Following the story of how Rogue One was created can seem as circuitous and complicated as stealing the Death Star plans themselves. But uniquely, the plans for making the first standalone Star Wars movie were drawn up long before a writer or a director was even involved. In other words, Rogue One was essentially created by artists before the storytellers were brought in.

On Friday, the digital release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story includes several extras which further outline how John Knoll — an ILM VFX artist — deserves a lot of credit for creating the idea of the movie in the first place. In January, Knoll spoke with Inverse and described his idea for a movie about the theft of the Death Star plans departure for Star Wars. “The big thing here is instead of centering it on a character we know, we center it on an event people know of,” he said. And now, the digital extras for Rogue One show just how much work he and fellow artist Doug Chiang did on the movie before there was ever a script.

Concept art for 'Rogue One'
Concept art for 'Rogue One'

“When the writer came on board, and the director came on board, we had a head start,” Doug Chiang says in the mini-documentary, proving that in the beginning, Rogue One was the dream of artists, not necessarily filmmakers. Chiang has been rendering doing pre-production art for Star Wars since the prequels and frequently mentions how much original production designer Ralph McQuarrie influenced all of their artistic processes.

Elsewhere in the Rogue One extras, director Gareth Edwards echoes this, saying, “We were all sort of living in the shadow of Ralph McQuarrie, who designed the original films.” In terms of nailing down the final look of Rogue One, Neil Lamont, co-production designer, felt it was important that audiences could watch Rogue One and A New Hope “back to back.”

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Jyn concept art by Doug Chiang
Jyn concept art by Doug Chiang

The final film may be great to look at, but the production art detailed in the Rogue One extras is arguably just as beautiful, if not more so.


Rogue One is out today for digital download from multiple platforms, including Google Play, iTunes, Vudu, and others. It will release on Blu-ray and DVD on April 4.

Photos via Doug Chiang