Every Starfighter in Star Wars Explained

Every Starfighter in Star Wars Explained

00:00

I’m Doug Chiang, I’m the Vice President

00:01

and Executive Creative Director for Lucasfilm.

00:04

I’m Amy Beth Christenson,

00:05

and I’m an art director at Lucasfilm.

00:06

And today we’re gonna talk about every kind of starfighter

00:08

in the live action Star Wars films.

00:10

And we do mean every starfighter.

00:12

[Star Wars Main Theme]

00:20

A bit hammy, I’m sorry. [laughing]

00:23

[laughing] No that’s good, I like it.

00:27

Always wanted to fly one of these things.

00:29

[Doug] There are many different classes of star ships

00:31

from capital ships like star destroyers,

00:33

to space stations, like the Death Star.

00:36

That’s no moon, it’s a space station.

00:39

But typically, we define a starfighter

00:42

as a small spacecraft designed specifically for combat.

00:45

Space ship designs in Star Wars is really really tricky

00:48

and that’s because we have to give

00:49

these space ships personality.

00:51

They have to have a distinct look.

00:53

They have to have a distinct iconic shape.

00:55

And that’s where I think George was brilliant

00:57

in terms of creating iconic shapes for Star Wars.

01:00

TIE Fighters, they’re one of the most iconic designs

01:02

in the Star Wars universe.

01:04

What I like about it is the simplicity of it.

01:05

It’s just a ball with wings.

01:07

The original design for the TIE Fighter

01:09

was presented by George to Ralph McQuarrie in 1974.

01:12

I think all of the ships in Star Wars

01:14

you can kinda do that shorthand,

01:15

almost a stick figure version of it.

01:16

And the TIE Fighter’s great

01:18

’cause it’s the H with the ball on it.

01:19

So as long as it’s coming towards you,

01:21

you recognize it as a TIE Fighter.

01:22

I remember when I first saw it when I was 15.

01:24

Part of the visual was so strong

01:26

but I loved the sound of it.

01:27

It was just an amazing, unexpected sound.

01:32

Comin’ in .35. I see them.

01:35

[Amy Beth] The first time we see Darth Vader’s

01:36

TIE Advanced is in the trench run

01:38

at the end of A New Hope. [screeching]

01:40

One of the fun facts about it in terms of design

01:41

is that George wanted it to look very distinguished,

01:44

very different in terms of giving it

01:45

a very distinct silhouette.

01:46

The wings are folded in to kind of evoke power and menace.

01:51

I have you now. [blasting]

01:55

The T-65 X-Wing is a really fascinating design.

01:57

I love the fact that it evokes World War II

02:00

aircraft design in terms of the form language.

02:03

And I also like the idea that it has a long snout.

02:05

George was a huge race car fan.

02:07

And he loved the idea that the dragsters

02:08

have a very long nose.

02:10

And so in some of the early prototypes from Colin Cantwell,

02:13

you can see the same painted nose.

02:15

Great thing about the X-Wing

02:16

is seeing Star Wars for the first time.

02:18

It was kinda the first time you saw a ship transform.

02:20

When you get the S-Foils being locked in attack position,

02:22

that’s when it makes its X the silhouette shape.

02:24

And it was really fun to see.

02:26

[Doug] One of the reasons why the X-Wing is so iconic

02:28

is that Joe Johnston when he drew it and designed it,

02:31

he made it very graphic.

02:32

It was very easy to understand.

02:34

It was very easy to draw very quickly.

02:35

And there’s a timeless quality to it that’s very hard to do.

02:41

The Y-Wing. The first time

02:43

we see a Y-Wing is when they arrive on Yavin Base.

02:45

One of the fun things about the Y-Wing

02:47

was that George wanted it to look like a race car

02:49

without all of its paneling.

02:51

So you can see that the cockpit has the sleekness

02:53

of a race car, but then the engines and the body

02:55

have all the panels removed.

02:56

The design actually evolved quite a bit

02:58

because of the blue screen technology,

03:00

the very thin struts were very hard to photograph.

03:03

And so Colin Cantwell actually beefed them up

03:05

and gave it a more stronger World War II robustness.

03:08

We were able to design the fully covered Y-Wing

03:10

where we get to see it in its complete form

03:12

before you see it in A New Hope.

03:16

The design for the TIE Bomber is really unique

03:18

because this is the first time we saw two pods

03:20

next to each other,

03:21

with kind of the TIE Advanced wing set up.

03:22

It still felt more menacing.

03:23

And then you got a hint at what it does

03:25

when they were trying to bomb the Falcon,

03:26

and that asteroid field. [laughing]

03:29

[bombing in distance]

03:35

The first time we see the A-Wing is in Return of the Jedi.

