Back in 1977, Star Wars was praised for it's creative use of practical effects that took us to a galaxy far, far away. With the prequel trilogy, CGI was king, and fans weren't crazy about it - in fact, the backlash regarding CGI ran just as heavy as the script and other problems that left Star Wars passionates feeling discouraged and betrayed. But, according to several reports leading up to [Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens](movie:711158) have reinforced the idea that we'll be seeing practical effects make a grand return in the next film.
There have already been a decent handful of reveals regarding the effects, but the film's stellar trailer did leave fans worrying when a shot of BB-8, the fandom's new darling droid, seemed a little too clean.
Cue Jedi Master and Clown Prince of Crime, Mark Hamill, who revealed that the new "ball droid" is absolutely real, and he even played with it on set. The actor sat down with IGN and talked about his reaction to the new droid:
I said, “How are you ever gonna top R2-D2, the most adorable droid in movie history?” And then they have this new one. I can’t even tell you his name, but you saw it in the trailer.
Hamill went on to detail his experiences on set with the droid, which were... well, totally adorable:
And when they were demonstrating how they did this thing, live on set — because it’s not CGI, that’s a live prop — I was just amazed. They let me play around with it. [Laughs] I was running it all around at the creature shop up in Pinewood. I’m telling you, it’s an absolute delight.
This is pretty freakin' cool considering the kind of engineering that needs to go into this droid. While the real-life models may not have all of these functionalities, the last article I wrote on BB-8 included a look into it's capabilities, and how it rolls.
BB-8 isn't the first practical effects work we've seen in VII, either. We've already been introduced to some of the different ones we'll see in the new film!
Earlier this year, TMZ busted out a ton of photos from set that included a look at a giant pig-like creature. We've seen this creature in concept art, supposedly being used to tow junk parts to a bidding station by new main character Rey.
The Scaly Merchant
While filming was going on, J.J. Abrams announced the Force for Change charity to raise money for the UNICEF Innovation Labs. One lucky fan was able to win a chance for a cameo in Episode VII, and the rest of us were given our very first (non-leaked) peek at one of the creatures we'll encounter in the new film. This one looks like a traveling merchant with little dino-chicks (see them in food form here) to sell on it's back.
The Ominous Hand
Whether or not this hand belongs to someone we already know, the team at Bad Robot decided to share a little thank-you for all the support Force for Change had gotten, and named the winner of their contest. I loved these little reveals, because while one fan got to go to set, the sneak peeks helped me alleviate how much jelly I was spreading on my fanwich. This robotic hand could belong to someone, but more than anything, it looks like a protocol droid's hand without any covering to me. But hey - time will tell!
We've also been given great looks at X-Wings (and we know that they were real on set, along with two different scale sizes of the Millennium Falcon) but knowing that this much work is going into the practical effects has given me a good deal of hope in the upcoming installment. Fingers crossed!