For her first two appearances in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Lupita Nyong’o (Us, Black Panther) took on the role of Maz Kanata via motion capture technology. However, in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Maz was brought to life as an animatronic.
In a recent interview with CinemaBlend, Creature And Special Make-Up Effects Creative Supervisor Neal Scanlan opened up about bringing Maz to life as “a highly mechanized animatronic.”
“She’s a highly mechanized animatronic,” Scanlan said in the interview. “The major thing was that often when we do something in animatronics, we perform that character almost in a remote situation. So the character may be there in front of the camera, but the puppeteers are somewhere else. In this case, we used a data suit that was worn by a puppeteer and as that person would move, Maz would mimic it. There was a puppeteer who was responsible for the dialogue, and there was a puppeteer responsible for the eye line and the expressions. Those puppeteers could be right next to J.J. [Abrams], and they could see Maz and they could be in the scene.”
Scanlan continued to explain why the team strived to make Maz an animatronic to acknowledge the legacy of animatronic characters in the Star Wars series.
“She represented more to us than just an animatronic. She represented bringing the animatronic very much more intimately into the scene. And obviously, because it was involved with the Leia sequences, that was something that J.J. had pushed us to try and do as well. He wanted those that were involved in those sequences to be intimately involved, and that included the animatronics.”
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker sees J.J. Abrams (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) directing a cast that includes Star Wars veterans Daisy Ridley (Rey), Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), John Boyega (Finn), Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron), Lupita Nyong’o (Maz Kanata), Domhnall Gleeson (General Hux), Kelly Marie Tran (Rose Tico), Joonas Suotamo (Chewbacca), Billie Lourd (Lieutenant Connix), Greg Grunberg (Snap Wexley), Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian), Ian McDiarmid (Emperor Palpatine) and Carrie Fisher (Leia Organa) as well as new additions Naomi Ackie (Lady Macbeth), Richard E. Grant (Logan), Dominic Monaghan (Lost), and Keri Russell (The Americans).