Fans Re-Create 'Star Wars' Online

The 'Star Wars: Uncut' project has become a Web phenomenon.

November 20, 2009, 10:48 AM

Nov. 24, 2009— -- Fans of the original "Star Wars" movie are chopping the classic film up and making their own version of it 15 seconds at a time.

It's all part of a project called "Star Wars: Uncut," developed by 25-year-old Casey Pugh, a Brooklyn-based interactive developer.

He began with an ambitious idea: What if fans could take 15-second clips of the classic 1977 movie, recreate them in inventive ways and assemble them into a new version of the film?

Pugh launched the site in July. Four days later, all 473 scenes had been claimed. He ended up adding more rounds of clips, meaning each scene can be recreated by different people.

Pugh said he was stunned at the response. In all, the project includes more than 1,600 fan-made snippets of the film.

"I've seen every single scene at least twice, so it's hard to pick favorites," he said.

In fact, Pugh has bookmarked more than 80 that caught his eye -- each one taking a new approach to the classic film.

One of Pugh's favorites uses 3D animation to create lifelike versions of Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Han Solo and Chewbacca as they watch the Death Star come into view.

Another took a drastically different approach: simple black and white illustration. When played in sequence, the 90 individual frames show Obi-Wan giving Luke advice on The Force.

Pugh said he even heard from Lucasfilm, director George Lucas' production company, and Pugh said the company was OK with the project so long as he didn't try to profit from it.

Greg Nemec, 43, an illustrator and art instructor, got involved with the project with plans to recreate just one scene.

"Then I liked it so much that I did another, and I liked that one so much I did a third," said the artist from Pleasantville, N.Y.

He was hooked. "That was one of those things that by the end, my wife was saying 'Are you done yet?'"

Within Nemec's trilogy is also one of Pugh's favorite clips. In it, R2-D2 and C-3PO avoid capture by jumping in an escape pod, taking with them the stolen plans for the Death Star and a holographic recording of Princess Leia.

'Star Wars: Uncut' Features Scenes Made by Fans

Nemec's clips used stop-motion animation -- a technique where objects are moved bit by bit and photographed at each point. When the frames are put together, the characters seem to move on their own.

Other participants recreated bits of the film using less sophisticated -- but no less inventive -- techniques.

Crystal Fontan, 26, of Tampa, Fla., and two of her friends wanted to recreate a scene just before Luke meets R2-D2 and C-3PO for the first time. The problem was it had at least five major characters.

That spelled trouble for the trio.

"We didn't have enough people" to pull it off, Fontan said. "But we had enough hands."

So off to the dollar store they went to get supplies for making hand puppets. A couple hours later, brown paper bags had been transformed into the cast of the movie, and they were ready for filming.

Fontan and her friends ended up making their own trilogy of clips, and she said she was glad to have chance to contribute to such an innovative project.

"When I first heard about it, I was like, 'Wow, this is crazy. Why didn't I think of this?'" Fontan said. "It's not only fun, but it also brings together a bunch of creative people."

The project gave the designer an opportunity to pay tribute to a film that's been with her since childhood.

"I had no friends [as a kid] because I wanted to play with my 'Star Wars' action figures and everyone else was playing with their Barbies," Fontan said. "I had no Barbies."

Supporters have popped up all over the globe. The first scene to be completed came from Germany, Pugh said. A Japanese fan's scene was among the first dozen.

So popular was the project that Pugh was invited to present the trailer for the remixed film at the Long Beach ComicCon, a convention that celebrates comic books and pop culture.

As he got off the plane on the way to ComicCon, Pugh got quite a shock. Darth Vader -- at least, the Twitter user who claims to be the fictional Dark Lord -- had endorsed the project, saying, "Star Wars: Uncut the trailer. Impressive. MOST impressive."

Making the Final 'Star Wars: Uncut' Film

That, Pugh said, might have been the biggest highlight of the project so far.

But "Star Wars: Uncut" is far from complete. Pugh still needs to wait for fans to turn in the rest of the clips. (Participants have 30 days to complete a scene once they claim it.)

Then, he said he plans to let fans vote for their favorite version of each scene. That's how he said he'll determine which clips get included in the full-length movie, which he hopes to have completed by March.

Looking to the future, Pugh said he has plans to repeat the project for "Empire Strikes Back," the second "Star Wars" film. But, those plans are on hold until he finishes the first movie. contributor Emily Ingram is a member of the University of Nebraska ABC News on Campus program.