03:37

And it’s one of my favorite designs

03:39

because it’s so fast, and it’s very sleek.

03:40

And in many ways, it’s the bare essence of speed

03:43

’cause you just have a cockpit with engines and a wing.

03:45

And I love the triangular look of it,

03:46

’cause it just looks fast. The A-Wing for me

03:48

is really interesting ’cause it’s one of the first time

03:50

we saw a really rounded shape for the fighters at least.

03:53

I thought that that made it really unique looking.

03:55

Lock S-Foils in attack positions.

03:59

[Amy Beth] B-Wing, from Return of the Jedi.

04:00

One of the fun things about the B-Wing design

04:02

is that it’s a transforming design.

04:04

The fact that it’s almost a flying wing

04:05

but then it goes vertical.

04:07

And I love the idea that the cockpit actually rotates.

04:09

And it’s the first time we’ve seen that.

04:11

And the whole thinking about that is that when it’s flying,

04:14

it’s actually a very interesting configuration

04:16

than when it’s landed.

04:20

Fighters coming in! The TIE Interceptor.

04:23

What’s great about this design

04:24

is the next evolution of the TIE Fighter.

04:26

The TIE Interceptor’s one of my favorite ship designs.

04:28

And one of the interesting things is that

04:29

we took the wings and stretched it

04:30

so that it made it look more forward propelling.

04:33

And then by doing that though,

04:34

we had to actually give it a slot

04:35

so the pilot could actually look left and right.

04:40

The Naboo N-1 starfighter.

04:41

One of the challenges of designing that

04:43

was that we actually had to figure out

04:44

a design history for Star Wars.

04:47

And George wanted to mirror that design history

04:49

with our real world design.

04:50

And so for instance, the original trilogy designs

04:53

of the X-Wing and the Y-Wing

04:54

were more in the 1970s, the more manufactured look,

04:57

the more angular look.

04:58

And so Episodes I, II and III, actually went back

05:00

to the 1920s, a more romantic time,

05:02

a more handcrafted, artisan look

05:04

for design of the spaceships. And Astromech droid

05:07

does fit in there or– On this one it does.

05:09

That’s one of the fun things about designing for Star Wars

05:12

is that we can take a lot of liberties.

05:13

And part of the sleekness of the N-1

05:15

is that you really can’t get an Astromech

05:17

behind the cockpit.

05:18

And so if you notice, it’s just R2’s dome.

05:20

His legs are somewhere inside the body.

05:23

The other important thing about the Naboo starfighter

05:24

is that Doug designed it. [laughing]

05:28

The Trade Federation Vulture Droid,

05:29

and the first time we see this

05:30

is Episode I Phantom Menace.

05:32

The thing that’s really cool about this

05:33

is the first time we see a starfighter in Star Wars

05:35

that is a droid. And at first,

05:37

originally, it wasn’t supposed to be a droid.

05:39

I remember George actually wanted to start to connect

05:41

the idea of the designs from Episode I to Episode IV.

05:44

And so this was gonna be a precursor to the TIE Fighters.

05:47

And that’s why you see the distinct wing configuration

05:50

and the central ball body.

05:54

The Geonosian Starfighter.

05:56

We first see that in Attack of the Clones.

05:57

What’s interesting about this design

05:59

is that George is a huge race boat fan.

06:01

And so he wanted to mirror and design a vehicle

06:04

that looked kinda like the F1 speedboats.

06:06

And that’s where you get the twin pontoons.

06:08

What I did was turn ’em vertically.

06:10

The great part about the design

06:11

of the Geonosian starfighter is that you really see

06:13

that it’s designed by the Geonosians.

06:15

They’re bug-like creatures

06:17

so they have their own distinct look to their vehicles.

06:19

One of the fun things is that when I was designing it

06:21

I wanted to make sure that the spaceship

06:23

actually looked almost like part of the Geonosians.

06:25

So that’s why the cockpit is really small.

06:27

It’s almost like a helmet. [adventure music]

06:31

The Jedi starfighter.

06:32

At this time, George wanted to blend and blur the lines.

06:35

So you can see here, even though these are Jedi ships,

06:38

we actually kept them very triangular

06:40

to sort of evoke a little bit of the transition

06:43

towards the Empire Star Destroyers.

06:45

And one of the fun things is that,

06:46

I remember George saying, Let’s just take a Star Destroyer

06:48

and turn it into a fighter ship.

06:49

That was such a bold statement.

06:51

At first I didn’t think it would work

06:52

until I actually saw it on paper,

06:53

and it actually works beautifully.

