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This answer showed me something I didn't know: that Luke's lightsaber was blue in the first trailer for Return of the Jedi.

As we know, Luke used a green lightsaber in the film. That same answer mentions it was to make the blade stand out better against Tatooine's blue sky, but doesn't back it up with references.

Why was the blue blade changed to green?


Of course, Luke lost his old blue lightsaber when he was disarmed by Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back. But that was before Return of the Jedi started production. Yet in the trailer for Return of the Jedi, we see Luke with a blue blade, not with the green blade he would use in the final version of the film.

So possibly, the original idea was for Luke to have somehow recovered his old blue lightsaber, or perhaps his newly constructed lightsaber would've been blue like the old one. But at some point between the release of the trailer and the actual film, the colour of the blade was changed from blue to green.

Why was the blue blade changed to green between the trailer and the release of Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi?

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    The whole justification of the green lightsaber being because of the color of Tatooine’s sky really does seem quite poorly referenced. I can’t find any confirmation. It’s a plausible assertion, but utterly unsupported in all examples that I’ve seen. – Adamant Nov 17 '16 at 22:28
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    It also makes it more evident when vader says "I see you have constructed a new lightsaber. Your skills are complete" - It may have been up to the viewers to notice the top was different had they not changed the color... plus, new toys. – Kai Qing Nov 17 '16 at 23:31
  • @Adamant But that's only answering why the colour choice of green, right? It's not answering why the change between the trailer and release of Jedi, not that I'm suggesting you actually tried answering the question, I'm actually wondering about your opinion on your own comment's relevance to the Q, since I downvoted one of the answers for that same reason. – Ghoti and Chips Nov 18 '16 at 11:17
  • At 1:06, half of the blade (framed against the bright yellow sand) seems to have a greener hue than the rest of the blade (in front of Luke's black clothing). Maybe the mixing of blue and yellow to make green is an unintended effect (real or optical illusion) that they couldn't overcome, so they decided to exaggerate it for the full film. The blurry logo at 1:23 suggests that this video has been transferred from an old-style CRT television, which are known to produce colour artefacts. – Gaultheria Nov 25 '19 at 18:13
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+500

1. To make Luke's own construction more obvious

A transcript from a 1981 Return of the Jedi story conference shows a conversation between George Lucas, Richard Marquand, Lawrence Kasdan, and Howard Kazanjian that works out a color change as a way of making it more obvious that Luke has constructed a new lightsaber after he loses his old one (along with his hand) on Cloud City.

Lucas: The way I was explaining it in the scripts before was that he made another one. But it's going to be impossible, given the structure of the way the film is now, to explain where that lazer sword came from.

Marquand: It's a line of dialogue later.

Lucas: Well, I don't know if we even need to explain it. The worst thing about that is you get a letter in Starlog magazine. Big deal.

Marquand: He made it, that's the answer!

Lucas: That's not going to drop the audience out of the film. People aren't going to stand up and say, "I just don't buy that, I'm leaving". But you will get lots of letters, so we'll make a form letter explaining that Luke made it.

Kasdan: Maybe it should be a new colour.

Lucas: Yes, it could be totally different looking. We can work that out. But the idea running throughout the whole trilogy is: First he's given his father's sword, because his father lost it in the fight with Ben Kenobi: Ben cut his hand off and Vader fell into the volcano, so Ben then pried the lazer sword out of the hand and kept it for the son. So then what the father did was cut his son's hand and lazer sword off — and that was a way of severing the relationship between father and son. Not only did Luke lose his weapon and was castrated, but at the same time his father split that relationship. Luke was carrying his sword for his father. Now he is not doing that anymore. In this one, he's built his own. He has built his own lazer sword; he is his own man, he is not a son anymore. He is an equal.

Lucas believed that Luke constructing his own lightsaber illustrated a maturation in Luke - juxtaposing him with Vader - evolving from the naive farm boy carrying the legacy of his father to an worthy adversary and Vader's equal.

2. For better contrast when displayed against the Tatooine sand/sky backdrop

But somewhere along the line, they decided to stick with blue until some time in post production. It's normal for trailers to be put together quite a while before the final version of the film is ready so it's completely plausible that the shots of Luke in the trailer didn't include any footage that made the blue look bad but when they circled around to finish the entire Tatooine fight scene, the blue appeared more washed out than they had hoped.

This has been a well-known ROTJ factoid for as long as I can remember but I'm not 100% sure where the idea originated. I've seen references to the theory online going back as far as 2004 but I can't find an original source at the moment. I want to say I saw it in the VHS special features for the 90s Special Edition re-release but I'd have to dig those out to confirm.

