by Damien Valentine
Based on the Star Wars novel of the same name, Heir to the Empire is an animated adaptation of the book written by Timothy Zahn.
It started in 2019 as a test video. I had wanted to try out some ideas for animating a space battle. Remembering the first chapter of the book was all about a space battle with some basic character interactions, that seemed like the ideal choice.
Little did I know the overwhelming response that little test video would receive when I posted it on YouTube and I was flooded with requests for more. The idea of taking on the whole book was quite daunting, but if I was going to do it, I would want to do it right.
With Grand Admiral Thrawn and Captain Pellaeon in the first chapter, there was a little more flexibility in how they look and sound because at the time, there hadn’t been any live action versions of them. With Han, Luke, Leia and Lando, it was important they both look and sound like the actors who played them in the movies. Not to mention Chewie and Threepio. So I spent some time creating character models and was lucky enough to enlist a very talented cast of voice actors from all over the world. All the pieces were in place. I just had to write it.
I read through the book again and started working on the script. The goal was to be as close to the novel as possible. Not everything works as well on paper as it does in video, in which case I’d aim to be as close to the spirit of the book as possible. Later that year, the second chapter was released. We were four chapters in when the pandemic hit and Heir to the Empire became a lockdown project. Thankfully, I was already doing the animation and motion capture work at home and the voice actors could record from theirs.
And here we are now. At the time of writing, there have been twenty three chapters released (out of thirty two) and work on the final few is well underway. The series has won multiple awards at various film festivals and a crowdfunding campaign allowed me to upgrade the animation software. You’ll notice a big difference in visual quality with Chapter 18.
A movie edit of the first half of the book was put together in late 2021 as a big thankyou for all the fans who supported the series so far.
The book was an important part of my childhood and bringing it to life has been a dream project for a long time, but not one I ever thought possible. At some point, I’m going to have to start reading Dark Force Rising.
The movie edit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CC9fYUDQ6CM