Kennedy Announces Return to Practical Effects for Next 'Star Wars'

Kathleen Kennedy - H 2013
Lucas Film
Lucasfilm's president tells crowd at Star Wars Celebration Europe that the new movie helmed by J.J. Abrams will use "every single tool" in the SFX toolbox.

A lot remains unknown about 2015's Star Wars: Episode VII at this point -- almost everything, actually, aside from the fact that J.J. Abrams will be directing and that shooting will take place in London. But Lucasfilm topper Kathleen Kennedy revealed something this weekend that could make many fans more excited about the new movies than they were about George Lucas' own prequel trilogy: This time, there'll be less CGI.

"The conversation we're having all the time now about Episode VII is, 'How much CGI?'" Kennedy told the audience at this weekend's Star Wars Celebration Europe event in Essen, Germany. "We're looking at what the early Star Wars films did; they used real locations with special effects. So [for Episode VII] we're going to find some very cool locations, we're going to end up using every single tool in the toolbox."

Much of Lucas' Episode II and Episode III were shot on greenscreen, with locations added digitally after the fact; critical and fan response to those movies was notably negative -- mostly because of the screenplay and central performances in both, but the reliance on computer effects was a common complaint from many.

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Kennedy continued, "I was amazed yesterday and looking at what the fans are doing," referring to some of the presentations and displays at Celebration Europe. "Using model makers, using real droids, taking advantage of the artwork that you can touch and feel -- we want to do that in combination with CG effects."

The return to old-school effects wasn't the only retro news about Episode VII from Celebration Europe this weekend. Kennedy also confirmed rumors that John Williams would return to score the new trilogy.

Currently, Kennedy said, Episode VII is still in early preproduction stages, with Abrams and other writers at his Bad Robot production company still creating new characters for the movie. Half of her week is taken up with story meetings with Abrams and Bad Robot, she told the crowd. "We have the opportunity to create amazing new characters," she explained, adding that "story and character are all we're talking about right now."