Andor’s prop design, and what it means to “feel like Star Wars” (scroll for pictures!)
I got this comment and wanted to paste my response here because I think it’s a fun thing to think about!
Also!! Keep scrolling for a bunch of screenshots of my favorite props and designs from Andor, along with some surface-level analysis of each picture :)
Here’s the comment:
And here’s my response:
Thanks for bringing these things up because I think there's a lot to think about here!
It's interesting to me to consider where we draw the line when it comes to these things. Star Wars has always had technically impossible anachronisms -- time measured in Earth years, idioms that shouldn't yet exist, etc. I'm not necessarily arguing with you, because in the end this varies person-to-person. I just find it fascinating to think about what is immersion-breaking for some people and what isn't. Why might it be reasonable that they would invent the wheel before us, but not the light bulb, or a container for noodles? To me, the show strikes a good balance between the familiar and the fantastical.
The noodles, for example, take something familiar and modify it slightly to align with the Star Wars sci-fi look. Similarly to blue milk, which is just milk but blue, these are blue noodles, which are just noodles but blue! Even the cup that holds them is different: a unique pentagonal shape with metal screws keeping it together, as opposed to the four-sided box with a handle that we're used to. The show does the same with many of its props, from headphones to neckties. All similar, but different. Occasionally flirting with aspects of our own world without (in my opinion) crossing the line makes the show feel more authentic to me.
I think another thing to consider is that this show, moreso than any other live action Star Wars media before it, places a sizeable emphasis on mundane props and everyday objects: how they feel, how they sound, how they look up close. There's a great video essay by Thomas Flight that I recommend called "Why Andor Feels So Real" that gets into this a bit. I think that a byproduct of this show's fixation on the mundane is that we, the audience, scrutinize these props more heavily, leading to a break in immersion for some people that might not have occurred were these props in the background instead of the foreground. For me, it's a worthy tradeoff; I prefer the grounded worldbuilding and appreciate the detail in the props.
Finally, I encourage finishing the season if you haven't! There's a minor alien character in the first episode that I found charming, and there are some great alien designs later in the season. I agree that aliens aren't a priority in this series and that there's less of them than usual, but they're definitely in the show, and not just in the background! I suspect that the people behind the show are more interested in the intricacies of human performance than they are in the spectacle of animatronics and puppets, but there are still some very creative and convincing creature effects in Andor. Still, it's a very human-centric story, which I don't mind since I love this cast, and we've had human-centric Star Wars stories in the past. This also takes place during a time that the Galaxy is under a human-supremacist dictatorship. I predict that there will be more non-human characters in the second season as we see the rebellion form into something more structured and unified, but this is just speculation.
To me, the show absolutely feels like Star Wars, for reasons I mention in the video, but I don't disagree that the show has left some people feeling differently. Personally, I'd rather have an uncompromising vision than something that attempts to satisfy everyone, and the great thing about Star Wars is that there's room for many different types of stories, and I think this show especially opens the door for that aspect of this universe to really flourish.
And just for fun, here are some pictures of some of my favorite props and creature effects from the show (spoilers ahead):
To me, these little guys are instantly iconic, and I love the way they're introduced. Potty humor? In my serious prestige TV show? It's more likely than you think!
I could post a million fascinating details about Ferrix but the glove wall immediately comes to mind as really impressive worldbuilding. Work gloves are something we've seen in real life, but the way they're all out in the open here demonstrates how tightly-knit this community is. Everybody trusts each other, and everybody knows the routine.
Vetch is a wonderful gentle giant and I hope we see more of him in Season 2. I like the way the show depicts subtle bigotry towards non-humans in the Star Wars universe: Vetch is here because he's a big alien dude, and you can read Nurchi as seeing him as not much more than that. Cassian, on the other hand, seems to understand Vetch's nature better. It makes for a fun dynamic, and a subversion of what we're used to from this type of scene.
Blue noodles! They're blue!! Also, I love the headphones, which fit the retro-futurism of Star Wars very well.
Space coffee mug! It's an interesting shape in that it curves outward near the bottom. The handle is also very high. Nothing too out of the ordinary, but just enough about it is different to make it feel slightly alien.
The way Maarva looks at Cassian's old Kenari weapon to me evokes Obi-Wan looking at Anakin's old lightsaber in A New Hope. The hilt even looks vaguely lightsaber-ish. There are a lot of complicated emotions here.
I really like the look of the communicators the corpos use. Feels very much in line with the production design of A New Hope.
