The Mandalorian is coming to Disney+ as the very first live-action Star Wars series, and anticipation is high to see what executive producer Jon Favreau brings to the table. Favreau has been behind massive and game-changing pop culture hits like Iron Man, The Jungle Book, and The Lion King, and he has experience at combining live-action with animation and special effects to great success. Naturally, a Star Wars project will involve a lot of effects, which always raises the questions: how will this project compare to the prequels?
The prequels have been divisive at best, and one of the biggest criticisms of them is the obvious and frequent use of green screen and CGI. The effects were unprecedented when the films were released, with full characters even comprised of CGI. Jon Favreau recently shared that The Mandalorian will use "engine technology, virtual camera work and virtual production" for "virtual sets and virtual set extensions."
So, since The Mandalorian is seemingly going to go pretty heavy on the CGI, will the effects be the same or even below the standard set by the prequels, despite the years that have passed? This is a TV show rather than a movie we're talking about, after all, and even the massive reported budgets for episodes of The Mandalorian don't match the budget for a Star Wars film. Jon Favreau explained some of what to expect when it comes to the Mandalorian effects compared to the prequel trilogy:
Well, I would argue that the prequels are — and [George] Lucas in general is — the bedrock that all of this is built on. He is the first person that had digital photography, he was the first person to do completely CG characters. The whole notion of not having even a print [version of the film], of having everything be 0's and 1's, was all George. Not to mention EditDroid, which turned into Avid, Pixar was spawned out of their laboratories at LucasFilm, so he is arguably the center of the Big Bang for everything that I'm doing. It's building on the shoulders of what he was able to innovate.
For all that the prequels have been criticized for what some consider the overuse of green screen as opposed to practical sets and effects, there is no denying that George Lucas changed the rules for what can be done with filmmaking. Now, Star Wars fans who have kept up with the franchise since Revenge of the Sith ended the prequel trilogy back in 2005 know that the effects have come a long way, with characters and sets as well as the space battles and light saber showdowns.
According to Jon Favreau, the effects that George Lucas used to revolutionize the film industry back in the late 90s/early 2000s are the foundation of what he's using for The Mandalorian. CGI has greatly evolved since the days of the prequels, and that should show in The Mandalorian. Who says a live-action Star Wars project has to release on the big screen to be truly cinematic?
Jon Favreau went on in his chat with THR to share how the process of creating CGI has changed over the years since the prequels as well as how George Lucas responded when he visited the set of The Mandalorian:
This is 20 years later, and also there's been a democratization of the skill set too. It's no longer a few vendors innovating in ivory towers, that information has been expanded and disseminated and democratized so that effects that would cost you millions of dollars, you can do it on a PC now, with consumer-facing filmmaking tools. When George came to our set and visited The Mandalorian, he said, 'Oh, we did this,' and what he meant was, 'We had green screen and we were building small sets and expanding upon it.' Now, we have video walls, NVIDIA video cards that allow a refresh rate that allows you to do in-camera effects, we're in there taking advantage of the cutting-edge stuff.
Interestingly, The Mandalorian will release just over 20 years after The Phantom Menace hit theaters in May 1999 as the first Star Wars movie since Return of the Jedi back in 1983. The new show debuts when Disney+ goes live on November 12 this year. George Lucas gave Jon Favreau some solid advice for creating The Mandalorian, so hopefully he's satisfied with the finished product.
The show certainly has put together a stellar cast, including Pedro Pascal in the lead role, and he has already explained how Star Wars compares to Game of Thrones. Werner Herzog is on board as well, and he was happy to sign on despite never even seeing a Star Wars film, which is apparently a thing that is possible!
Throw in Dave Filoni and the possibility that Taika Waititi will be voicing a classic Star Wars character, and there's a lot to look forward to. Filoni is on the record that advice from George Lucas helped shape Clone Wars into what it was rather than something Star Wars Rebels-esque, so hopefully his advice to Jon Favreau will pay off as well.
Only time will tell. More TV shows in the Star Wars universe are coming to Disney+, which is just in time considering the last ongoing Star Wars series is ending after its upcoming season. The long-awaited new season of The Clone Wars will arrive on the streaming service, and a prequel series to Rogue One is on the way as well, with Rogue One star Diego Luna back on board to tell Cassian's story from the days before he met Jyn Erso.
While premiere dates for The Clone Wars' next season and the Rogue One prequel have not been announced yet, The Mandalorian will be live on Day 1 for Disney+. Jon Favreau revealed that work already began on Season 2 for the show, so there's no need to be too concerned that the show will end after just one season. Disney+ may have plenty of limited series in the works -- possibly including one about Obi-Wan Kenobi starring Ewan McGregor -- but The Mandalorian likely won't be one of them.