The Millennium Falcon in Star Wars
|First appearance||Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker (novel, 1976)|
|References||Star Wars Databank|
|Armaments||Laser cannons, concussion missiles|
|Length||34.75 metres (114.0 ft)|
The Millennium Falcon is a spaceship in the Star Wars universe commanded at one time by Corellian smuggler Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and his Wookiee first mate, Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew). The highly modified Corellian Engineering Corporation (CEC) YT-1300 light freighter first appears in Star Wars (1977), and subsequently in The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Return of the Jedi (1983) and The Force Awakens (2015). The ship also makes a brief cameo appearance in Revenge of the Sith (2005). Additionally, the Falcon appears in a variety of Star Wars expanded universe materials, including books, comics, and games; James Luceno's novel Millennium Falcon focuses on the titular ship. It also appears in the 2014 animated film The Lego Movie in Lego form, with Billy Dee Williams and Anthony Daniels reprising their roles of Lando Calrissian and C-3PO, with Keith Ferguson voicing Han Solo.
Origin and design
The ship originally had a more elongated appearance, but this design's similarity to the Eagle Transporters in Space: 1999 prompted Lucas to change the Falcon's design. The original model was modified, re-scaled, and used as Princess Leia's ship, Tantive IV. Modelmaker Joe Johnston had about four weeks to redesign the Falcon, and Lucas's only suggestion to Johnston was to "think of a flying saucer". Johnston did not want to produce a "basic flying saucer", so he created the offset cockpit, forward cargo mandibles, and rear slot for the engines. The design was simple enough to create in the four-week window. Johnston called production of the new Falcon design one of his most intense projects.
The sound of the ship traveling through hyperspace comes from two tracks of the engine noise of a McDonnell Douglas DC-9, with one track slightly out of synchronization with the other to introduce a phasing effect. To this, sound designer Ben Burtt added the hum of the cooling fans on the motion-control rig at Industrial Light & Magic.
Models and sets
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Visually, the Millennium Falcon was represented by several models and external and internal sets. For Star Wars, a partial exterior set was constructed and the set dressed as Docking Bay 94 and the Death Star hangar. Besides the functional landing gear, an additional support held up the structure and was disguised as a fuel line. The interior set included the starboard ring corridor, the boarding ramp, cockpit access tunnel, gun turret ladder, secret compartments, and the forward hold. The cockpit was constructed as a separate set that could be rocked when the ship was supposed to shake. Several inconsistencies exist between the internal set and the external set, the cockpit access tunnel angle being the most noticeable.
The effects models for Star Wars matched the design of the exterior set. The primary model was 5 feet long and detailed with various kit parts. The ship was represented by a matte painting when Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) sees it for the first time, showing the full upper surface. For the 1997 "Special Edition", a digital model replaces the effects model in several shots, and is used in a new shot of the Falcon lifting off from Docking Bay 94.
For The Empire Strikes Back, a new external set was constructed. In spring 1979, Marcon Fabrications, a heavy engineering firm that served the UK's petrochemical and oil industries, was hired to build a movable full-scale external model capable of "moving as if it were about to take off." Built in secrecy under the project code name Magic Roundabout, the company leased the 1930s Western Sunderland Flying Boat hangar in Pembroke Dock, West Wales. The model, which took three months to construct, weighed over 25 long tons (25 t), measured 65 feet (20 m) in diameter and 20 feet (6.1 m) high, and used compressed air hover pads for up to 1.5 inches (38 mm) of hover-height movement around the set. It was then disassembled and shipped to Elstree Studios, Hertfordshire, for filming. Today, the Pembroke Dock museum has an exhibit about the project.
Along with the full-size mock-up of the Falcon, a new miniature model was created for Star Wars, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back to allow ILM to film more intricate in-flight rolls and pitches that weren't possible with the five-foot model. This model was able to be mounted on a gimble that allowed ILM to simulate very difficult maneuvers as the ship attempted to outrun Imperial Tie-Fighters during the asteroid field escape scene from the film. The new model, which measured at approximately 32 inches in length, had several surface features that differed from the five-foot model including updated landing gear and different surface "greeblies" (small kit-bashed parts added to simulate random mechanical surface detail). The 32" model is known as the definitive version of the Millennium Falcon and is the version most depicted in toys, model kits, and promotional materials for the Star Wars universe. This model was reused for Star Wars, Episode VI: The Return of the Jedi as well as the Special Edition re-issue of Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope in 1997.
As in Star Wars, the location set was changed around the ship set. The only major design change was to add landing gear where the disguised fuel line had been in Star Wars. As this set included the port side, that gave the set seven landing gears. The internal set was slightly refitted from A New Hope and featured a larger cargo hold, an additional corridor to port, and an equipment room. Two new interior sets were created that are not shown to connect to the rest of the set: a top hatch that Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) uses to rescue Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), and the compartment where Luke rests on a bunk.
The 5-foot-long (1.5 m) effects model from Star Wars was modified to reflect the additional landing gear, and several new models were built, including one roughly the size of a U.S. Quarter Dollar. For the 1997 Special Edition, a CGI model replaced the effects model during the approach and landing on Cloud City.
No new models or sets were created for Return of the Jedi. A portion of the full-scale ship was used for a scene cut from the film in which several characters board the Falcon in a sandstorm on Tatooine. In the scene when Han exacts a promise from Lando not to damage the Falcon, the Falcon is represented by a backdrop painting. It is also in a matte painting of the entire hangar bay.
A digital version of the Falcon appears briefly on Coruscant in Revenge of the Sith. Lucas has said that the ship is the Falcon and not another ship of similar design. A CGI version of the vessel also appears in the Disney attraction Star Tours: The Adventures Continue.
