Australian-based artist and illustrator Mark Raats has been creating posters and artwork for Lucasfilm for decades, including posters for Solo: A Star Wars Story, The Rise of Skywalker, and Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull. Rats is also known for having his art personally purchased by George Lucas himself.
Disney and Lucasfilm recently commissioned Raats to create a promotional poster for Season 2 of The Mandalorian that was released for the season finale.
The Direct had the pleasure of talking with Raats to learn what it's like creating artwork for the first-ever Star Wars series, as well as how artists work with both Disney and Lucasfilm to promote and celebrate stories from that galaxy far, far away.
The Direct: I'm a fan of the poster you made for Season 2 of The Mandalorian. What was it like creating promotional material for such a spoiler-heavy show?
Raats: That's a really good question. And it did make a huge difference, obviously, to the way the project worked out. When you're working on a movie poster, even one that hasn't been released, it's a lot more simple because you know the movie will all be released and the story will be told on a specific day. And although we tried to avoid any spoilers for people that might not see it immediately, this one was particularly difficult because every week there was a new character reveal. And so, anything I put into it, it was made more difficult because Lucasfilm and Disney weren't entirely sure when they were going to release the artwork itself.
So it became complicated in trying to make sure that whatever I put into it wasn't going to spoil anything if they released the artwork early. As it was, I wanted to put Luke in obviously which would've, you know, made me very happy. The artwork was revealed pretty much prior - probably a day earlier - than the final episode was revealed, and most people saw it only - with time differences - most people saw it once the program had been aired. But that said, a lot of people hadn't seen it yet. So even if I had put Luke in, with the timing being that it would be released pretty much as the final episode was revealed, it would've still spoiled it for a lot of people who hadn't seen it. So I was actually quite grateful that Lucasfilm made the decision to not include Luke, even though it would've been nice to have him there.
The Direct: What would your poster of The Mandalorian have looked like if it was strictly up to you?
Raats: Well, obviously I would've put Luke in. I would've included Boba Fett as well. The secondary characters I would've preferred to make bigger in the whole composition because I like my compositions to be well-knitted. I want them to be nicely integrated. And I felt with The Mandalorian poster that there were too many open spaces, especially around the Tatooine area at the bottom. But obviously, that was designed for a specific reason. But that is something that I would've liked.
The other thing about that particular design is that they wanted it done in squares. Or be able to present in squares specifically for things like Instagram presentations and Carousel and things like that. And so, if you look at that artwork being a long and horizontal piece rather than vertical. The left side is a square, the right side is a square, and the center around all of the characters is a square as well. So it can be presented in 3 ways. All of which will tell the viewer exactly what it is that this is about. And the left and right obviously is divided up into the light and dark side of the Force.
The Direct: How much of Season 2 did you get to see in advance in order to create this piece?
Raats: They share a lot of information with me, and every job is different because it actually depends on the team you're working with. For example, when I did the teaser poster for Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull, I saw a lot of material and a lot about the story before it was revealed. And that was dealing with George [Lucas] and dealing with Lucasfilm. So it was a lot different, and the team was a lot different, to the one I'm working with now.
Now, I'm working with Disney primarily in Melbourne and then also with Burbank and then ultimately with Lucasfilm. So there are a lot more people involved. The teams are very different in the way in that disclosures are made are very complicated these days. So I didn't see a lot of information. I had ideas as to what was happening but I didn't see a lot of stuff before it was revealed.
The Direct: You not only work for Lucasfilm now but also for Disney. How did that really shape the final product?
Raats: It makes it more complicated. They were great fun to work with; they always are great fun to work with. Incredibly supportive. They come to me and ask me to come up with different ideas for the posters. For example, the poster behind me is the one I did for The Rise of Skywalker, and it was really important for me to do something that was different to just another one with a lot of heads that featured only the one movie.
To me, it was about trying to encompass all nine sagas that made up the final movie and therefore made the design very different. Now, what's nice about that is Lucasfilm and Disney are very receptive to that kind of approach. They applied the same logic when we worked on Solo together. And, you know, allowed me to do things that wouldn't normally be the norm which is really refreshing.
And this one is no different. What is complicated is that you have so many people that the process has to go through. When I really started doing this, it really would've been just George [Lucas]. So I'd send a drawing over, he'd look at it and say fine, and then I'd get the information back within 24 hours I'd have a response. Whereas now, it can take a lot longer. It can in fact take a week to get a response from all the various parties so you deal with Melbourne, and then Los Angeles, and then to San Francisco then back to Los Angeles, and then back to Melbourne. It becomes a really complicated process - a very time-consuming process - all of those things have to be factored into the deadline because when you know it's going to take a week to get sign-off on just one decision that can actually rob you of a lot of working time. So it is more complicated, but they are great fun to work with and always have been.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. This is the first part of a two-part interview. Part two can be read here.