May the 4th

2023 Special Edition

In lieu of our typical Inside the Studio feature, this May the 4th we surveyed the studio to see what Star Wars means to them. After going through all the great answers that we received, we’re sharing some of the ones that really highlight the love of Star Wars that is felt across our team. 

Favorite Star Wars Memories

For many at the studio, a favorite memory that people have was the first time they saw a Star Wars movie in the theater. Kristin (She/Her; Senior Lighting Technical Director) remembers “the absolute chaotic joy that erupted in the theater when Rey and Kylo Ren teamed up in The Last Jedi while in Snoke’s throne room.” Brian “Panda” (He/Him; Senior 3D Character Artist) also mentioned that same movie, saying how he was “watching in the Chinese Theater and was just amazed at the effective bravery felt throughout the film.” 

Joe with his family at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

At the midnight premiere of Revenge of the Sith, Emily (She/Her; Senior DevOps Engineer) was working at a movie theater when it came out, saying “I still remember the excitement and energy of everyone lining up around the theater to get a seat.” Thinking back on that same film, Lianne (She/Her; Software Engineer III) recalls “the shock I had when I learned that Anakin Skywalker becomes Darth Vader.”

Watching Return of the Jedi on opening night, Edmund (He/Him; Senior QA Analyst) said his favorite memory of “seeing some of the audience boo and throw popcorn at the first appearance of Darth Vader.” Also sharing the first time he saw the original trilogy, Andrei (He/Him; Senior Gameplay Engineer) recounts “when I was around 10 years old, my uncle popped in the whole original Star Wars trilogy on his LaserDisc, and the whole family binge-watched it. That was a phenomenal experience for me.”

Thinking back on the first time he heard of Star Wars, Joe (He/Him; Senior Experience Designer) said that “at a friend’s house in 1977, I remember hearing about A New Hope after they’d just come back from the theaters. I was thinking to myself ‘robots? Laser battles? Space aliens?’ I had no clue what they were talking about, but the film influenced my life so profoundly both personally and professionally.”

John’s wedding cake.

A few members of the studio even had to travel a great distance in order to check out the movies in a theater. Daniele (He/They; R&D Engineer) needed to travel “hundreds of kilometers from my hometown to watch Attack of the Clones in the only digital cinema that we had in Italy at the time. We went with lots of other fans!”

Some more recent memories that we received are from visiting Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at the Parks. In preparation for development on Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge, Michelle (She/Her; Marketing Specialist) remembers “being one of the first people to visit Galaxy’s Edge with all my coworkers.” Kay (They/Them; Senior Gameplay Engineer) also recounts how “almost a decade after I made a group of friends online playing Star Wars: The Old Republic in college, we all finally got to meet up in person at Galaxy’s Edge and it was amazing.”

Star Wars in One Word

Finding just one word to describe Star Wars is no easy feat, we received a wide range of words from people at the studio. However, the most frequently used words were “epic,” “hope,” and “adventure,” which all tap into the essence of the franchise that we’ve all grown to know and love. Kevin (He/Him; Audio Director and Supervising Sound Engineer) said that, to him, Star Wars could best be described as “a science-fiction space opera in which the unlikeliest of heroes can overcome adversity and oppression.”

Favorite Star Wars Characters

It’s no surprise that R2-D2, a favorite from the very beginning of the Star Wars franchise, is still a cherished character for many at the studio today. Sean (He/Him; Environment Artist) shared that Artoo is his top pick because “you never know what he was saying, but you know it is something sassy. He is always there to save the day and is the unsung hero of the original trilogy.” Kevin echoed that same feeling, adding that Artoo is a “plucky astromech who is constantly saving their friends from peril despite the risks.”

Art of Lor San Tekka by Davide.

Ahsoka Tano is also popular for a reason that was consistent by everyone who chose her: she represents empowerment. Mark Q. (He/Him; Creature Technical Director) elaborated by saying “Ashoka is one of those characters that inspires you to give it your all. After everything that has happened to her, she is still a person with great moral character and pursues what is right for all of the galaxy. Ahsoka is a great role model for anyone who watches Star Wars.” Maggie (She/Her; Technology Project Manager) also added that “she’s such a complex character and has so much heart and integrity. Plus, she’s a badass and really represents the current era of rich storytelling within Star Wars.” 