06:55

This little nerdy part

06:56

where it doesn’t have hyperspace capabilities,

06:59

but needs a hyperspace ring to go into hyperspace.

07:02

We’re on your tail General Kenobi.

07:03

[Amy Beth] The ARC-170 starfighter,

07:04

and the first time we see this is in Revenge of the Sith.

07:07

My favorite part about this design are the multiple wings

07:10

of the different designs are really cool.

07:11

It’s actually a precursor to the X-Wing.

07:13

So the multiple wings sort of start to hint

07:15

at the X-Wing S-Foil folding out.

07:17

But then the interesting thing

07:18

is that you’ll notice that there are multiple cockpits

07:20

and pilots and gunners.

07:22

And that’s to call back to the original inspiration

07:24

for this which was the Douglas Dauntless Fighter Bomber.

07:32

[Amy Beth] This is the Droid Tri-Fighter

07:34

and the first time we see this is in Revenge of the Sith.

07:35

One of the interesting things about this

07:37

is it’s the next evolution of droid starfighter ships.

07:40

And it’s very aggressive.

07:41

And it’s distinctly designed to look mean and menacing.

07:51

General Grievous’ starfighter.

07:52

What’s interesting about this

07:53

is that this is the most automotive of all the starfighters.

07:56

And you’ll notice that the cockpit is set way back.

07:58

And you have this long hood

07:59

sort of connoting power and engine.

08:02

And the engines are oversized.

08:03

And so all about this design is about power and speed.

08:07

And General Grievous is the general

08:09

of the Separatist Army, he was an alien, like Darth Vader.

08:12

He had to replace a lot of his parts.

08:14

So he’s mostly droid when we see him.

08:15

And his two arms split into four arms,

08:17

and he’s got four light sabers.

08:18

A lot of things about the prequels

08:19

kind of hint at what’s coming.

08:21

General Grievous is kinda a precursor to Vader

08:23

in those respects. [adventure music]

08:27

Jedi Interceptor, the first time we see this ship

08:28

is in Revenge of the Sith.

08:29

One of the interesting things,

08:30

that in the design language,

08:32

we’re actually starting to tie in story elements.

08:35

The good guys become the bad guys.

08:37

You’ll notice in the Jedi Interceptor

08:39

that we’re really starting to tie and bridge

08:41

the Jedi starfighter with the TIE fighters.

08:44

You’ll notice that the wings, when they unfold

08:45

have sort of early distinct silhouettes

08:47

of the TIE Fighter.

08:48

And then the cockpit is actually starting to become a ball.

08:50

And one of the other interesting facts

08:51

is that the R2 unit can’t fit in it.

08:53

The body is actually too thin.

08:55

So the R2 unit has to be a really short one.

08:57

[laughing] [exploding] We got him R2.

09:05

The original inspiration was the P-38 Lightning.

09:07

And that’s where you’ll see the twin tails on there.

09:09

As the design evolved, slowly we start to modify it

09:13

so that we took the round wings off

09:14

and then we actually removed the connecting tail piece.

09:17

You can see connecting elements like the engine scoops

09:19

are actually scoops on the P-38 Lightning.

09:22

This is the Techno Union Fighter,

09:23

the first time we see this is in Revenge of the Sith.

09:25

It has a very Flash Gordon esque feel to it.

09:27

And George was very inspired by Flash Gordon.

09:29

I think Star Wars itself

09:30

is sort of inspired by Flash Gordon

09:31

and George’s love of it.

09:33

And that can be seen in ships

09:34

like the Techno Union Fighter.

09:38

V-Wing from Revenge of the Sith

09:39

so you can kinda get a hint

09:40

at what’s going to come in A New Hope.

09:42

And I think this probably is the most extreme,

09:45

if you look at it head on,

09:46

has more of that TIE Fighter silhouette

09:48

where you kinda see the H with the ball in the middle.

09:52

The First Order Tie Fighter,

09:53

in keeping to our design philosophy,

09:54

where VII, VII, and IX were more contemporary times,

09:57

we wanted to update the TIE Fighter.

09:58

And part of the thinking was that maybe

10:00

the TIE Fighter for The First Order,

10:02

they made it more robust using new materials

10:04

to make it faster and leaner and more strong.

10:07

And so part of the idea was that we actually

10:09

took the classic design of the TIE Fighter

10:11

and just beefed it up, changed the material,

10:13

changed the configuration of the colors.

10:17

[yelling] This thing really moves!

10:19

[Amy Beth] The First Order Special Forces TIE Fighter.

