Merchandise has always been a significant part of the Star Wars universe, as toys and collectibles have become an integral part of the fan experience. The movies have a tremendous amount of influence over the design over the toys, but now it seems that this is a two-way street. For Star Wars: The Last Jedi, it seems that Rian Johnson actually made major changes to the ship piloted by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), when he got his hands on a prototype toy of the fighter. VFX supervisor Mike Mulholland explained:
Never question Rian Johnson's status as a fanboy -- which is something that he has continuously doubled down on in recent months. It sounds like he had an idea in his head for how to proceed with Kylo's ship in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. That said, when he got his hands on an (arguably cooler) early mockup of what the toy could look like, he decided to have his team go back and make the scene reflect the toy.
Alas, it sounds like the team couldn't meet all of Rian Johnson's demands for VFX changes. Elsewhere in Mike Mulholland's interview with Radio Times about his work on the film, it seems that Rian Johnson very much wanted to pursue practical effects for the space battles in a way that felt reminiscent of the original trilogy. In the end, while changes could be made to a spaceship like the one flown by Kylo Ren, the scenes remained predominately CGI.
We will have to wait and see how future toys will continue to influence Rian Johnson and his work in the Star Wars franchise. Although we're still in the midst of The Last Jedi's theatrical run, many fans and Star Wars insiders have already started to look ahead to Johnson's next projects in the galaxy far, far away. Specifically, Johnson is gearing up to dive into an entirely new trilogy of Star Wars films that are entirely separate from the characters and timeline established by the first three trilogies. With far more of a blank slate to work with, it may prove incredibly exciting to see how the movies AND the toys come together over the course of the next few years.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is still out in theaters, so make sure to check it out while you still can! Looking ahead through the rest of the year, make sure to check out the next major Star Wars adventure on the big screen when Ron Howard's Solo: A Star Wars Story premieres in theaters on May 25.
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Originally from Connecticut, Conner grew up in San Diego and graduated from Chapman University in 2014. He now lives in Los Angeles working in and around the entertainment industry and can mostly be found binging horror movies and chugging coffee.