Another classic character who was chosen is Luke Skywalker. “I really identified with his desire to have more purpose to his current life and his journey to find enlightenment,” said John (He/Him; Experience Design Supervisor). Adding to that, Brian (He/Him; Staff Software Engineer, R&D) said “Luke is a kid with big dreams, and that was me when I first saw Star Wars.”

David as a kid with Darth Vader.

Drawn to the dark side, Kay chose Grand Admiral Thrawn because he is a “strategic villain that gives the heroes a different kind of challenge than they’re used to, which makes for some great stories.” Davide (He/Him; Senior Character Artist) had similar sentiments towards Kylo Ren, noting that he is a “fresh, new kind of villain who is very grounded.” 

With a galaxy full of personalities, motives, species, and friendships, these characters were certainly not the only ones chosen across the studio. Grogu was named by Lianne, Cassian Andor by Rachel, Obi-Wan Kenobi by Edmund, Din Djarin by Andrei, Boba Fett by Mark W. (He/Him; Senior Project Manager), Jedi Master Yoda by Jamey (Senior VFX Artist), Princess/General Leia by Emily, and many others you know and love. 

However, despite all these answers, there was a very important question posed by David (He/Him; Senior Animator), who asked in return: “Do I really have to choose only one?!”

Celebrating May the 4th

Michelle and Peter at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

While there’s certainly no wrong way to celebrate May the 4th, everyone agrees that Star Wars needs to be incorporated at least somewhere throughout the day. Even if it’s a simple greeting of “May the 4th Be With You,” like Andrei (He/Him; Senior Gameplay Engineer) and Joe plan to do, or making Star Wars jokes like Panda and Kay, there’s an endless number of ways to express your fandom.

Listening to the iconic music found throughout the franchise is on the list for Lianne and Jacob (He/Him; Senior Production Assistant). If you need any good recommendations, Jacob noted that he’ll be streaming R3X’s playlist, which includes “Bight Size” that can also be heard in Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge at Seezelslak’s jukebox. 

If you’ve ever wondered when’s a good time to watch the Star Wars films, the holiday makes for a great day to rewatch or catch up on one or two — or all 11 if you’re ambitious. According to David, Emily, Maggie, Michelle, Peter (He/Him; Associate Software Engineer), Rachel (She/Her; Gameplay Engineer), and Sean, they’ll be continuing their long-standing tradition of doing just that.

The holiday also marks a great day to dress up in your favorite Star Wars garb, which is exactly what Edmund, Kristin, and Mark W. will be doing this year.
And, just like many others across the world, Daniele will be spending the holiday playing the recently released Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, which fans and critics have agreed is not one that any video gamer should miss.

The Importance of Star Wars

Art by Brian.

Everyone who shared their stories with us had many different reasons why Star Wars is a special franchise for them. For Jacob, Star Wars is important to him because of the message about family. “It’s not only about where you come from, it’s about the family you find and choose to form for yourself,” he said. “You can be a Jedi, a smuggler, a general, a soldier, or a droid – there is room for everyone in Star Wars and this big galaxy of ours.”

Mark W. also agreed with this sentiment, saying that he “loves working at the company that makes this all happen.” Maggie shared that she has been “such a big fan for so long, and to now be a part of the teams that make it is so wild and gratifying.” Jamey added that “it has been great to work with the Star Wars IP for a number of years. It tends to make work not seem like work.” 

No matter who you are, Star Wars has something for everyone. Mark Q. touched on this, saying “I have enjoyed the franchise my entire life, and I am excited to be at a point now where I can create and share content with fans from all backgrounds. I’m hopeful that the content I create will help spark inspiration or dreams for the person who experiences it.”

From all of us here at the studio, May the 4th Be With You!

About Inside the Studio - Our Stories

“Inside the Studio: Our Stories” is an interview series where we highlight and share the career journeys of our colleagues here at ILMxLAB. With our studio busy working to pioneer a new era of interactive storytelling through virtual and mixed reality experiences, we want to introduce you to a few of the many people helping to make that happen.
To do this, we are interviewing a few of the people here at ILMxLAB so that you can learn a little more about them, their career journey, and what their job in a galaxy far, far away entails. New interviews will be posted regularly, so be sure to check back to meet even more of the talented people that bring our experiences to life.