Were The Crystal Foxes Copied?

Once again the film that professional critics adored for subverting expectations is being accused of plagiarism.  Previously, accusations arose that specific elements from The Last Jedi screenplay were plagiarized from fan fiction.  Later, new accusations arose that editing techniques in The Last Jedi were plagiarized from Escape In L.A.  though I was originally skeptical of these claims, #ZerohGate made me reconsider, since Rian Johnson publicly admitted to having a paid staff member of the production scan the internet for fan rumors.  If they were scanning the internet for fan rumors, what else were they scanning the internet for?

TLJKlonowska

The Last Jedi is filled with diverse force doppelgängers.

Now Jar Jar Abrams has posted on Twitter a new accusation of plagiarism, against the design for the crystal foxes in The Last Jedi.  A design that I previously thought was quite good, if perhaps misplaced in a Star Wars film.

Jar Jar Abrams posted the following:

Crystal1

In November of 2017, Entertainment Weekly posted an interview with Neal Scanlan on the creation of the crystal foxes:

The creature is known as a vulptex. A pack of them would be vulptices. Star Warsfans already know them as the crystal foxes, but they don’t know much else about these secretive beings.

These inhabitants of the mineral-rich world of Crait run across the salt flats and burrow deep within the crevasses of this former hideout for the Rebel Alliance, which in galactic lore dates back to the events of the original trilogy.

In the decades since, they have come to roam free through these abandoned structures. The vulptices stand as proof that even the most inhospitable worlds cans harbor life.

As part of EW’s cover story about The Last Jedi, we spoke with Neal Scanlan, head of the Star Wars creature shop, about the genesis of these translucent survivors.

“The idea is that these wonderful sort of feral creatures had lived on this planet and had consumed the planet’s surface, and as such had become crystalline,” Scanlan says. The designers took inspiration from “crystal glass chandeliers and the sort of luminosity and elements of refraction” they create.

The creatures were designed by Aaron McBride and the name “vulptex” came from Lucasfilm story group member Pablo Hidalgo, who galacticized vulpes, the Latin word for “fox.”

Foxes that are covered with gems instead of fur is an easy thing to propose, but a lot harder to visualize – and even more difficult to render in real life. For help, they turned to man’s best friend.

“We had a little dog come in and we built a little suit for it, and we covered that suit with clear drinking straws,” Scanlan said. “It was amazing to see him run around. It could run and jump, and it had this wonderful sort of movement to it. It had a great sound to it, as well, because all the little straws moved and flexed with the animal.”

The dog was only a volunteer for test purposes, showing them how a creature covered with long crystals might actually maneuver, and where the spaces between the crystals would be necessary. From there, the creature shop used that information to build animatronic puppets that could perform in scenes with live actors, while separate static models were constructed to be digitally scanned for animators.

But Polish artist Marta Klonowska had designed her own crystal foxes.  Interestingly, images of Marta’s crystal foxes were posted online as early as 2013 at twistedsifter.com, which would have been about the time that The Last Jedi would have started pre-production.  Remember, Last Jedi production crew have stated that the screenplay for The Last Jedi was completed before The Force Awakens was released in theaters.  It’s why Kelly Marie Tran wasn’t allowed to watch The Force Awakens before starting production on The Last Jedi.

Marta had this to say about her sculptures:

“Animals are difficult to understand and it is difficult to communicate with them. My glass animals open therefore a new reality, which is different from ours. The sitters in the painting, the animals and the audience of my art perform in a kind of theatrical stage, where the different levels become indistinct. This clash of realities should make us think about the uncertainties of life.”

Claire Ducky recognized the design, on her recent trip to the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, NY.  she writes at Steemit.com, in a piece entitled, Did The Last Jedi steal its crystal foxes from a Polish sculpture artist?

Although Neal Scanlan’s shop created over 180 new creatures for The Last Jedi, two in particular captured the imagination of fans: the adorable Porgs of Ahch-To and the crystal “vulptex” species native to Crait. According to Scanlan, he and his design team took inspiration for the foxes from “crystal glass chandeliers and the sort of luminosity and elements of refraction” they make. Industrial Light & Magic’s visual effects art director Aaron McBride is credited with creating the final vulptex design.

However, these amazing crystalline creatures have some distinct similarities to a sculpture created by Polish artist Marta Klonowska more than five years before filming began on Episode VIII. Reddit user aeburnside first pointed out the similarities in a post to the Star Wars subreddit, explaining that he had seen Klonowska’s sculptures during a recent trip to the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, NY. After seeing this post, I decided to dig further into the details of Marta’s sculptures and compare them to the vulptices seen in The Last Jedi.

According to the entry for the piece on the Corning Museum’s online collection guide, Klonowska’s “Lynx After a Sketchbook Page by Albrecht Dürer” was made in 2009 and is made of glass shards bonded with glue and paper to a metal and wire armature. As indicated by the sculpture’s title, “Lynx” is based on a sketch originally created by famous German artist Albrecht Dürer during a visit to the Brussels royal zoological gardens in 1521.

Along with many other glass animals created by Klonowska, this sculpture was acquired by the Corning Museum in 2011 and has been on public display there continuously since at least 2013. Her animals have also been displayed at other installations and galleries around the world. The vulptex creatures in The Last Jedi are supposed to be fox analogues, and there’s no question in my mind that the alien animals closely resemble her sculptures. The long pointed ears, tufts of fur under the jaw, and body shape of both creatures are strikingly similar. Since the Corning Museum has also housed a number of famous glass chandeliers, it seems possible that McBride may have seen some of Klonowska’s work while doing research for Episode VIII.

Others have recognized the similarities as well.

SC Reviews discusses this new plagiarism accusation:

This isn’t the first controversy surrounding the crystal foxes.  As previously noted, the crystal foxes were used to tout Lucasfilm’s practical effects in marketing documentaries, despite the fact that the crystal foxes we actually see in the film are digital.  Read the following passage from i09:

Despite many attempts to make them practical, from animatronics to dressing up dogs, Crait’s crystal foxes are all digital. Digitally, though, each one has 25,000 strands of CG hair coming off it.

Then watch the following documentary:

One thought on “Were The Crystal Foxes Copied?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s