On June 3, 2014, TMZ confirmed that the Falcon would return for Star Wars: The Force Awakens when it leaked a photo from the set of the film, showing a full-scale version of the Falcon being built. An effects shot of the Falcon appears in the teaser trailer for The Force Awakens, released on November 28, 2014. This version of the ship has a rectangular sensor array above the top hull, replacing the circular dish from the first three films.
Han Solo won the Millennium Falcon from Lando Calrissian in the card game 'sabacc'. In Star Wars, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness) and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) charter the ship to deliver them, C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), R2-D2 (Kenny Baker), and the stolen Death Star plans to Alderaan. When the Falcon is captured by the Death Star, the group conceal themselves in smuggling compartments built into the floor to avoid detection during a search of the ship. Solo later collects his fee for delivering them to the hidden Rebel base and departs under bitter circumstances, but returns to assist Luke in destroying the Death Star.
Solo flies the Falcon, with Chewbacca, Leia, and C-3PO aboard, to elude the Imperial Starfleet in The Empire Strikes Back, wherein they take refuge at Cloud City, where Darth Vader (David Prowse/James Earl Jones) captures Solo. Lando Calrissian helps the others escape and, at the film's end, he departs in the Falcon to track down Solo and his captor, Jabba the Hutt. Calrissian again flies the Falcon during the climax of Return of the Jedi, with Nien Nunb as co-pilot, to destroy the second Death Star.
In Star Wars: The Force Awakens, set some 30 years after Return of the Jedi, the Falcon is in the possession of a scrap dealer on the desert planet Jakku, having been stolen from Solo and Chewbacca some years prior. Scavenger Rey and former stormtrooper Finn steal the Falcon in order to escape from an attack by the First Order, having been targeted for having the droid BB-8 in their possession. They are captured by a smuggling freighter, which turns out to be piloted by Solo and Chewbacca, who reclaim the Falcon for their own. Forced to escape in the Falcon from an ambush by parties to whom Solo is heavily in debt, Solo reluctantly agrees to help Rey and Finn return BB-8 to the Resistance.
In the initial film, Solo brags that the Falcon made the Kessel Run in "less than twelve parsecs". As the parsec is a unit of distance, not time, different explanations have been provided. In the fourth draft of the script, Kenobi "reacts to Solo’s stupid attempt to impress them with obvious misinformation". In the Expanded Universe, the Kessel Run is a pathway from Kessel past the Maw Black Hole Cluster: used by smugglers to transport precious Glitterstim spice; and Solo's bragging refers to his ability to move the ship closer to the Maw's black holes and therefore shorten the distance traveled. On the Star Wars DVD audio commentary, Lucas comments that, in the Star Wars universe, traveling through hyperspace requires careful navigation to avoid stars, planets, asteroids, and other obstacles, and that because no long-distance journey can be made in a straight line, the "fastest" ship is the one that can plot the "most direct course", thereby traveling the least distance. However, since a parsec relates to a measurement of distance dependent on the motion of the observer and the angular shift in the position of a distant object, it would be unsuitable (to say the least) as a standard unit of distance for use by a galactic empire or in interstellar navigation, rendering any attempt to make the line have any scientifically accurate meaning futile.
The novelization changes the line to "twelve Standard Time Units".
Throughout the franchise, the Falcon has been depicted a number of times, and the ship's ownership often comes up during explanations of its history.
- Prior to Star Wars, it is said to be in the possession of Lando Calrissian and was lost to Han Solo in payment of a gambling debt.
- Following the events of The Empire Strikes Back, Leia and Chewbacca take possession of the Falcon after Solo's incarceration in carbonite and capture by the Empire and Boba Fett.
- During Return of the Jedi, Solo retrieves and immediately lends the Falcon to Lando, who uses it to assist in the Battle of Endor and destruction of the second Death Star.
- Following the events of Return of the Jedi, the Falcon is stolen from Solo, ending up on the planet Jakku under the ownership of a scrap dealer 30 years after the Battle of Endor. In The Force Awakens, Rey and Finn commandeer the ship to escape the planet, only to be found by Solo and Chewbacca, who immediately reclaim the ship.
- Following the death of Solo, Rey is seen piloting the Falcon. The novelization of The Force Awakens writes that Chewbacca willingly abdicates captaincy of the Falcon to Rey.
Joss Whedon credits the Millennium Falcon as one of his two primary inspirations for his Firefly television show. The Falcon and the Falcon's distinct shape appear in Star Trek: First Contact, Blade Runner, Spaceballs, and Starship Troopers. The manga series Berserk includes a Millennium Falcon arc. In another manga and anime series, Hellsing, the Millennium Falcon is referenced briefly for comedic effect. The adult animation sketch-comedy series Robot Chicken aired a sketch entitled "The Emperor's Phone Call," in which Palpatine receives the news of the destruction of the Death Star with incredulity, at one point angrily asking "What the hell is an aluminum falcon?"
Kenner, Hasbro, Steel Tec, Master Replicas, Code 3 Collectibles and Micro Machines have all released Millennium Falcon toys and puzzles, including a Transformers version of the ship. Lego has released multiple versions of the Millennium Falcon in varying sizes. The 5,195-piece Lego model (part of the Star Wars "Ultimate Collectors Series") was physically the largest Lego set sold by the company, until it was topped in 2008 by the Lego Taj Mahal.
In 2015, scale model manufacturer DeAgostini and Model-Space introduced a monthly installment piece-build model of the Millennium Falcon. The model is a 1:1 replica of the 32" inch The Empire Strikes Back filming miniature.
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