Maybe the Force is strong with the toy fans. In an interesting example of just how much weight the merchandising arm of the Star Wars universe really carries, The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson actually ended up altering the on-screen version of Kylo Ren’s TIE Silencer ship—once he realized the toy version was configured differently.
Mike Mulholland, the VFX supervisor for Industrial Light and Magic, recently told a London audience that Johnson’s design for Kylo’s fighter—the ship he pilots to bomb Princess Leia’s Raddus Star Cruiser, before hesitating and leaving the task for his wingmen—originally had its missiles set to fire from the bottom of the TIE fighter.
But, once Johnson got his hands on the toy TIE prototype, he noticed the toy’s missiles were set up to fire from the sides. So, instead of nagging the toy designers to accommodate what he’d come up with for the scene, Johnson simply reworked Kylo’s version of the fighter for the movie.
“Initially, the plan was to have missiles on the underside, and shoot them off, and that was it,” Mulholland explained, via RadioTimes. “But halfway through production, Rian got a toy—a prototype toy of the Kylo fighter. And they had the missiles on the side wings. So, we went and redesigned a bit of it so that we could open it up [in the film version] and pop them out.”
More than most entertainment tie-ins (no pun), toys in the world of Star Wars represent the tangible embodiment of the saga's canon to fans—a fact established early on by George Lucas’ licensing agreement with Kenner to create faithful replications of characters, spaceships and even location-based playsets pulled from the original film trilogy. If you’re old enough to have owned a Darth Vader action figure from that original line, you know how important it was for his lightsaber to be red, and for his cape to actually flow.
Mulholland admitted, though, that he’d never encountered a change-up like this one in any of his ILM work. “I’ve heard of the toys’ influence in the past, but that was the first time for me,” he joked.
Spot Kylo’s side missiles for yourself, if you haven’t already. We’re pretty sure The Last Jedi is still going strong in plenty of theaters nationwide, ahead of its inevitable rollout to Blu-ray and streaming video in the near future.