Space razor and space mirror. Love it
These clothes-hangers look very interesting. The way this whole setup fits into Luthen's ship adds to its custom feel -- this thing is decked out. It's a 007 spy car, but in space.
Stims like this have been a thing in Star Wars for a while -- Jedi Fallen Order comes to mind -- but in Andor they're tangible and intimidating. These aren't video game items, they're medical tools. This moment in ep4 where Cinta uses it on Cassian foreshadows the ending of episode 6, when it's used on Nemik to give him his final boost of adrenaline so that he's able save everyone: "Climb!"
The usual Star Wars prop fanservice is recontextualized in Andor as rich people shit. Rich people love to collect shit from cultures they think they care about, and this serves as both a perfect cover for Luthen and a playful jab at easter egg fans.
Space iPad. Love all the little details here, and how it's futuristic yet still feels slightly clunky and analog. The gold and white color scheme has a certain elegance to it, emphasizing that this is a luxury item meant to appeal to the upper class. The ISB use a similar prop with different coloring.
Weird food! You can also see the cereal container in the background.
Space cereal :)
It comes out of this interesting, plastic-looking container. I wonder if the cereal comes packaged in it, or if Eedy stores the cereal in it. I'm assuming the latter; she seems like she would be very organized.
An interesting watch. The glowing hexagon above what is presumably the time is reminiscent of the shape of the prison Cassian will be put in. This six-sided design is a recurring visual motif throughout the show (and the franchise as a whole) wherever the Empire is present.
This guy reminds me of Maz Kanata. It's a really impressive visual effect. Not sure how much of this character is practical and how much is enhanced with CG.
Space necktie and space ID badge. They both use similar clips.
This is a great practical puppet. And what an interesting cup!
Space steno machine. Very analog-feeling. Probably the closest we get in the show to seeing a real-life object in the Star Wars universe, although there still seem to be some subtle differences. The grill above the keys is interesting, I wonder what it's for.
Everything about the prison workstations is meant to feel alienating and overwhelming. Diego Luna's acting sells this really well in their introduction episode, but the props themselves help by looking very harsh and unfriendly. There's also a sterility to this space that reminds me of a hospital operating room. The instruments hanging from the ceiling further invite this comparison.
"Squigs" seem to be little worms that partially dissolve in drinks as part of a Chandrilan custom. Lieda later remarks that they're disgusting, to which Tay retorts that they're supposed to be. Very neat characterization and worldbuilding in just a couple lines. Great stuff!
Happy to see this dude return from Rogue One. Love his design.
The headphones used to torture Bix are terrifying. These could have looked like a torture device, but instead there’s a utilitarian matter-of-factness to them that’s oddly more intimidating. The red light is a simple but nice touch. In Star Wars, red = evil!
A fun blink-and-you'll-miss-it alien design in the lower levels of Coruscant. There are some more aliens in this short sequence, but this is my personal favorite. That the aliens on Coruscant mostly reside here instead of the prettier upper levels show that non-humans are an underclass in this universe. The Empire wants nothing to do with them.
This elevator sequence is entrancing for many reasons but since this post is about prop design, I'll just highlight the little bluetooth earpiece that Lonni finds in it. It's simple but it's neat. It also has a blue light on the inside that you can see as he's putting it in. Sci-fi!
Finally, I love these guys and the way they look. It's nice to see robotic prosthetics be featured in a way that doesn't symbolize loss of humanity (the franchise has an... interesting relationship with that). I also love the gross-looking net that they use to capture Cassian and Melshi. It looks oddly organic, a bit like a big spiderweb.
That's it! There might be more, but this was already getting pretty long. Hope the formatting of this post was ok, I'm new to this website and still getting used to having the ability to post something longer than 280 characters. TL;DR: Andor good
Here's a link to my video about Andor if you're interested:
And here's a link to Thomas Flight's video that I mentioned in my comment:
10 Questions to Ask About your World
What are the common theories about the universe? (Fate, free will, what’s out there? Gods?)
How much does this society know about its world? (how much is explored versus not, are they fully aware of their history or are there things they haven’t discovered yet? What’s beyond their scope?)
What sort of religions or communities exist?
What foods do they eat, what wouldn’t be as normalized?
What traditions do they have? Festivals, celebrations, holidays, etc.
How does the average person spend a Sunday?
Is there a skill that’s expected for people to know? (ex. where I live most people know how to ride a bike) Is there something that would be odd in this society to know?
Do people drive or do they transit or do they walk? How do people get around?
How do people communicate with each other? (Phones, letters, birds, etc.)
What’s something that makes your setting unique or fit specifically for your story?