10:21

We distinguished them by giving them red.

10:23

But then we also gave them external magazines

10:25

for the weaponry. The other thing

10:27

that distinguishes the Special Forces TIE Fighter

10:28

is it actually has two seats back to back in the cockpit.

10:31

You’ve got the gunner in the back,

10:32

and you’ve got the pilot in the front.

10:33

So that’s when Poe and Finn are actually piloting

10:39

Did you see that? I saw it!

10:43

[Doug] The T-70 Resistance X-Wing.

10:45

The inspiration for this was actually Ralph McQuarrie’s

10:48

original painting of the X-Wing

10:49

where he actually had the twin turbine of the engine

10:52

split down the middle for the split wing.

10:54

And it was a very sleek design.

10:56

It really looked like an F1 car mixed with a spaceship.

10:58

The T-70’s a little bit obsolete

11:01

in the Star Wars universe even at the time

11:03

of The Force Awakens.

11:04

The Resistance still doesn’t get all the new stuff,

11:06

right? Yeah, exactly.

11:07

Part of the charm of T-70 design is that

11:09

it evokes the original trilogy design, that it’s scrappy.

11:12

The Resistance at this time,

11:13

didn’t have a whole lotta resources, so they have leftovers.

11:18

The TIE Striker from Rogue One

11:19

One of the most interesting things

11:21

about the TIE Striker, is that we wanted to come up

11:23

with a new idea for a TIE Fighter.

11:25

And we thought, how would it actually operate

11:27

And so we turned the wings up

11:29

so they are almost like wings up on top.

11:31

And then the ball is suspended below.

11:33

And so it has a slight hang glider configuration.

11:36

And it really sort of helps to communicate the idea

11:38

that this TIE Fighter, this unique TIE Fighter

11:41

operates in the atmosphere. Behind you!

11:48

The Resistance A-Wing, the great part about this design

11:50

is that it really evokes the original A-Wing design,

11:52

but I like the engines are even more beefed up

11:55

than the original. And the great thing

11:57

is that it is sort of the next evolution.

11:58

It’s the next model.

12:00

And in this one, in particular,

12:01

you can see the power and the speed

12:02

in terms of the form language.

12:10

[Amy Beth] Resistance Bomber,

12:11

the first time we see this

12:12

is at the very beginning of The Last Jedi.

12:15

And one of the interesting things about it

12:16

is that we wanted to evoke sort of old technology.

12:19

So this is obviously an old bomber.

12:21

And the vertical spine is actually

12:23

almost like an ammunition cartridge of a gun.

12:25

The great thing about the bomb magazine

12:27

pointing downwards is it kinda gives you that hint

12:28

that the artificial gravity well is going to be used.

12:31

So that way the bombs can actually fall in space.

12:42

The TIE Silencer, basically the concept for that

12:43

is we wanted to give Kylo something really unique.

12:47

We just basically took the TIE Interceptor

12:48

and just stretched it even more

12:49

to make it even more aggressive.

12:51

It also reminds me of Kylo’s mask

12:52

because you see the silver framework around the cockpit

12:54

and that kind of reminds me of the silver around his mask.

12:57

When we design spaceships, they do tie in

12:58

to the personality of the character

13:00

that’s gonna be piloting it.

13:02

And for Kylo’s ship, it was really trying to evoke

13:04

the menace that we see in Kylo’s mask.

13:06

And so how do we translate that into a spaceship form?

13:08

And part of that was just the from language,

13:10

just making it more aggressive, making it more pointed

13:12

so it looks like it’s a flying dagger.

13:15

[Amy Beth] This is the TIE Brute,

13:16

and the first time we see it is in Solo

13:18

during the Kessel run.

13:19

This is really interesting to me

13:20

because this is the first really asymmetrical TIE design.

13:23

The bomber, if you drew it shorthand was still,

13:25

everything else has been symmetrical.

13:28

It was an interesting play to try to put

13:29

a separate ball turret for the gun.

13:31

It sort of is interesting in the sense

13:33

that it still feels very TIE fighter-ish,

13:35

but yet it looks like it’s a more brutish version of it.

13:38

The Resistance B-Wing, we first see that

13:39

in The Rise of Skywalker.

13:41

And it’s basically an updated model

13:42

from the B-Wing that we saw in Return of the Jedi.

13:44

the updates are primarily just thinning down the shapes,

13:47

making it a little bit sleeker, and adding new coloration.

13:50

[Amy Beth] The Resistance Y-Wing

13:51

first introduced in Rise of Skywalker.

13:53

Just like the Resistance X-Wing,

13:54

this one also evokes a little bit more

13:56

of that original Ralph McQuarrie painting.

