Thursday, February 28, 2013
Corellian Engineering Corporation YT - 1300 Transport Millennium Falcon
One way to know for certain the accuracy of a science fiction model kit is how easy it is to tell which models the greebling came from. This kit was a piece of cake.
The Millennium Falcon is a spacecraft in the fictional Star Wars universe commanded by smuggler Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and his Wookiee first mate, Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew). The highly modified YT-1300 light freighter first appears in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977), and subsequently in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983) and in a cameo in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005). The Falcon also appears in a variety of Star Wars Expanded Universe materials, including books, comics, and games; James Luceno's novel Millennium Falcon focuses on the titular ship.
According to Star Wars creator George Lucas, the Millennium Falcon's design was inspired by a hamburger, with the cockpit being an olive on the side. The ship originally had a more elongated appearance, but the similarity to the Eagle Transporters in Space: 1999 prompted Lucas to change the Falcon's design. The original model was modified, re-scaled, and used as Princess Leia's ship, Tantive IV.
The sound of the ship traveling through hyperspace comes from two tracks of the engine noise of a McDonnell Douglas DC-9, with one track slightly out of synchronization with the other. To this, sound designer Ben Burtt added the hum of the cooling fans on the motion-control rig at ILM.
Visually, the Millennium Falcon was represented by several models and external and internal sets. For A New Hope, a partial exterior set was constructed and the set dressed as Docking Bay 94 and the Death Star hangar. Besides the functional landing gear, an additional support held up the structure and was disguised as a fuel line. The interior set included the starboard ring corridor, the boarding ramp, cockpit access tunnel, gun turret ladder, secret compartments, and the forward hold. The cockpit was constructed as a separate set that could be rocked when the ship was supposed to shake. Several inconsistencies exist between the internal set and the external set, the cockpit access tunnel angle being the most noticeable.
The effects models for A New Hope matched the design of the exterior set. The primary model was 5 feet long and detailed with various kit parts. The ship was represented as a matte painting when Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) sees it for the first time, showing the full upper surface. For the 1997 Special Edition, a digital model replaces the effects model in several shots, and is used in a new shot of the Falcon lifting off from Docking Bay 94.
For The Empire Strikes Back, a new external set was constructed in a hangar by Marcon Fabrications in Pembroke Dock, West Wales. Once completed, it weighed over 25 tons and used compressed air hover pads for movement around the set. It was disassembled and shipped to the studio for filming. As in A New Hope, the location set was changed around the ship set. The only major design change was to add additional landing gear where the disguised fuel line had been in A New Hope. As this set included the port side, that gave the set seven landing gear. The internal set was slightly refitted from A New Hope and featured a larger cargo hold, an additional corridor to port, and an equipment room. Two new interior sets were created that are not shown to connect to the rest of the set: a top hatch that Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) uses to rescue Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), and the compartment where Luke rests on a bunk.
The 5-foot-long effects model from A New Hope was modified to reflect the additional landing gear, and several new models were built, including one roughly the size of a U.S. Quarter Dollar. For the 1997 Special Edition, a CGI model replaced the effects model during the approach and landing on Cloud City.
No new models or sets were created for Return of the Jedi. A portion of the full-scale ship was used for a scene cut from Return of the Jedi in which several characters board the Falcon in a sandstorm on Tatooine. In the scene when Han exacts a promise from Lando not to damage the Falcon, the Falcon is represented by a backdrop painting. It is also in a matte painting of the entire hangar bay.
The internal and external sets were scrapped after filming on Return of the Jedi ended. The effects models were kept by Lucasfilm and some have been on display from time to time.
A digital version of the Falcon appears briefly on Coruscant in Revenge of the Sith. Lucas has stated that the ship is the Falcon and not another ship of similar design. A CGI version of the vessel also appears in the Disney attraction Star Tours: The Adventures Continue.
Han Solo won the Millennium Falcon from fellow rogue Lando Calrissian in a hand of the card game sabacc. In A New Hope, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness) and Luke Skywalker charter the ship to deliver them, C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), R2-D2 (Kenny Baker), and the stolen Death Star plans to Alderaan. Skywalker calls the ship "a piece of junk", but Solo counters by noting that the ship "may not look like much, but she's got it where it counts." When the Falcon is captured by the Death Star, the group conceal themselves in smuggling compartments built into the floor to avoid discovery during a search of the ship. Solo later collects his fee for delivering them to the hidden Rebel base and departs, but returns just in time to assist Luke in his attempt to destroy the Death Star.
Solo flies the Falcon, with Chewbacca, Leia, and C-3PO aboard, to elude the Imperial Starfleet in The Empire Strikes Back. They take refuge at Cloud City, where Darth Vader (David Prowse/James Earl Jones) captures Solo and freezes him in carbonite. Lando Calrissian helps the others escape and, at the film's end, he departs in the Falcon to track down Solo and his captor, Jabba the Hutt. Calrissian again flies the Falcon during the climax of Return of the Jedi, with friend and former smuggler Nien Nunb as co-pilot, leading the Rebels' successful attack on the second Death Star.
The Falcon is often connected to the Kessel Run; Solo, in A New Hope, brags that the Falcon made the Kessel Run in "less than twelve parsecs". As this is a unit of distance, not time, different explanations have been provided. In the fourth draft of the script, Kenobi "reacts to Solo’s stupid attempt to impress them with obvious misinformation." In the Expanded Universe, the Kessel Run is a pathway from Kessel past the Maw Black Hole Cluster used by smugglers to transport precious Glitterstim spice, and Solo's bragging refers to his ability to move the ship closer to the Maw's black holes and therefore cut the distance traveled. On the A New Hope DVD audio commentary, Lucas comments that, in the Star Wars universe, traveling through hyperspace requires careful navigation to avoid stars, planets, asteroids, and other obstacles, and that since no long-distance journey can be made in a straight line, the "fastest" ship is the one that can plot the "most direct course", thereby traveling the least distance. The novelization backs away and changes the line to "twelve Standard Time Units."
Solo's twelve-parsec Kessel Run was a result of being pursued by Imperial vessels, but also due to modifications to the ship's Hyperdrive by an engineer named Doc Han met in the Corporate Zone, all depicted in the novel Rebel Dawn by A. C. Crispin. (However, the Falcon makes its debut in the previous book in the trilogy, The Hutt Gambit, as Calrissian's personal ship.) In Dark Horse Comics' "The Kessel Run", Solo mentions a scam that Calrissian uses to win money back from Solo after losing the Falcon to him.