Audiences first met Darth Maul in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace back in 1999, which saw his seeming demise, only for the animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars to confirm that the character survived his fall down a chasm, igniting years more of compelling stories for the character. For the current final season of the series, animators at Lucasfilm took a new approach at conveying the character's ferocity, enlisting actor Ray Park for a motion-capture performance of the villain, who is voiced in the series by Sam Witwer. Clone Wars animation supervisor Keith Kellogg recently detailed blending the live-action performance with the series' unique style.
"We actually did a little test, where we saw what it looked like with straight mo-cap, and it felt very odd to see that compared to everything else," Kellogg shared with Looper. "We really ended up using it as a guideline. We had video reference of it, and we were able to take it into our story package and use it."
Despite the idea of enlisting Park for such a performance sounding good on paper, the animator noted that things weren't as easy as injecting that data into the series alongside other characters and environments that were crafted using alternate methods.
"Motion capture, for us, is not necessarily the easiest thing for us to incorporate into our pipeline," Kellogg pointed out. "We don't really have the ability right now to do that with our rigs."
Park played Maul in Phantom Menace, going on to reprise his role as the former Sith in Solo: A Star Wars Story. Series creator Dave Filoni previously revealed why he wanted to enlist Park for this final season at last year's Star Wars Celebration.
"I wanted this fight to be big. I wanted this to be an epic lightsaber fight... This one had to be among the best, if not the best we did," Filoni shared during a Clone Wars panel. "I went and, I know Ray Park, and I said, 'Ray, wouldn't it be great... why don't we suit you up in mo-cap suit and be Darth Maul?' So when you see Maul fighting, it's going to be really Maul fighting... There's just something unique about how Ray moves... It was a great moment having him perform it."