The Child and The Mandalorian

Jon Favreau, creator of the wildly popular Disney+ series and The Mandalorian star Pedro Pascal recently spoke to Variety about the Star Wars show’s upcoming second season, which will premiere on the streaming service this October 30th. The duo discussed a variety of topics, including the possibility of a The Mandalorian feature film. Though Favreau said there are no immediate plans to adapt the series, which premiered alongside Disney+ late last year, into a film, he notes that the line between feature films and streaming titles is growing hazier and he is “definitely open” to the idea.

“The line is blurring now,” said Favreau. “Things that you would have only seen in the movie theater, you’re seeing on streaming, and I think it could go the other way as well.”

“I think that the work is so beautiful that I would love for that to be held by a big screen experience,” Pascal said.

Soon enough, Pascal will slip on his character’s signature helmet once more. Executive producer and showrunner Favreau said that The Mandalorian is “on schedule” to start production on Season 3 of the series “before the end of the year” — after Pascal wraps shooting in Europe on the feature film The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent with Nicolas Cage.

“We’re operating under the assumption that we’ll be able to go forward,” Favreau said. He noted that the innovative production techniques pioneered for The Mandalorianwith wall-sized video panels for location backdrops — puts the show in a unique position within the industry.

StageCraft, an LED augmented reality stage, creates
a vast panorama with one operator

“We’re in very small situations and oftentimes we have a lot of characters in masks,” he said. “And we also have a lot of digital work that augments things. So we’re a show that’s probably well-equipped to be flexible based on the protocols that are emerging surrounding work restarting.”

These new technologies have allowed The Mandalorian to evoke the same vast sense of scale as the Star Wars feature films while operating within the budget and team size of a TV production.

At the same time, due to Covid-19, many productions have scrambled to meet new guidelines that protect cast and crew during the filmmaking process. That includes social distancing and reducing the number of people on set at a given time as well as testing staff at least three times a week. Even if productions quarantine for two weeks and create a bubble for filming, travel restrictions and budget constraints can make it difficult for studios to justify shooting in international locations, even if they are open to the public.

That’s where LED screens come in.

Although not the first production to implement LED technology, The Mandalorian has become the most famous for it. (Gravity, First Man, and Westworld used LED screens too.) The team at famed visual effects company Industrial Light and Magic devised a system known as StageCraft that immerses actors in a 20-foot high, 75-foot wide and 270-degree semicircle of LED video walls.

The technical innovation from the veteran special effects house doesn’t just place a static image on the screen, it moves the 3D image in time with the movement of the camera. Thus, creating a seamless background that acts just like a real location.

For The Mandalorian this became particularly important because of the main character’s metal armor. Had a greenscreen been used, the post-production team would have had to edit out the green shine in his armor and replace it with a virtual image of his surroundings. Using StageCraft, the background is already present and reflected in not only his costumes, but any metallic surfaces of vehicles and weapons.

Pinewood Atlanta Studios, the filming ground for nearly a dozen Marvel films, announced this September its plan to bring a similar LED stage to its facility.

Pinewood Studios in Atlanta, Georgia will be adding a permanent LED Process Stage to its facility.

“I learned a lot from my experience over at Marvel, where it was very organic, how it would evolve,” Favreau said. “You’re paying attention to a larger story arcs and characters that could come together, but also smaller stories of individual characters that could go off [on their own thing]. The key here is keep maintaining the quality and never scaling to the point that we’re losing sight of what’s important to us and what people like about the show.”

The first Disney Plus series produced by Marvel Studios is WandaVision, with Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany, due to premiere later this year, with several more to follow in 2021. Marvel chief Kevin Feige has said that their storylines will interweave with the Marvel Studios theatrical features.

Could the same happen with The Mandalorian?

Mando has had a pretty charmed existence, wrapping season 2 just before the lockdown. Their technology allows them to social distance with a minimal crew, yet achieve impressive effects. They are already shooting Season 3. Even the characters fit our time: Mando never takes his mask off in the presence of another living being – an example for the Pandemic time!

The fantastical visuals science fiction is known for is always pushing special effects forward. In this case, it’s into a world where characters in masks, in small groups, on a controlled stage, with a distant crew, are all strengths! While the pandemic has caused many shows to halt or be cancelled entirely, The Mandalorian fights on.

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