If someone were to say that a fully animated version of exists, they wouldn’t be wrong. They wouldn’t be quite right either, but the truth behind the tale is fascinating.
On “Process,” the latest episode of Disney Gallery: Star Wars: The Mandalorian (available to stream on Disney+), the show’s crew explains what went into the creation of each episode. Most of it is what you’d expect: scripts, storyboards, shooting, etc. But where things get interesting is the revelation that before filming began, each director worked with effects teams and animation departments to do a complete pre-visualisation of their episode.
That meant before directors like Deborah Chow, Rick Famuyiwa, Bryce Dallas Howard, or Taika Waititi stepped on set, they’d basically already made all the major directorial decisions in terms of camera placement, movement, etc. As a result, actual production was streamlined significantly.
“It’s been a very different experience from all other television I’ve done,” Chow says in the episode. “Normally you’re getting like eight, nine days and then you’re shooting. This, I was on it two months before I started and pre-vised the entire episode. So even if when we hit the set, we hit the ground, we’re still pressed for time, we’re still running and gunning, at least we’ve had the time to really develop the material and really, sort of creatively, put it together so that we are really dialled in and we’re not trying to figure it out on the day. We’re just trying to execute it.”
Executive producer Jon Favreau likened the entire production to the reshoots he did on the Iron Man movies. He explained that by the time you do reshoots on a Marvel movie, you know so specifically want you need, things happen very quickly and efficiently. Fellow Marvel director Waititi agreed and said during Thor: Ragnarok reshoots, they did around 360 shots in five days because everything needed was so precise and thought out.
The thinking behind all this is that it helps serve the story, of course, but it also helps with effects. Almost every single shot on The Mandalorian is a digital effect. The bulk of the series was created using gargantuan screens that simulate the environment, almost like an elaborate theme park attraction. So all the environments, from the simple to complex, have to be produced beforehand. (That’s the subject of episode four of the behind-the-scenes series if you want to know more.) Having the episodes pre-vised means everyone already knows what needs to be shot, and it’s just a matter of shooting it.
So, yes, somewhere on a hard drive, one could hypothetically watch the entire first (and by now second) season of The Mandalorian as a crude, incomplete animation. Things change and improve by the final episodes but the major moments are already there, ready to be immortalised in live-action.
There’s much more in the latest episode of Disney Gallery; you can stream it on Disney+ here.