Introduction

Welcome to my fun-filled Millennium Falcon site! It's a compendium of information related to the models and sets of the fictitious pirate spacecraft from the popular and lucrative Star Wars entertainment franchise.

This is historical research I compiled while researching how to make a reasonably like a screen-accurate small model. I thought other people might find it interesting, so here it is.


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.

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.

THE MOVIES

I’m interested in the appearance of the Millennium Falcon, as it was depicted in the original trilogy of Star Wars movies.

Star Wars (1977). Retroactively subtitled “A New Hope” in 1981; abbreviated ANH.

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

Return of the Jedi (1983). Or ROTJ.

The Falcon also appears, in a slightly modified form, in the new sequels.

The Force Awakens (2015). Or TFA.

The Last Jedi (2017). The Falcon is confirmed to be appearing in this film.

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 the 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 that the film would be seen once in the cinema and then rarely again. Home video wasn’t much of a market back in 1977, let alone BluRay image quality freeze frames.

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 by far. A fairly large exterior hull was built on a soundstage in England for the first Star Wars film, but for budgetary reasons, the set wasn't big enough. So the magnificent and extravagantly detailed internal sets – the cockpit, hold, and gunbays – that were built on another stage couldn’t logically fit inside the ship. (see hold set to right) 
It's commonly thought that the exterior set is probably about 40% of the size required to contain the interior sets convincingly.

2) Different models and sets were built, and they have subtly different details. Only one model 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 models, 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 stable enough for an actual physical set, so when ESB rolled around this was revised to a five-point system with seven footpads. In the case of the models this meant adding two large boxes on the underside to accommodate the new landing gear. The photo below appears to show an ILM model maker repainting the 5 foot model following the addition of the new landing gear boxes (in grey).


Cockpit interior. The ESB cockpit has a bit more internal space, and consequently had a little reconfiguring, compared to the ANH version. A lot of additional details were added, along with steering yokes. The corridors outside the cockpit, which initially featured square green wall sconces (ANH) switched to round blue (ESB, ROTJ) sconces and later round green sconces in TFA. (trivia note – the round sconces are actually repurposed top casings from Coughtrie SW10 swan-neck industrial lights)


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 a whole load of white spotlights for illuminating the ground, small red “don’t bang your head” warning lights, and two bright headlights on the tips of the loading mandibles (the wedge-shaped parts protruding from the saucer).


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 so that the ship could be seen lifting out of the Mos Eisley docking bay. Some matte paintings were also revised. The overhead view of the Falcon in the Death Star docking bay, for example, was recreated and now shows the 32" Falcon with its pointier cockpit.


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 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 subtle changes were added, reflecting the passage of time since the previous movie.

Some of the alterations make obvious narrative sense, such as a new radar dish to replace the large round one accidentally snapped off by Lando Calrissian in ROTJ. (trivia note; the replacement rectangular radar dish is modelled after the radar dish used by the Rebel Blockade Runner; the original Falcon - see part IV of this site) Others make general sense, such as additional bolted-on greeblies and pipes, reflecting clumsy patch jobs and hasty repairs over the years. And other details are a bit mystifying, such as the docking ring braces either missing or replaced with rods, certain components being repainted, and the recessed headlights being replaced with bulbous red light bulbs. It’s also a bit puzzling as to why some of the TFA interiors look cleaner than their Original Trilogy predecessors.


But hey — it’s 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.

And for me that's the 5 foot ESB Falcon with the ESB interior set. For pragmatic reasons – I want to build the Bandai kit, which lacks the ANH landing gear arrangement. And I like the idea of external lighting, which came with ESB.

The 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

Part IV: Conclusion

Bandai’s 1:144 Millennium Falcon model kit


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