It's been a long time since a Star Wars convention was a place to break news, but with Disney and Lucasfilm and Bad Robot all charging ahead with Star Wars Episode VII, the Star Wars Europe Celebration in Messen, Germany suddenly became a hotbed of news over the weekend. OK, let's make that a lukewarm-bed. There were no announcements about cast or story or anything else for Star Wars: Episode VII, but Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy was on hand to talk a bit about the film and their development of the story. You can watch her above in this brief conversation with panel moderator Warwick Davis, which happened backstage.
IGN was also on hand to give an update on the panel itself, where Kennedy got into more detail about exactly how they plan to accomplish the effects in Episode VII. The franchise that perfected special effects created with models and other analog technology dove deep into CGI with the prequels, a move that even the most lackadaisical Star Wars fans still resent. So you can probably imagine the cheering and lightsaber-waving that happened at Celebration Europe when Kennedy said this:
"It's a conversation we're having all the time in the development of Episode VII. Looking at all the Star Wars movies and getting a feel for what even some of the early films did, combining real locations and special effects – that's something we're looking very seriously at.
So we're going to find some very cool locations that we're going to use in support of Episode VII. And I think we're probably going to end up using every single tool in the toolbox to create the look of these movies."
Asked by Davis to describe that toolbox, Kennedy continued:
"It's using model makers; it's using real droids; it's taking advantage of artwork that you actually can touch and feel. And we want to do that in combination with CG effects. We figure that's what will make it real."
Between the return of model makers and John Williams to do the score, fans might start thinking they've been transported back to the early 80s, when new Star Wars movies meant nothing but hope, and Jar Jar Binks wasn't even a glimmer in George Lucas's eye. This is also the first news we've gotten in ages about the movie that seems to hit at the heart of what fans really want to see. The word about Ryan Gosling and Zac Efron being eyed for roles in the film, or the rumored casting breakdown looking for attractive people of varying ages, made Episode VII feel like just another average blockbuster coming down the pipeline. But the Star Wars films have been obsessed over for decades for all the little details and eccentricities of the world-- there's a reason that "Han Shot First" is still an active, lively debate you could have started in any given line at Comic-Con last weekend. Kennedy, though she's new as the chief of Lucasfilm, clearly knows it. And at at time when there are so few details to share about the actual story of Episode VII, talking about the nitty-gritty tech stuff is by far the best way to keep the fans strung along until the next big bit of news.
We're expecting that next burst of news to come in just a few weeks, when the D23 Expo kicks off in Anaheim. Disney has promised some reveals about Episode VII, though the possibilities there are endless-- it could be as simple as trotting Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford out onstage, or director J.J. Abrams could really go for it and tell us what the story will be about. Eric will be on hand at the convention to bring you the news one way or another, so check back starting August 9 when all-- or at least something-- will be revealed.