The Special Editions brought ‘many positive changes to the saga’



“In the mid-’90s, Star Wars creator George Lucas embarked on an ambitious project, as he revisited the films that earned him his legacy and made a variety of changes to them. 20 years later, these “Special Edition” versions of the Star Wars trilogy are still highly debated pieces of film history, as fans contest the decisions Lucas made with his films […]

Many fans may dismiss the Special Edition trilogy, but these updated versions of the film brought along with it many positive changes to the saga.

Check out why we think it’s important to honor the tweaks George Lucas made to the original Star Wars for its Special Edition!


The original films were events that captured the attention of almost the whole world, creating a global sensation whose effects are still felt today. For audiences who grew up in the ’80s and ’90s, the only way to witness the films was on the small scale. […]

Lucasfilm was so aware of this fact, that the first teasers for the Special Edition featured ships flying out of a television set to showcase how much more effective the film is on the big screen.

Additionally, the release of the Special Editions helped reignite interest in the series two years prior to The Phantom Menace landing in theaters, building the anticipation for that film.


[…] Over the course of its run, the Star Wars Special Edition ended up taking in nearly $140 million domestically, helping it earn the film a domestic grand total of over $460 million.

The film might not have enjoyed its reign as the top-grossing domestic release for too long, as 1997’s Titanic would eventually go on to earn over $600 million domestically, but the Special Editions helped show that audiences were just as interested as ever to head to the theater for a Star Wars film.

[…] Lucas’ incorporation of deleted scenes showed audiences our first glimpses of new footage since the original films’ debut, which helped satiate our anticipation for the upcoming prequels.

One of the deleted scenes that was edited back into the Special Edition of Star Wars featured Luke reuniting with his old friend Biggs, which helped pay off Luke’s complaints earlier in the film about all of his friends leaving home to become pilots. The brief interaction helped remind audiences that Luke never anticipated he’d get thrown into the Rebellion, but merely felt a calling that couldn’t be ignored.

Another deleted scene featured Han interacting with Jabba the Hutt, which was filmed before Jabba was fully conceptualized. The scene establishes the connection between the two characters and, while not pertinent to enjoy Return of the Jedi, the scene serves as an example of how a filmmaker’s ideas for a character can change over the years.


When the film was originally created, digital effects were incredibly rudimentary, with Lucas’ work helping pave the way for other filmmakers, effectively revolutionizing cinema. Despite the advanced ’70s techniques, CGI had evolved drastically in 20 years, allowing Lucas to expand the scale of the saga.

A notable change to the Star Wars Special Edition was the establishing shots of Mos Eisley as Obi-Wan and Luke departed on their mission. The updated film showed off a variety of new creatures and vehicles, as well as show off the size of Mos Eisley and the spaceport’s bizarre architecture.

Much of the film features interior locations, whether it be various rooms on the Death Star, cockpits or cantinas, making the film feel somewhat contained, with these new establishing shots helping show off how large this universe was. […]


While it’s easy to look back fondly at the original Star Wars and romanticize many of the film’s components, we often overlook that there are distracting shortcomings due to lack of technical solutions.

To convey a speeder that hovered across the terrain with ease, the film took an incredibly lo-fi approach to removing the speeder’s wheels by merely smearing vaseline over the camera’s lens. After knowing this detail, you can’t help but watch that original footage and acknowledge that the scene merely looks like someone smeared vaseline over the lens.

This poor quality effect doesn’t ruin the movie, but the transparency of cockpits in Snowspeeders in The Empire Strikes Back also help remind audiences that the effects in the film are far from perfect, sometimes to a distracting degree.

Erasing the vaseline from Luke’s speeder was only the beginning of how the original film’s effects could get an upgrade, with the Battle of Yavin elevating to an all-new level thanks to advanced special effects techniques.
The sequence may have only featured a handful of new shots, but the overhaul of the film’s already impressive effects helped solidify these final scenes in the film as some of the most exciting moments in the entire saga, even maintaining their status as some of the best aerial battles ever put to film.

To cap off the sequence, the explosion of the Death Star was amplified, helping create a much larger sense of scale compared to the original, fiery explosion.”


NASCAR driver Ryan Blaney praises The Phantom Menace and the original trilogy changes


From The Comeback:

“Ryan Blaney is one of the rising stars of NASCAR. […]

But if there’s one thing Ryan Blaney loves when he’s off the track, it’s Star Wars. The superfan loves the franchise and loves talking about Star Wars. Blaney got to meet Daisy Ridley (Rey) and even went through the entire history of Star Wars while on the road. Blaney is also a spokesperson for Star Wars Battlefront II which comes out on PS4, Xbox One and PC on Nov. 17.

