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YouTube / Star Wars

Animating the AT-AT Walkers in "Star Wars"

YouTube / Star Wars
YouTube / Star Wars

In this short film, special effects artist Dennis Muren explains how he and his team animated the AT-AT Walkers from The Empire Strikes Back. Have a look—this is just under two minutes:

The Star Wars YouTube channel elaborates:

Dennis Muren looks back on how Industrial Light & Magic animated the AT-AT walkers from The Empire Strikes Back's Battle of Hoth sequence—and the inspiration for the techniques used.

Originally, Muren and his team were unsure of how they would bring the AT-ATs to life. The first idea was to build an actual robot that could move by itself, but that was deemed too complicated and costly. Instead, Muren pushed for stop-motion, citing the influence of King Kong and the realization that the staccato look of stop-motion would be appropriate for machines. Models were manipulated a frame at a time, animated in front of painted backgrounds instead of blue screen, with baking soda was used in place of snow.

It was shot at 24 frames per second, resulting in about 5 seconds of footage per day of work. For explosions, high speed photography was used, and cutouts were used for background walkers.

One of the early ideas was to build an actual robot version that would walk on its own, but that would prove too costly and complicated. Muren, whose background was in stop-motion animation, pushed to have the sequence done using that technique—since the AT-ATs were machines anyway, the staccato look of stop-motion would be appropriate. So stop-motion models were built and manipulated in front of paintings, as opposed to blue screen, and baking soda was used for the snowy landscape. The set itself had trap doors so that animators could pop up, animate the model, go back down, and shoot a frame of film. Photo cutouts were used for walkers in the background, and smaller models were created to convey a sense of scale and depth in the shots.

ILM actually developed a new technique, called go motion, to animate portions of Empire. Go motion is similar to stop motion, but incorporates motion blur by shooting each frame while the model is moving. Animators used go motion on the tauntauns and some of the AT-AT Walker shots.

(Via Devour.)

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Amy Meredith, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0
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You Can Still Visit This Forgotten Flintstones Theme Park in Arizona
Amy Meredith, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0
Amy Meredith, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

Like many pop culture institutions of the 20th century, Hanna-Barbera’s The Flintstones hasn’t been relegated to just one medium. The animated cast of America's favorite modern Stone Age family sold cigarettes, starred in a live-action 1994 film, and inspired all sorts of merchandise, including video games and lunchboxes. In 1972, it also got the theme park treatment.

Bedrock City, located 30 minutes from the Grand Canyon in Williams, Arizona, was the brainchild of Linda and Francis Speckels, a married couple who bought the property and turned it into a 6-acre tourist attraction. Concrete houses were built to resemble the Flintstone and Rubble residences and are furnished with props; a large metal slide resembles a brontosaurus, so kids can mimic the show’s famous title credits sequence; and statues of the characters are spread all over the premises. The site also doubles as an RV campground and parking site.

A Flintstones theme park house
Matthew Dillon, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

A statue of Bam-Bam at the Flintstones park in Arizona
Matthew Dillon, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

A statue of Wilma Flintstone at Bedrock City in Arizona
Matthew Dillon, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

When it first opened, Bedrock City employed actors to stay in character, but the remote location proved challenging to retain both employees and visitors. Over the past four decades, it's had a steady stream of tourists, but not enough to turn a huge profit. Atlas Obscura reports the attractions are in various stages of disrepair.

Linda Speckels put the property up for sale in 2015 with an asking price of $2 million, but it has yet to sell. One possible hold-up: The new owner would have to negotiate a fresh licensing deal with Hanna-Barbera and Warner Bros. for the right to continue using the show’s trademarks. (A separate Flintstones park in South Dakota, owned by another member of the Speckels family, was sold and closed in 2015.) With its proximity to the Canyon, the 30 total acres could be converted into almost anything, from a mall to a golf course. For Flintstones enthusiasts, the hope is that the park’s unique attractions won’t be reduced to rubble.

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Carlo Allegri/Getty Images
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Watch Terry Gilliam's 1968 Animated Christmas Card
Carlo Allegri/Getty Images
Carlo Allegri/Getty Images

In 1968, future Monty Python member Terry Gilliam was kicking around London, working as an animator. He was asked to put together an animated segment for a Christmas show, so he hopped over to the Tate and photocopied a bunch of Victorian Christmas cards for inspiration. The resulting film, The Christmas Card, is brilliant, bizarre, and delightful. Enjoy some pre-Python madness from the master:

If you liked that, check out Terry Gilliam explaining his animation technique in 1974.

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