LonelyPlanet.com sat down with Scott Trowbridge and Doug Chiang, two of the creators and designers of Batuu, to discuss what went into the place-making of this new planet.
In May, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opened at Disneyland in California. It’s set to open in August at Walt Disney World in Florida. The setting for this new theme park land is Black Spire Outpost on the fictional planet of Batuu. We sat down with some of the creators and designers of Batuu and discussed what went into the place-making of this new planet.
Scott Trowbridge, Portfolio Creative Executive and Studio Leader for Walt Disney Imagineering said when tasked with building Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, one of the first decisions was to create an entirely new, never-before-seen planet. Guests now have the opportunity to become a character and part of the story.
Walt Disney Imagineering collaborated with Lucasfilm Ltd., to create a planet that feels like it has been a part of the Star Wars story forever. Doug Chiang, Vice President and Executive Creative Director, Lucasfilm Ltd., discussed what went into creating this new world, with its influences from Istanbul and Marrakesh to Arizona.
Q: What’s it like to design a real place that’s not a movie set?
Chiang: One of the great challenges and joys we had was designing and building a real location. When you’re designing movie sets, they’re false – because that’s movie making. You’re experiencing a place from a very specific point of view of the director. Here, the point of view is you. So the challenge is how do you design a space that’s so immersive, that’s real?
One of the first things we did was create a new place and a new identity that fits seamlessly within the Star Wars universe. That’s really important.
I first started working for George [Lucas] in 1995. I spent seven years with him learning about designing for Star Wars. There’s a very distinct visual vocabulary, and a lot of it was established by Ralph McQuarrie – the original Star Wars concept designer. Ralph McQuarrie is Star Wars, and Star Wars is Ralph. As you notice in a lot of Ralph’s early designs there’s a very distinct iconic shape which are domes, spheres, and spires. We wanted to lean into that. We also wanted to be very careful that we created our own identity. Our goal was to anchor the land in something that was very sincerely Star Wars but add a freshness to it.
Part of what we do in terms of design is actually do a lot of homework. So we go on location scouts. We decided to figure out what should this place be; how rich can it be? It had to have layers and layers of history and story, and visually it had to reflect that as well. So we went to the Middle East. We went to Istanbul, Turkey to do some research in terms of what is so iconic and interesting.
Inspiration for the market scene on Batuu came from research on location in marketplaces of Marrakesh, Morocco and Istanbul, Turkey as well as the Hagia Sophia, a very iconic mosque in Istanbul. Going on location is very helpful because there’s so much you can find and mine in terms of design – smelling the air, feeling the moisture in the air, will inform how you design what goes into it.
Being in Istanbul you can see how the street market grows by layers and layers of history from the people that live there and start taking over. Residents start putting in their own wiring and gives it a real distinct history. You can tell that residents live here, put in an air conditioner over time, you have to string wires and find power for it and gives it a sense of reality that’s very strong. Often when we go on location we look at the most obscure things like junction boxes and how they would repair things. These are all key elements for the authenticity for what that design is because these are real things. People actually did this, and allows us to take this research back to Batuu.