As someone who is just starting to get into the Star Wars franchise, I wanted to talk to an expert and get their thoughts of how to get into it. So I went to Dover and met Ryan Blaney to ask how he became a fan and to get his thoughts on George Lucas constantly tweaking his previous creations.

Phillip Bupp: How did you get to be a Star Wars fan?

Ryan Blaney: Hmm, I don’t know. My parents and my family were never really a fan of them. When I saw the first one, Episode I Phantom Menace, that came out when I was 6 or 7. I think that time was you’re at that age where you’re just figuring out what you like. And when I saw the first one, I thought it was pretty cool and it kind of stuck with me. So I just saw it as a little kid and thought it was the right time and I enjoyed it and it’s been neat to keep enjoying it. I’m 23 now and that’s been pretty cool. I like the storylines in it and I like that other world. So yeah, I saw it and stuck with it. […]

PB: I really wanted to interview you about Star Wars because I am just now getting into Star Wars. I didn’t start watching until I was 27 and that was a couple years ago so I’m starting a bit later. Now I’ve heard from many people about different ways to watch the franchise for the first time. Either, I’ve been told to skip the prequels or watch the first six in a certain order and everything else. What would you say would be the best way for a first timer to watch Star Wars?

Blaney: The way I saw it, because I was young and I saw Episode I, I went I, II, III and then I watched the originals. So I guess you could say I watched them in [chronological] order. And other people have different opinions whether you should watch the originals first and then the prequels. I don’t really think there’s a wrong way to seeing them, it’s just whatever you want to do.

But I guess if there is a wrong way you could see them, it would be if you kinda jumped episodes. Either watch IV, V, VI and then I, II, III or go from I all the way to VI, so whichever is up to your preference.

PB: Yeah, I still need to watch the prequels, those are the only ones I haven’t seen yet. I’ve seen everything else.

Blaney: Yep.

PB: Something that Star Wars fans have been somewhat divided on is George Lucas constantly tweaking his previous movies. Do you like that he is constantly tweaking his previous creations or do you want him to leave them alone?

Blaney: I think you gotta tweak things. A part of me wants it, [along with] a lot of people like it to just leave it. Everybody tweaks things the way that somebody wants to do their movies. That’s their thought, that’s their movies. If other people think they can do it better, then make your own movie [laughter]. But I don’t mind tweaking things, I think it’s kinda cool. And whatever he wants to do, I’m along for the ride regardless really. […]

PB: Now of all the movies, which one’s your favorite?

Blaney: Honestly, really because it’s the first one I saw, Episode I is my favorite because it got me hooked on Star Wars. Darth Maul is probably my favorite character of the whole franchise. So it’ll go Phantom Menace first, even though there’s some things I don’t like about it. And then I like Empire [Strikes Back], that’s easily number two. Just Phantom Menace because it’s the first one I saw as a kid and it’ll always be special to me. […]”

Dork Side of the Force defends George Lucas, the Prequels and the Original Trilogy changes


From Dork Side of the Force:

“Today an article crossed my path from Epic Stream that stated there are problems “ruining” the Star Wars franchise. The media source listed and broke down 10 reasons how the franchise has basically lost its way.

Even though the article is very articulate and well written, I completely disagree with its conclusions. In fact, I believe the 10 reasons that are brought up actually make Star Wars far better and not worse.

The article criticized everything from George Lucas, to the Prequels, to nostalgia, and more. Here is our counter to each point of their 10 arguments. […]

8. Thank you, George Lucas.

Their argument: That George Lucas was not the main reason for their success. They credited others (writers and directors) with more of the reason for the success of Star Wars, not the Lucas.

Our counter: Even though I agree that teamwork is key to Star Wars being what it is today and that the actors, Lawrence Kasdan, the writers, and the story group are critical to their success; they do not deserve most of the credit, Lucas does.

Lucas took all the risk when he first introduced Star Wars. If it fails, then he fails. If the creator didn’t take a chance on these directors, actors, and writers to help him create his vision, then they would not be successful. George Lucas deserves most of the credit.

Plus it was his vision for the animated series Clone Wars, which took the franchise to a whole new level. Thank you, George and we give you most of the praise and credit for Star Wars. […]

4. The remastered versions of Star Wars enhance the story.

Their argument: The remastered versions of the movies makes the Original Trilogy unrecognizable.