Pablo Hidalgo, however, has confirmed this idea more recently, tweeting

Remember - Luke had a green one because the effects sequence had it against a blue sky. That's as deep as these things tend to go.

— @pablohidalgo October 18, 2016

and telling Vanity Fair:

“The intent was the lightsaber was going to be blue,” Hidalgo explains of the story that has passed into Star Wars lore. “In that universe, at that time, as far as anyone knew, lightsabers were red or they were blue.” But Luke’s weapon was changed to green so it would stand out against the bright blue sky and yellow sand, in scenes such as the Jedi’s daring rescue of Han, Leia, and the rest. “As much as we like to mythologize why it’s green and what that all signifies,” Hidalgo explains, “sometimes there are very pragmatic filmmaking reasons behind these things.”

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    I like this answer but isn’t it essentially my answer but with an extra quote added in from one of my links? – TheLethalCarrot Nov 25 '19 at 19:41
  • @TheLethalCarrot - My second half is essentially the same as yours, correct. But your answer has nothing about the conception of the idea using a different color (from the '81 story conference) as a way to make it obvious Luke built a new saber. If I hadn't had that extra conversation transcript to show the additional reason, I would've just let your answer be. – TheIronCheek Nov 25 '19 at 19:52
  • @TheLethalCarrot - I didn't want to exclude the contrast issue from my answer because I don't think the reason of illustrating Luke's own construction is the sole reason. – TheIronCheek Nov 25 '19 at 19:57
  • Fair enough, that transcript is from a link in my answer but I didn’t feel like it added too much so left it out. Like I said this is a nice answer though. – TheLethalCarrot Nov 25 '19 at 19:57
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    WTH he was CASTRATED? I really didn't pay enough attention to that scene – GordonBennett Nov 28 '19 at 13:34
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Another explanation:

Originally, the color of Luke's new lightsaber was blue, the same as the one he lost in Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980). Luke can even be seen wielding a blue lightsaber in early ROTJ trailers. However, when a scene of Luke assembling and activating his new saber was cut, George Lucas thought the audience might not understand that Luke's ROTJ lightsaber was not the same one he lost on Cloud City. To avoid confusion, Lucas decided to change the color from blue to green, making it clear that Luke was using a new saber. (As part of the Expanded Universe -Legends-, Luke's original lightsaber, used by his father and given to him by Obi-Wan, was recovered (along with his severed hand) from Cloud City and was later wielded by a Luke clone. Luke later recaptured this saber and presented it to Mara Jade, his love.)

Source IMDb

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    You "source" should fix that last part, since now we at least know Rey found, though how Maz Katana got it is open... – Zommuter Nov 18 '16 at 12:18
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    This answer makes the most sense, but can anyone find any actual sources to confirm? – DavidS Nov 18 '16 at 12:37
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+500

Pablo Hidalgo, Lucasfilm Story Group creative executive, has explained in an interview with Vanity Fair that it was changed because of "pragmatic filmmaking reasons". What those reasons are he doesn't explain, but, the article does say it was to contrast with the sky and desert. However, as Hidalgo doesn't say that himself it's worth taking with a pinch of salt.

“The intent was the lightsaber was going to be blue,” Hidalgo explains of the story that has passed into Star Wars lore. “In that universe, at that time, as far as anyone knew, lightsabers were red or they were blue.” But Luke’s weapon was changed to green so it would stand out against the bright blue sky and yellow sand, in scenes such as the Jedi’s daring rescue of Han, Leia, and the rest. “As much as we like to mythologize why it’s green and what that all signifies,” Hidalgo explains, “sometimes there are very pragmatic filmmaking reasons behind these things.”

“George [Lucas]’s rule of thumb was bad guys get red, good guys get blue—or, eventually, green,” Hidalgo explains. But Star Wars rules are made to be broken, and when Samuel L. Jackson insisted he get a purple lightsaber so he could pick his character, Mace Windu, out of a Jedi-heavy fight scene in Episode II, Lucas relented. “Lo and behold a purple one came into existence.”

Vanity Fair, Star Wars: Inside the Troubled Past and Exciting Future of Rey’s Lightsaber

I have found reference to a tweet by Hidalgo from 18/10/2016 that backs up the contrast theory. However, as Hidalgo periodically deletes his tweets I can't find the original to check now (source 1 - Force Material source 2 - Star Wars News Net).

Remember - Luke had a green one because the effects sequence had it against a blue sky. That's as deep as these things tend to go.

— @pablohidalgo October 18, 2016

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