An advance copy of The Art of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker provided to Polygon paints the picture of a film that could have gone in a number of different narrative directions. One of the more unusual tidbits are the first details on a 14-ton puppet that was built — at least partially — and never appeared in the final film.
[Ed. note: The following contains spoilers for both Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and its companion art book.]
In the final version of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Kylo Ren travels to the planet Mustafar to locate a rare Sith wayfinder, only to find it hidden inside an unassuming stone vault. A similar sequence was created in 2017, and would have seen the young Ben Solo travel to a swamp planet instead. There he would meet up with a grotesque creature known simply as the Oracle.
The Oracle takes many shapes in The Art of Star Wars. Concept artists were asked to generate multiple interpretations to inspire its writers. The tamest samples are simply large heads rising out of the water, while the most grotesque version included in the book is a Cthulhu-inspired abomination emerging from inside the skull of a giant human baby.
According to the art book, director J.J. Abrams and his team finally settled on the lumpy, bug-eyed version seen in images that leaked in January. It had six articulated legs and webbed feet, and was to glide across a pond on top the head of another massive creature, this one with a mix of porcine and demonic features.
As it turns out, the effects team at Lucasfilm actually built it — at least in part.
“The Oracle is the biggest silicon pour we have ever done,” said Neal Scanlan, creature and droid effects creative supervisor, in the book. “The guys who did Bor Gullet for [Rogue One: A Star Wars Story] approached this one in a rather off-handed way. To their credit, they did it in one pour. It was nearly twenty-eight thousand pounds.”
Scanlon goes on to add that working the creature would have required a total of nine puppeteers — two for the eyes, one for the head, and six more for the legs. The Jabba the Hutt puppet created for Return of the Jedi, by comparison, only weighed about 2,000 pounds and required just three puppeteers.
“Isn’t it odd that we just kind of approach this stuff in a slightly easygoing way,” Scanlan quipped, “whereas a few years ago that would have just been a nightmare? Now, it just seems that’s the norm.”
The Art of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker was originally scheduled for release on Dec. 20, 2019 — the same day the motion picture hit theaters. The book now goes on sale March 31.