Our counter: These new changes actually make the original movies even more recognizable.

Every time these new additions are released, it introduces Star Wars to a whole new audience that may never have seen them before.

It’s also creative and makes the movies more fun.

An example of the revised versions adding to the originals is Hayden Christensen’s version of Anakin being displayed as a Force ghost at the end. Instead of having a guy we’ve never seen standing there with Obi Wan and Yoda, the portrayed and recognizable version of the character prevents confusion and connects the Original Trilogy and Prequel Trilogy together. […]

1. The Enduring Legacy

Their argument: That The Prequels ruined everything about Star Wars.

Our counter: That viewpoint could not be further from the truth, in my opinion.The Prequels expanded and gave us backstory that we’ve always wanted. We got vast worlds, intriguing politics, the Jedi in great numbers, and an origins story of the Emperor.

They mentioned the point of The Phantom Menace explaining too much of the Force i.e with midi-chlorians. I thought it was a nice touch showing the science of The Force, but still leaving much mystery on how it works.

Their biggest blunder was saying that Episode III was the worst of them all. In fact, I believe that Revenge of the Sith was the best of not only The Prequels but on the same level with any of the originals. Hayden’s portrayal of Anakin/Vader was dark, moving, and had a vast amount humanity that was just brilliant.

Remember, George Lucas wanted to set Vader as the victim, not the villain. Revenge of the Sith achieved that goal and displayed just how tragic Darth Vader really was.

We also got the Clone Wars and a plethora of prequel stories that spawned from the movies.”

Doug Chiang: Rogue One‘s design “fills the gaps” between Episodes III and IV

u-wing“[…] Now this was interesting because I know in the prequels, you actually had a little bit of leeway, in the sense that you were so far before the original trilogy that you could kind of come up with some different looks. It was more of an art deco kind of throwback look. But on this one, it’s so close to “A New Hope”. How did you try to keep it contemporary, but also make sure to adhere to that design aesthetic?

Chiang: Yeah, that is a really good question because that’s the question we asked ourselves. We knew “Rogue One” was going to take place right before “Episode IV”. So a majority of our design had to fit seamlessly with “Episode IV”. Their approach was that what percent had to fit. And there’s fewer designs in the sense that you won’t just build the thing. So for instance, like the Yavin hangar. So we saw bits of it in “Episode IV”, but what if George had turned the camera around the other way?


And so, what it allowed us was to design something that kind of was heavily influenced by “Episode IV” and stayed true to it, but yet it gave us license to open up and expand the design vocabulary a little bit more, while still kind of fitting in. It was a really great approach for us, because one, we knew that the design had to feel as if we were designing a movie, as if we were designing an alternate version of “Episode IV”. But then, we also knew because the film before, there was going to be a small percentage, maybe 20 percent of new designs, and that was going to give us the excuse to bridge that “Episode III” to “IV”, to kind of have that sort of design history lineage, to make sense of all that.

And that’s one of the great things. When I started working on “Star Wars” George said, “You know, we’re going to try something new that we weren’t going to copy old designs.” And it seems like that was kind of the best thing because the process of designing for “Star Wars” was exactly the same. The only difference was the result. But I got to understand how George approached designs for “Star Wars”. And his approach was, really, he created the designs in our design history so that, you know, there are a lot of visual distinctions. Like, “IV”, “V” and “VI” can be easily anchored in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s designs, and “I”, “II” and “III” are like, in the 20’s and 30’s. And so, when you know that, you can then fill in the gaps, you know how to bridge the non-aesthetics.

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John Knoll compares the number of VFX shots in every Star Wars movie


/FILM : “Let’s talk about the visual effects, something that you’ve been involved with for awhile. How many visual effects are there in Rogue One, and how does that compare to the other Star Wars movies?”

John Knoll :  “It’s about 1,700. The original A New Hope was about 360. Empire Strikes Back was about 700. Return of the Jedi was about 900 or 950. Episode I was 1,900-something, 1950, I think. Episode II was 2,200. Episode III was 2,400. Episode VII was, I think just under 2,000. So we’re kind of in the middle.”

Read the rest of the interview at /FILM.

John Knoll is Chief Creative Officer and Senior Visual Effects Supervisor at Industrial Light & Magic. He has been Visual Effects Supervisor of The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith and Rogue One, among many other films.