The legendary Joe Johnston just revealed this classic behind-the-scenes video of the making of one — one of the shots from Empire Strikes Back featuring the AT-ATs as they lumber across Hoth. It’s amazing how slow and low-tech this process was, but also how fantastically the special effects still hold up.
Here’s Johnston himself commenting on the video:
Original Trilogy fans...here’s the digitized super 8mm clip of Phil Tippett, Jon Berg and Doug Bestwick stop-motion animating a snow walker shot from THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. As I watch this for the first time in thirty-five years I am truly amazed at the amount of work that went into the creation of just one shot in this iconic sequence. I love stop motion with all it’s archaic flaws and charm. This is a great example of what will hopefully not become a lost art form.
I remember changing the frame rate a couple of times before switching to live action. In the later settings it’s easier to see the walkers’ progress. The VistaVision camera recording the shot is the large black shape at bottom center, which gives you a hint as to which shot in the sequence the guys are animating. Watch the cut sequence...it’s pretty obvious which shot this is. The video camera on the stand to the left of it is for the animators’ reference monitor.
I had forgotten that there’s a short snippet of Mike Pangrazio painting one of his incredible panoramic landscapes that formed the backgrounds for the majority of the stop-motion shots. There’s even a brief shot of a very focused Nilo Rodis at the end. This was a blast from the past for me and I hope you all enjoy it. Thanks for watching!