding maakten van de LEGO sets die vanaf Januari 2019 te koop zullen zijn is er nu alweer –via de Bothan spies- informatie bekend over de sets die de Deense blokjesfabrikant in April 2019 op de markt gaat brengen:

  • 75236 – Duel at Starkiller Base $19.99 – 191 onderdelen
  • 75238 – (shooter spel) Battle of Endor $29.99 – 193 onderdelen
  • 75239 – (shooter spel) Battle of Hoth $29.99 – 235 onderdelen
  • 75240 – Vonreg’s TIE $69.99 – 496 onderdelen
  • 75241 – (shooter spel) Defense of Echo Base $59.99 – 504 onderdelen
  • 75242 – Black Ace $49.99 – 396 onderdelen
  • 75243 – Slave I $119.99 – 1007 onderdelen
  • 75258 – Anakin’s Podracer (20th Anniversary) $29.99 – 279 onderdelen

Opvallend zijn Vonreg’s TIE en Black Ace (beide schepen uit de animatieserie Resistance) en de spel sets, waarvan nog onduidelijk is wat deze nieuwe lijn gaat inhouden.

Zodra er meer informatie bekend is lees je dit op StarWarsAwakens.nl!

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