Lucasfilm Creature And Special Make-Up Effects Supervisor Neal Scanlan created a genuine Maz Kanata for THE RISE OF SKYWALKER
Aside from the beloved legacy characters, one of the more popular characters to emerge from J.J Abrams’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens was the mysterious Force historian Maz Kanata. Voiced by Lupita Nyong’o, the wise orange-skinned CGI alien came to the aid of Finn and Rey and helped them embark on a journey that would finally find resolution in The Rise of Skywalker.
Sadly, her involvement in Rian Johnson’s divisive The Last Jedi was restricted to little more than a cameo, albeit one that saw her pop up in hologram form to help Finn and Poe track down a master codebreaker. Thankfully, J.J Abrams corrected that oversight and brought her back into the fold for The Rise Of Skywalker, a move that would see her installed as an integral part of the Resistance and present for the movies major talking points.
In the weeks since its release, many fans had voiced their appreciation for a more realistic looking Maz, often applauding the rendering of the lifelike CGI effects … only Maz wasn’t a CGI character in The Rise of Skywalker! That’s right, Maz Kanata was a fully realised animatronic in J.J Abrams climax to the Skywalker saga. (Yeah, I was amazed too!)
During an interview with Cinemablend, it was revealed that Creature And Special Make-Up Effects Supervisor Neal Scanlan had painstakingly created the animatronic exclusively for The Rise Of Skywalker. Similar animatronics have been used to great effect to recreate The Clone Wars and Rebels fan-favourite Hondo Ohnaka at Galaxy’s Edge, but when asked why Abrams had decided to go with practical effects over CGI, Scanlan indicated it had a lot to do with the scenes Maz shared with Leia Organa.
“She represented more to us than just an animatronic. She represented bringing the animatronic very much more intimately into the scene. And obviously, because it was involved with the Leia sequences, that was something that J.J. had pushed us to try and do as well. He wanted those that were involved in those sequences to be intimately involved, and that included the animatronics.”
Personally, I was totally sold on Maz’s appearance in The Rise Of Skywalker. To date, I have seen the film five times and until now, believed her to be a beautifully rendered and highly realistic CGI character. The finished article serves as a true testament to the lengths Neal Scanlan and his incredible team will go to deliver the best effects the galaxy far, far away can buy.
Kudos Neal. You fooled this cynical Star Wars fan and long may your mastery continue.
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Phil Roberts is the Owner, Daily Content Manager and Editor-In-Chief of Future of the Force. He is passionate about Star Wars, Batman, DC, Marvel, Star Trek, Indiana Jones, Ghostbusters, King Kong, and the Ray Harryhausen movies. Follow him on Twitter @philthecool where he uses the force and babbles frequently!