Monday, November 17, 2014

140 Hour Cardboard Millennium Falcon Project

So, the adventure of posting the photos taken of my cardboard Millennium Falcon build online started  two days ago and culminated today in a mini-viral event online which is still ongoing.  This is that story.  Let's begin now...

Not so long ago in a basement not so far away...

Okay.  Enough of that.  Last summer (a year and a half ago), I was going through my basement and found an old globe that I had gotten from my godfather back when I was nine years old.  It was broken into two half pieces and was in a pile to be thrown out.  We were cleaning out the basement a bit, but the artist in me saw these two perfect half spheres and thought, 'Those would make perfect R2D2 and minion heads'.  They were spared and were turned into... 

R2 prior to paint. Kind of liked the rough look.

Great.  Fun project.  Done.  The end.

On top of teaching a full load at The Columbus College of Art and Design  and producing a 1/2 hour animated special and maintaining the art direction for some companies online presence, I was unaware that another large scale side project loomed large for me on the horizon.

(Oh, guess I should mention, inbetween the R2D2/minion and the falcon, I made a life sized Liberty Bell for the 4th of July neighborhood parade. We actually won first prize for our swim team float, but that's another story for another time...)

From July 4th

Cut to September of 2014...  I had never been one to attend comic cons or toy conventions.  I have always been a fan of Star Wars, but I would have classified myself (and probably still would- though the artist in me seems to say otherwise) as a 'casual' Star Wars/ Sci-Fi fan.  When I worked on 'The Simpsons', a decent number of artists would travel down to San Diego each year for Comicon.  I liked toys, but I wasn't ever a collector really.  Then, I decided, on the recommendation of some friends, to go to the Columbus Toy Convention this past Septemer...  Mistake.  I was transported back to my childhood.  That, mixed with my 40th birthday coming up soon and you've got a ticking time bomb waiting to explode.

After coming home with a few vintage Star Wars ships and figures, I got bit by the bug.  I went back through the old toys I still had tucked away in boxes that I hadn't really looked at in 25-30 years.

I'm not sure where the jump was made from looking at some old toys to building my own version of the five foot Millennium Falcon ship model that was used in the original Star Wars trilogy, but it happened.  My father is an artist, and we always built things when I was growing up.  When I was 10, I built a paper mache Ghostbusters nuclear accelerator for my Halloween costume, many other things and also a number of different sized Falcons.  The Empire Strikes Back was one of the first movies I remember seeing at the theater and it STILL stands as probably my favorite film of all time and I'm sure had a lot to do with my wanting to pursue a career in film and entertainment.

So, I think of all the ships from the films, the Falcon was probably my favorite and thus began the 2 month/ 140 adventure to create that ship.  It had been 30 years since I'd built one.  Since then, I'd gotten my MFA from the UCLA Animation Workshop, animated for six seasons on 'The Simpsons' and taught animation for the last 10 years at The Columbus College of Art and Design.  If I was going to make another Falcon, it would be the best, most complete one I'd ever done!  

Images owned by Lucasfilm/ Disney
Example of the blueprints I found online and studied

My ship in close to the same stage as the above set piece
I started by studying pictures and blueprints I'd found online.  I took a bunch of measurements to make sure I was very CLOSE to the right proportions.  I intentionally wanted to keep the ship loose and somewhat imperfect, almost an impressionists take on the ship, like the previous other builds I'd done.  I'd seen some VERY slick cardboard models (which are AMAZING!!! LOVE THEM!!! Like the work of Chris Gilmour...), but I didn't want to go in that direction exaclty.  I liked keeping things rough, seeing the glue, seeing the cuts on the cardboard when you're up close. But, I also loved how the material disappeared as you move back from the ship and it just looks like The Falcon.  I wanted to leave the artist's hand visible in the final product, but I love how it does dissolve away as you back up from the image (kind of like the matte paintings in the films... upon close inspection, they're not incredibly precise- they look like paintings, but they WORK in the film).

The surface details took about as long as the blocking in of the basic structure.  I wanted to track my hours (something we always do as freelance artists, but something I don't usually do on fun/ side projects).  It ended up being about 140 total hours spent on the project.

I spent the bulk of my time working on it late into the night.  I'm still paying for it a bit now and catching back up on some sleep.  But, this is what I love doing.  As an artist, you get lost in your projects and time FLIES.  I'd go downstairs to start working sometimes at 10pm and look at the clock and see it was 4am and realize I need at least a couple hours sleep before my 8am class.  As a working artist, spending 60 hours a week on drawings or models at a studio is your job.  It's what you do.  It's work, but you love it and have to pinch yourself sometimes to remind yourself (especially when you might be frustrated) that, 'WOW!  Someone is paying me to draw all day!'  That's pretty cool.

Even though I'm primarily teaching these days (though I do freelance animation on a fairly regular basis), I just love producing things.  This was an especially fun project because it combined physical model building with a film that I have always loved.  It would love to make more of these and display them somewhere.  There is a nice recycling aspect to the work (#starwarsrecycle maybe???).  I did clear out a lot of boxes from the basement, but there are enough left down there for maybe a Tie Interceptor (in proportion to this ship- so probably the size of the Kenner toys- that would be much less time consuming). 

Thanks to everyone who has looked at this post online on Imgur or voted me up on Reddit!  This was my first experience with a semi-viral anything online and it was a real joy hearing all the wonderful comments from fans of the piece.  I really enjoyed interacting with everyone and hope to continue making these types of pieces in the future in some capacity.

You can find some links below to posts around the internet.  


Reddit Post

Imgur Album Article

Toyland Gizmodo



Make on Twitter


  1. So, the adventure of posting the photos taken of my cardboard Millennium Falcon build online started two days ago and culminated today in a ...

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