14:00

TIE Dagger, the first time we see it

14:01

is in Rise of Skywalker.

14:02

And it’s basically the next evolution of the TIE Fighter.

14:05

Part of the idea is that we wanted to give it

14:06

a very angular, aggressive look.

14:08

And so we took the triangular shapes of the Star Destroyers,

14:10

and put ’em into the wings. And the red markings

14:12

on the TIE Dagger denote that they’re Sith.

14:18

The first time we see it is in The Rise of Skywalker.

14:20

Kylo Ren has a modified version with longer wings.

14:22

The design for this really feels like the original TIE.

14:25

But you can see it’s got the extra armor around the cockpit.

14:27

And it’s red, so it’s evil. [laughing]

14:34

Have two bonus ships that are technically

14:36

not starfighters, but they’re so cool

14:37

there’s no way we’re not including them.

14:39

The first one is the Ghost from Star Wars Rebels

14:42

but you can see it fight in Rogue One

14:44

and in Rise of Skywalker.

14:45

That ship was originally designed for rebels.

14:47

It’s piloted by Hera Syndulla

14:49

and the rest of the Ghost crew.

14:50

And then for the design of that,

14:52

originally Filoni was really drawn to the diamond shape.

14:55

So from the top down, you can see it’s got

14:56

that distinct, perfect diamond silhouette.

14:58

But he really wanted it to feel like the Falcon.

15:00

And it was also inspired by B-17 bombers

15:02

from World War II, that’s where you get

15:03

the rounded cockpit from the front.

15:07

The Millennium Falcon.

15:09

It is probably the most iconic design from Star Wars

15:11

and one of my favorite.

15:13

I remember when I first saw it, it was just like wow,

15:15

that’s a ship that I want to be on.

15:17

The original design actually was the blockade runner.

15:19

And it had the very distinct Falcon cockpit on there.

15:22

But then George wanted to create something else

15:24

a little bit more unique.

15:25

And he decided that let’s keep the cockpit,

15:27

but let’s turn it into something more iconic.

15:29

And so he suggested that perhaps we should make it round,

15:32

more like a saucer.

15:33

And so Joe Johnston, when he designed it again,

15:35

he actually gave it some front mandibles

15:37

to give it some direction.

15:38

And by combining that with an offset cockpit,

15:41

that gave it a really distinct personality

15:43

that was unlike anything that we had seen at that time.

15:45

I like the Falcon a lot because it feels very fast.

15:47

It’s got a subtle curve to the top and the bottom.

15:50

Kind of evoke that kind of saucer feel,

15:52

but also makes it feel very fast.

15:53

I love the engines on the Falcon.

15:55

I love that they’re a strip of blue light in the back.

15:57

Part of the charm of the Millennium Falcon

15:58

is that it is a character, it is a Star Wars character.

16:01

So we want to imbue it with a lot of personality.

16:03

And like a character, it evolves.

16:05

There’s a character arc to it.

16:06

And so one of the first tasks that we had

16:08

was for Solo we want to see an earlier version

16:10

of the Millennium Falcon, sort of the cleaner version,

16:14

prior to Han Solo coming in and sort of hot rodding it.

16:17

And so in Solo you see all the panels are intact

16:19

and there’s actually the escape pod

16:21

that actually fits between the front mandibles.

16:22

And as you progress into the original trilogy,

16:24

it becomes more beaten up. You came in that thing?

16:28

You’re braver than I thought. It becomes more robust.

16:30

You can see Han’s touch

16:32

in terms of how he beefed up the engine,

16:34

made it more robust, made it more practical in some ways.

16:37

And then moving forward to Episodes VII, VIII and IX,

16:40

you can start to see how the Falcon has been repaired

16:43

after all its various adventures

16:45

where it knocks off its radar dish in Return of the Jedi.

16:48

How there’s a new radar dish.

16:49

And so all those little evolutionary things

16:51

help to inform the evolution of the character of the Falcon.

16:54

And it’s interesting because the Falcon is so iconic

16:57

that even with all these slight variations,

16:58

you know that it’s the Falcon.

17:00

And one of the beautiful things about what we’re doing now

17:03

for Rise of Skywalker is that we’re consolidating

17:06

all those designs to create the iconic Millennium Falcon.

17:12

What a piece of junk!

17:13

She’ll make .5 past light speed.

17:16

She may not look like much,

17:17

but she’s got it where it counts, kid.

17:19

That was every starfighter in the live action

17:20

Star Wars films. And we can’t wait

17:22

to share what we have coming up next.

17:24

[swelling orchestral music]

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