At the end of the battle against Jabba and his henchmen, which was set in (what appears to be) a real desert, the two droids are lifted out of the sand, feet first, against a very fake looking backdrop.

Given the attention to detail throughout the original trilogy, this seems to have been a strange decision.

Was it due to time constraints, budget or something else? I'm curious to know if there is an on-set 'story' behind this scene.

Real Set

Bad set

After adding pictures: on every viewing of ROTJ, the backdrop appears "unreal", but after adding the above picture, it might be more that the sand in the foreground is oddly lit? At any rate - it looks bizarre, as if they forgot to film it whilst on location.

  • 2
    IIRC all backgrounds (at least a lot) in the OT were hand-painted. Could it be that you just don't like this particular painting? Do you have a screenshot?
    – Kevin
    Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 9:53
  • @Kevin I updated the question to include some example pictures: one of the real set in the desert and one of the unrealistic looking droid-in-sand.
    – mungflesh
    Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 11:26

1 Answer 1


As you said in your question, due to time constraints and budget a vast majority of the backdrops were hand painted with matte paint. There is an article here, where you can see a lot of the amazing paintings.

It's not just the paintings that really show how ahead of it's time Star Wars was in the late 70s. The camera work and perspective needed to use these backdrops and create realistic cinematography is ridiculous. So Star Wars isn't just one of the most popular film series of all time, it was also at the time at least, a pioneering film in it's creation techniques.

It's interesting to note what the camera does to these paintings. Even though they are realistic enough for us to look at, they aren't ultra-realistic like some paintings you see today. The techniques used seemed to enhance the imagery of the paintings. The artists had to make color adjustments to account for this in some cases. Not an easy task at all.

  • There's stuff that looks good and stuff that looks less good in the original trilogy. This particular scene, however, is pretty awful and has a more made-for-TV production value to it. I'm really wondering if someone out there knows a specific on-set story behind why this scene stands out like it does.
    – mungflesh
    Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 11:39
  • After looking at OP's picture, it also seems like there is a shadow over the part of desert where C-3PO is stuck. Maybe they were trying to convey the existence of something blocking the sun at that part, while in the distance the rest of the desert is lit unobstructed. I don't remember the setting in that particular scene very well, but could it be there is some big building in the way, creating the shadow?
    – Kevin
    Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 13:48
  • 4
    'it also seems like there is a shadow over the part of desert where C-3PO is stuck' - probably the skiff they're just about to pick 3PO up with... Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 13:56
  • 2
    That shadowed area seemed obviously indicative of whatever overhead vehicle was picking him up. Is the OP's big issue a confusing shadow? Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 14:01
  • I don't have any evidence of this but it could also be a pick-up shot in the studio because they didn't have time to get that shot on location or hadn't come up with the idea until they left the location.
    – NKCampbell
    Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 14:37

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