I don’t know how it started. I did a search on YouTube for the deleted Wampa scenes from Empire. After watching a couple compilation videos of deleted scenes from the movie I stumbled onto one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a while.
Let me start at the beginning. The Empire Strikes Back is by far my favorite Star Wars movie. This is not a rare thing and it’s mirrored by fans the universe over. Everyone has their own reasons for loving the film but hands down it is the most popular. For me, I have a few reasons to hold it in such high regard. It is the first movie I saw in the movie theater. That was an adventure enough for a 4 year old but I vividly remember something that may or may not have happened.
Back in the day, a movie would come and go and come back again to the theaters if it was popular enough. Empire was very popular so it came back to our little two screened theater some time later. I can’t remember when, but my family went back to see it during one of it’s returns to the screen. It was on this second viewing that I remember seeing the Wampa’s face fill the screen before it struck Luke and killed his loyal Tauntaun. The first time I saw the movie I only remember the Tauntaun freaking out and then the large fur covered mitt lashing out at Luke. Could of just been me and that scene always played the same way during both viewings. Either way it added a sense of mystery to the movie and to Hoth’s critters that has remained with me 36 years later.
Then in 1997 the special edition of The Empire Strikes Back came to theaters. It was the second coming of one of my favorite movies of all time and I was so super excited. I knew there was an extended Wampa scene before I got to the theater because that was one of the bits of news that came out about Episode V’s new scenes. Now, I do love the new Wampa bits, hell I wish they added even more of the old Echo Base Wampa footage back in with new shiny CG, but it did diminish that little cloud of mystery I held onto for so many years. And honestly they milked the Wampa’s armless flailing a tad too much…but anyway.
We went from this
(shot of mask)
To the 1997 version
Now with my Wampa back story outta the way let me get to the task at hand. This might be old news (it’s a couple of years old), but it’s new to me. Take a look…
The YouTube post says…
A collaboration by Filmmakers/Visual Effects Artists: Joe Schultz and Jim Davidson to create new stop motion footage and edit it into the “The Empire Strikes Back,” fleshing out the “Wampa Attack” sequence and matching traditional stop motion animation techniques and esthetics used by ILM in the late 1970’s, while taking advantage of digital technology available today.
I have to say BRAVO. This was a perfectly seamless addition to already great scene that had me doing a double take. I felt instantly ripped off that I had never seen it before. Then I got pissed that Lucas himself couldn’t be bothered to do things the “old way” when he re-released the original trilogy in 1997. It would have been so awesome to see a lot of the additional scenes recreated in the original style of stop motion and model work seen in the ’70s and ’80s. So again, BRAVO to the team that brought us this far to brief glimpse of what could have been.
Don’t get me started on how this would have made the prequels at least a little more tolerable..