What did you wake up to on Christmas morning: somebody beautiful, or a stocking full of Star Wars-themed goodies? If it was the former then I guess the joke's on you, because you probably haven't yet stumbled across The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Not only is this official accompaniment to the movie a beautiful piece of art in itself, absolutely packed full of seriously eye-catching concept art from the pen of designers Rick Carter, Doug Chiang and Darren Gilford...
...it also features some surprising revelations about what didn't make it into the final film, despite being part of director J.J. Abrams's original story pitch.
Courtesy of the book and a few other fresh leaks, let's take a look at nine story details, some big and others curious, that might have made Episode 7 a very different experience.
1. Han Solo's many costume changes
Concept artist Glyn Dillon on a potentially far more adventurous wardrobe for Han Solo:
We designed quite a few costumes, but again Han Solo only ended up wearing the short brown jacket. But he had a duster coat, and for a while JJ [Abrams] and Michael Kaplan wanted the original vest.
His slightly more age-appropriate leather jacket won out in the end.
2. Leia's Senate paranoia
Recognize this woman?
Why would you? Her name is Korr Sella and her screen time was limited to a single shot without dialogue witnessing the destruction of the Hosnian solar system, but her original role in the film was bigger.
In the novelization of the film, Korr has a lengthy exchange with Leia, who wants her to speak with the Senate immediately about taking action against the First Order. Korr thinks Leia should deliver the message herself, to which Leia responds:
I might make it to the Senate. I might even be able to deliver my speech. But I would never, never get out of the Hosnian system alive. I would have a terrible ‘accident,’ or become the victim of some ‘deranged’ radical.
Leia's paranoia is much more evident than in the final cut of the film, suggesting perhaps this scene was filmed and left on the cutting room floor.
3. Sarco Plank, the "eyeless, amoral scavenger"
Sarco Plank is an alien sans eyes who appears to have been cut from the final film altogether, being glimpsed only in the background on Jakku. He also doesn't appear in the novelization, which is weird when you consider that Disney gave him his own action figure...
SlashFilm describes Plank as "An eyeless insectoid member of the Melitto species ... an amoral scavenger, bounty hunter and arms dealer who does business in Niima Outpost on Jakku." Now an arms dealer who "fences stolen weaponry to travelers", it's not a stretch to imagine that Sarco will feature in Star Wars Episode 8. It'd be a shame to let that glorious hooded robe go to waste.
4. The Ghost of Anakin
What's clear reading The Art Of... is that the concept artists had a lot of freedom to propose and design their own story ideas for the film. Concept artist Iain McCaig says of his idea for a ghostly apparition of Anakin...
“‘When you light a candle, you also cast a shadow.’ That inspired me to propose, for the first time, that Anakin’s ghost could come back. If we see Anakin Skywalker, because he does flow back and forth between Darth Vader and Anakin, let’s see him as a character with a dark and light side.
This duality of dark and light is represented in the way Anakin's face is at turns uncovered, half-masked and fully covered by the traditional Vader mask.
It's an interesting idea, but ultimately perhaps Hayden Christensen was just too busy. Ha, ha, ha...
5. Kylo Ren's perspective on Vader
We all know that Kylo Ren is an obsessive Vader fanboy, but the film doesn't reference the fact that Vader did, eventually, reject the Dark Side. The novelization clears that one up during a conversation with Rey:
Sentiment. Such a simple thing. Such a foolish error of judgment. A momentary lapse in an otherwise exemplary life ... Had the father killed the son, the Empire would have prevailed.
The man's not wrong.
6. Luke Skywalker's sand burial
Back to the book, and artist Christian Azman on a very eye-catching visual which sees Luke Skywalker given a sand burial:
Kathy [Kathleen Kennedy] would have an idea for an image or something she read about on the internet that would make an interesting scene. My image of Luke was one. It was almost like illustrating a dream, in a way.
In my opinion dream sequences rarely serve much purpose but perhaps this could have worked in a standalone teaser trailer if Kennedy and Abrams had wanted to play up the "Is Luke dead?" mystery.
7. Kylo Ren looking sharp AF
Kylo Ren was originally known simply as "Jedi Killer", and his attire was rather more stylish than his plain, cloaked appearance in The Force Awakens. He also appears to be about nine feet tall, and you could probably cut glass on those cheekbones.
8. The "humorless" Constable Zuvio
Like Sarco Plank, Constable Zuvio is another character whose scenes were shot and for whom toy merchandise was produced, before he was cut in the twenty minutes or so of footage dropped by Abrams in post-production.
Slash Film characterise Zuvio as the "honorable" and "humorless" leader of Niima Outpost's small militia with a "weary yellow eye for cheats and thieves". The Visual Dictionary adds that "he has a strong sense of justice and cannot be bribed", so no chance of anybody getting their hands on his impressive helmet.
He carries a staff and predominantly uses a blaster, and allegedly steps in when the Jakku thugs attempt to take BB-8 from Rey early on. Probably less chance of Zuvio popping up in Episode 8 than Plank.
Bonus: Lady Snoke
Senior sculptor Ivan Manzella writes in The Art Of:
Snoke almost became a female at one point. J.J. picked out a maquette he liked and then we took it to a full-size version, sculpted in plasteline. J.J. and Neal Scanlan didn’t want him to be old and decrepit, like the Emperor.
Obviously Snoke turned out differently in his final form...
...and he doesn't exactly look like he has the spring of youth in his step, but hey, J.J. Abrams has earned the right to do whatever the f*ck he wants at this point.
The Force Awakens continues to break every known record in theaters right now whilst Episode 8 is a mere 18 months away.