A behind the scenes still from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace showing the pod race arena miniature

The Star Wars Movie With the Most Miniatures Will Surprise You

The Star Wars franchise traded in miniatures for CGI after the original trilogy wrapped, right? Wrong — and what’s more, the Star Wars movie with the most miniatures will surprise you!

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Which Star Wars Movie Has the Most Miniatures?

A behind-the-scenes photo of the Theed hanger miniature used in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace

Star Wars – Episode I: The Phantom Menace has the most miniature-effects shots of any entry in the franchise. It may seem hard to believe, given fans and critics alike criticized Star Wars creator George Lucas for the amount of digital effects in The Phantom Menace.

Yet this factoid is indeed legit, as it comes via the film’s visual effects supervisor, John Knoll. Knoll (who is now chief creative officer of Industrial Light & Magic [ILM], Lucasfilm’s visual effects house) confirmed that The Phantom Menace used more miniatures than any other Star Wars production in Disney+’s behind-the-scenes series Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian.

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Exotic locations realized either fully or in part via miniature effects in The Phantom Menace include:

  • Naboo’s capital city, Theed (including the Naboo Royal Palace and hangar)
  • Naboo’s undersea planet core
  • The Mos Espa Grand Arena

The Mos Espa Grand Arena miniature is especially noteworthy, as it scored The Phantom Menace a Guinness World Record. ILM used 450,000 hand-painted cotton Q-tips to simulate the arena crowd — the most individual miniatures ever featured in a single scene.

ILM also created a range of miniature vehicles for The Phantom Menace. This included scale replicas of many of the film’s podracers, as well as the various starfighters, ground craft, and battleships used by the Naboo and Trade Federation, respectively.

Did the Other Star Wars Prequels Use Miniatures Too?

A behind-the-scenes photo of Star Wars: Attack of the Clones' Coruscant miniature set

Yep — Episode II: Attack of the Clones and Episode III: Revenge of the Sith also contain multiple miniature effects shots.

Attack of the Clones‘ miniature sets include:

  • Kamino’s Tipoca City complex (exteriors and some interiors)
  • The Geonosis execution arena (and other Geonosis interiors)
  • The Coruscant entertainment district streets
  • The Jedi Archives

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Meanwhile, Revenge of the Sith‘s miniature sets include:

  • The Felucia jungle
  • The Utapau sinkhole city
  • Mustafar’s volcanic plains (including the lava waterfall)

Incredibly, ILM achieved the Mustafar miniature’s flowing lava stream and waterfall through practical means. Crew members poured liters of Methocel (a construction adhesive/binder) treated with yellow dye through plastic trenches cut along the miniature’s surface, which was tilted 10 degrees. At the same time, they shined bright studio lights through the trenches.

This gave the on-camera impression of a raging stream of glowing, molten liquid. The Methocel’s red, orange, and yellow hues further sold the illusion, along with the addition of black powered cork (standing in for volcanic rock particles). A final layer of CGI sheen then went on top, resulting in one of the Star Wars saga’s most hellish environments.

Star Wars: The Phantom Menace is currently streaming on Disney+, as part of the platform’s Star Wars collection.

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Leon Miller
Leon is a freelance contributor at The Escapist, covering movies, TV, video games, and comics. Active in the industry since 2016, Leon's previous by-lines include articles for Polygon, Popverse, Screen Rant, CBR, Dexerto, Cultured Vultures, PanelxPanel, Taste of Cinema, and more.