Introduction

Welcome to Millennium Falcon Notes! This is a fun-filled compendium of information related to the models and sets of the fictitious pirate spacecraft from the popular and lucrative Star Wars entertainment franchise.


Yes. This is nerd-o-rama. And admittedly a bit goofy. After all, the makers of Star Wars probably thought they were producing a one-off bit of summer fun. Not a beloved masterwork that people would be poring over decades later, like mediaeval monks searching for secret truths in ancient manuscripts and holy books.

But I was doing a bit of research on the screen appearance of the ship, in order to fulfill a childhood dream of making a model of it. And I thought I'd post my findings online in case it's of interest to anyone else, so here it all is!

VIDEO REVIEWS

I've also put together a two-part review of the remarkable Bandai 1:72 “Perfect Grade” Millennium Falcon kit.

THE MOVIES

This site documents the Millennium Falcon fantasy ship, especially as it was depicted in the original trilogy (OT) of Star Wars movies.

Star Wars (1977). Retroactively retitled “Star Wars: A New Hope” (ANH) in 1981. Technically the 1977 release wasn't “ANH”, but for the sake of convenience I'll use this term.

The Empire Strikes Back (1980). Also referred to as ESB.

Return of the Jedi (1983). Or ROTJ.

In the 1990s, computer-enhanced "Special Editions" (SE) of the first films were released.

The Falcon also appears, in a modified form from the Original Trilogy, in the new sequels.

The Force Awakens (2015). Or TFA.

The Last Jedi (2017). Or TLJ.

Solo (2018). An early Falcon is expected to appear in this film, which covers the adventures of a young Han Solo.

SPECIAL MODIFICATIONS — OR CONTINUITY ERRORS?

The Millennium Falcon, one of the coolest fictional spaceships ever designed, is also a frustrating one for obsessive fans who want to nail down a canonical and self-consistent representation of a fantasy universe.

It boils down to one fact: there is no single Millennium Falcon.

It‘s like the legions of dogs employed to play Lassie or Benji. Or the different actors who have played James Bond. Quite simply, various models, sets, paintings, and computer files have been used to depict the Falcon over the years, and there isn’t full consistency between them.

Although the models and sets are similar in a broad sense, they differ in sizes and details. The discrepancies were mostly caused by tight budgets, insufficient time, and changing plot requirements. Sometimes details will even change from shot to shot and scene to scene. There was also the expectation, frankly, that the film would be seen once or twice in the cinema and then rarely again. Home video wasn’t much of a market back in 1977, let alone freeze frames at BluRay image quality!

The main points of geek frustration are:

1) The physical sets representing the interior of the Falcon could never have fit into the physical set representing the ship’s exterior. This is the biggest problem. A large exterior hull was built on a soundstage in England for the first Star Wars film, but for budgetary reasons, the set wasn't remotely big enough to match the scale of the magnificently detailed interior sets.

It’s easiest to see this problem by way of a diagram. Stinson Lenz has kindly shared his fantastic work in this regard - his rendering shows the full-size interior set (in black) superimposed over the full-size exterior set (in grey). In this case the plans are from the Empire Strikes Back sets, though they’re pretty similar to the other movies where the Falcon has appeared.

https://95d3c479-a-62cb3a1a-s-sites.googlegroups.com/site/millenniumfalconnotes/home/Falcon%20Interior-Exterior%20Set%20Comparisons.png?attachauth=ANoY7cqhvKtaFcWEIBGuaDpZPF8bFQW4j1S7GfnjWZacObCqwnojolYDOnBZj6nUAtTeQiLJO179FL_XOwLHALJUKF8cYJRHeycgk8bnSvBVQYoUXA8CjEAvYrUYeUAlgzSM3AQ1EJcl9f0yGWoRSrjUVn_IhhdpqD1K98SUA1ZHp5Ppl8jvyiNUS3etPFZ6poWxE3SDglBSbEVYTa5gCClytuzdotIwSMaPj7mGu8YbveJBd272yC_uljSUQYTjTEb82XnQDN08sT-LIEV6Q8UtwiBqQDcARA%3D%3D&attredirects=0

And as you can see, there’s simply no way in heck that the interior layout could actually have fit inside that exterior hull!

2) Different models and sets were built, and they have subtly different details. Only one miniature was built for 1977’s ANH. But it was later modified for ESB, and used alongside new smaller-scale models. The sets were based on the miniatures, but differ in details as well as size.

3) Different features and functions were added to the Falcon as time went along, for both narrative and visual reasons, but no effort was made to explain how these features were added and how they affected previous features.

Post-ANH


The biggest changes between the Falcon’s appearance in ANH versus ESB and later films are:

Landing gear. The original spaceship design featured a three-point landing gear system with five footpads (two pairs at the back and a single at the front). However, this isn’t really stable enough for an actual physical set, so this was revised to a five-point system with seven footpads for ESB.


Cockpit interior. The ESB cockpit has a bit more internal space at the back (it was made deeper), compared to the ANH version. A lot of additional details were added, along with steering yokes.


LEIA:  But Han – won't all the crazy fans notice these continuity errors?
HAN:   Not on your life, sister! This is just a movie.
LEIA:  Don't call me sister. You're creeping me out.

Exterior lighting. From ESB on, the 
underside of the Falcon was kitted out with white spotlights for illuminating the ground, small red “don’t bang your head” warning lights, and two headlights.


THREEPIO:  If I may say so, sir, I can't help but notice that the exterior lighting does not correspond to equivalent detail on any known model!

Special Editions

Starting in 1997, George Lucas released “Special Edition” versions of the original trilogy, featuring cleaned-up effects and some controversial CGI changes. In the case of the Millennium Falcon, a new digital model was constructed to show the ship lifting out of the Mos Eisley docking bay and flying through Cloud City. Some matte paintings were also revised. 

Prequels

Digital models were used to show Corellian freighters in microscopic cameos in both the Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith prequel films. AOTC featured three Falcon-style ships parked at a Naboo spaceport, and ROTS shows a brief fan-service shot of the Falcon landing at Coruscant, below:


The Force Awakens

For the nostalgia-fest of 2015, JJ Abrams’ The Force Awakens, a new digital model was constructed. This was based around measurements and scans of the original 5 foot Star Wars model, but various changes were added, reflecting the passage of time since the previous movie. Some were very subtle, but others less so – the replacement of the Falcon's original round dish with a bowtie one being the most obvious.


“Solo”

The look of the Falcon in the upcoming Young Han Solo movie has of course been of intense geek interest. How will they represent the Millennium Falcon in a pre-Star Wars film? How would it have looked in the days before Han swindled it from Lando? Presumably a little bit cleaner.

PICK AND CHOOSE

In the end, this is all a bit random. But hey — Star Wars is a space opera, folks! Not real life. Dealing with logical inconsistencies is just one of those things if you want to make a model based on a fantasy spaceship. Generally what you have to do is pick a given Falcon you like and stick with it.

THE MILLENNIUM FALCON NOTES

Okay. And now on to the meat and potatoes, or the tofu and miso gravy, of this little website.

Part I: The Miniatures (the next bit)
Part II: the Sets
Part III: the Lighting


MODEL KIT INFORMATION




Creative Commons

This information is derived from a variety of sources. And of course the entire Star Wars package of intellectual property is owned by a certain American entertainment conglomerate. The information herein is for personal research and, as such, should be considered a fair use case.

This text is freely available to anybody who wants to geek out on their model plastic spaceship. Please link back to it, though.


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