- Andrew L. Jones, the recently Emmy-winning production designer of “The Mandalorian,” has kept up the “Star Wars” tradition of using real-world objects for props.
- He even reproduced a specific compressor machine that was used in the very first “Star Wars” movie inside Docking Bay 94, where the Millennium Falcon was first seen.
- Insider spoke with Jones about this prop, and what finishing season two has been like in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Production designer Andrew L. Jones tackled the unique challenge of bringing the rich world of “Star Wars” to a live-action TV show setting for the very first time. His recently Emmy-winning work on Disney Plus’ “The Mandalorian” carried a specific tradition from the Lucasfilm days, including fun Easter eggs and details that superfans of the franchise might recognise.
A now-famous example found in “The Mandalorian” is the camtono â€” a special safe seen when the eponymous bounty hunter is paid with bricks of beskar in the second episode.
The camtono was a real ice cream maker that was turned into a prop, first spotted for a brief second in the 1980 “Star Wars” movie “The Empire Strikes Back.”
“There’s another example that’s interesting, although it’s not so well-known,” Jones told Insider in a recent interview. “It’s from Docking Bay 94, where the Millennium Falcon is first seen.”
Jones remembered seeing a special piece of roadwork machinery in the very first ‘Star Wars’ movie, and made sure to bring it back for ‘The Mandalorian’
Jones gives credit to the prop master for “The Mandalorian,” Josh Roth, for carrying on George Lucas’ tradition of using real world objects as set decor (called “dressing”) in the new series.
“Oftentimes they used ready-made objects, which they would modify to make into a prop,” Jones said. “And the great thing that happens is you have an association with something that’s already made, [because] of the marks of its manufacturer and its shape-language that you’re bringing to the party.”
This very thing happened to Jones himself when he saw the first-ever “Star Wars” movie, in the scene where the Millennium Falcon is first revealed. It’s sitting in Docking Bay 94, on the planet Tattooine. And in the background of that docking bay, Jones spotted a familiar object.
“They’re these strange yellow shapes, and to an American audience, they must’ve just seemed like great sci-fi dressing,” Jones said. “But I was living in the United Kingdom at the time. And in the UK, in 1976 or 1977, you would see those on the road. It’s a compressor that roadworkers used.”
In season one, episode five of “The Mandalorian,” the bounty hunter lands his ship on Tattooine, in a similar docking bay to the one from the first “Star Wars” movie. Jones remembered the yellow compressor machines, and wanted them to be in the background of this new set, too.
“I couldn’t find any reference to these things anymore because they stopped making them,” Jones said. “But I was sure that’s was what it was. So eventually Safari Sosebee, our visual art department lead, managed to track down some reference photographs. We reproduced it very accurately.”
“Anytime we can find something that is a direct lift from the originals, we’re going to try to [add it in],” Jones said.
Jones appreciates that “The Mandalorian” cocreators, Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau, are both highly collaborative and will validate anyone’s idea that comes up, as long as it works within the show.
“We’re also working with Doug Chiang in San Francisco, and his incredible art team,” Jones said. “There’s such a wealth of knowledge there from this property, so you just know that there are layers and layers of ideas coming in from the original series.”
Jones and the whole ‘Mandalorian’ team know ‘Star Wars’ superfans will be on the lookout for Easter eggs and references
With the rise of social media and streaming (which enables fans to screenshot and share all the smaller background moments in a show like “The Mandalorian”), there’s a new level to which fans are able to engage with a series.
“We’re looking for opportunities to enrich the environment and put in signifiers that tie back to the originals, for sure,” Jones said. “The wonderful thing about this property is it’s so well-documented â€” there’s great photography, there’s the original drawings. I mean, we literally used the original drawings to build sets. Just scanned them in and got them to construction.”
“If you’re open to bringing in ready made objects and things that you’ve identified from the original series that might work in the new series, then that that’s a great pallet of tools to be working with,” Jones said. “You’re trying to enrich the story and give it layers of meaning. And like you say, people are going to watch this a second time. Or if their friends saw something, they will want to pass it [along].”
Jones says he and the whole team are “very keen to support” that additional layer of interest.
Season 2 of ‘The Mandalorian’ is still on track to premiere this fall
Now fans will have more to look forward to when season two of “The Mandalorian” arrives on Disney Plus sometime in the next couple of months. Shooting for the new episodes finished just before the COVID-19 pandemic led to shutdowns across many Hollywood productions.
“It’s a terrible situation,” Jones said. “We just got wrapped up in time. We were very lucky that way. A lot of shows weren’t. A lot of shows were just a matter of days or weeks short of a finishing and they had to pull the plug.”
Jones and his team had to pivot a bit for the post-production process, but he said many of the artists were able to work from home or in “a very controlled environment.” They’re even using VR technology to do “collaborative scouting” and look at the sets they have created without having to physically be together.
“The Mandalorian” season two is airing every Friday on Disney Plus this fall.
“The Mandalorian” is now available to stream on Disney Plus. The service costs $US6.99 per month or $US69.99 per year, and you can sign up here. (When you subscribe to a service through our links, we may earn money from our affiliate partners.)