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Home Technology Porsche and Lucasfilm's Star Wars Tri-wing: Behind the collab

Porsche and Lucasfilm’s Star Wars Tri-wing: Behind the collab

Meet Porsche’s Taycan-influenced Tri-wing S-91X Pegasus Starfighter.


Ashley Esqueda/CNET

When we think of spaceships and Star Wars, we usually have a short list of iconic designs in our minds: the Millennium Falcon. The X-wing. The TIE fighter. But what happens when Lucasfilm teams up with a car company that makes real-world vehicles?

The answer to that question is the Tri-wing S-91X Pegasus Starfighter, a brand-new ship designed as part of a brand collaboration with Porsche and inspired by its new luxury EV, the Taycan. I was able to attend the world premiere of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, where a model of the ship was on display for attendees to check out. In an odd twist, the ship itself doesn’t make an appearance in the movie. However, I was able to speak with both CEO of Porsche Klaus Zellmer and Doug Chiang, vice president and executive creative director at Lucasfilm about the ship’s design, where we might see the Tri-wing show up, and who (or what) might end up flying it. The interviews are lightly edited for clarity.


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Q: Tell me a little bit about how this collaboration happened.
Doug Chiang
: I first heard about it through our marketing department. I got really excited because I heard that the Porsche family was interested in somehow doing a collaboration of designing something that can live in both worlds. And I’ve been a huge fan of Porsche since I was a child. For me, this was a fantastic opportunity to blend real world designs with our cinematic designs.

Did the team learn anything new or find inspiration while working with the Porsche team? Is there anything that you might use when designing future spaceships or other vehicles?
Chiang: You know, it was really interesting because we both had three teams on each side designing this. And what was fascinating for me was that even though we’re dealing in two very different worlds — one is reality-based, one is cinematically fantasy-based — we found that our design process was very similar. We went through the same basic steps. In essence, we connected right away. I’m really fascinated with the detail that the Porsche team really paid attention to, in terms of the fine lines, all the nuances that bring Porsche cars to life. 

We normally do that as well on the film side, but we have to be thinking more broad-stroke, because we’re seeing our cinematic designs very briefly on the screen. Even though I would love to go in there, and finesse, like, a little panel line, we don’t have that opportunity for film. So it was really fun to both learn and appreciate that from the Porsche side. And then likewise, the Porsche team could learn and appreciate the broad-stroke ideas that we were doing for cinema. It’s great. 

Tell me a bit about the Tri-wing. Can it make the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs?
Chiang
: (Laughs) Our goal is that we want to create a new iconic spaceship and the idea was to make a “Star Wars sports car” spaceship. Our goal wasn’t to basically take a Porsche and put wings on it. We really wanted to make it authentic to Star Wars. We started with the idea of, “OK, well, what should this be? It should convey power. It should convey speed and the Porsche brand.” So we gave it big engines and put the engines close to the cockpit, all to give those little ideas and give that impression. From there, we started layering the very specific Porsche elements into the design: things like the headlamps, the front cowling, the low intake scoops, the canopy slopes back distinctly like a Porsche. We put all that into a spaceship design, then make sure that it fits within the Star Wars form language.

The Tri-wing is far from a 911 with wings grafted on, but if you look hard enough, there are some Porsche commonalities.


Porsche

Porsche has an iconic look. When you’re designing a spaceship, and working with Porsche, how do you keep that look and feel without being so obvious in the Star Wars universe?
Chiang: That was the biggest challenge. We really didn’t want to stick wings on a Porsche car because that would be the obvious answer. The nuance actually came from Michael Mauer [VP of style at Porsche], where he said, “Let’s just take some of the proportional details” and those were the things that we’re going to translate to our spaceship designs. Things like the cockpit. The strong shoulders of the body. Those are the elements that you’ll see in our finished model that actually retain the proportions of a Porsche car. But then on top of that, we brought in a lot of little details. If you look at the back of the spaceship, there are very distinct grille patterns from a 911 along with very distinct little red accent lights. And then we have red tail lights as well. They’re very distinctly Porsche.

What character in the Star Wars universe would you find flying this thing around?
Chiang
: That has yet to be determined, so we don’t know. But it’s going to be a rogue pilot of some kind, some kind of a mechanic who would actually appreciate this kind of design. 

So we will see this ship in the Star Wars universe?
Chiang
: Yes, that is our hope, that this will live in one of our storytelling projects in the future.

Maybe when baby Yoda turns the equivalent of 16.
Chiang: (Laughs) Yes. Excellent.

Porsche North America CEO Klaus Zellmer.


Ashley Esqueda/CNET

Why this collaboration, and why now? 
Klaus Zellmer
: With Porsche, we’re always reaching out and looking out for partners that we want to collaborate with in an authentic way to reach new audiences. And it’s not all about the car. When you talk about Porsche, it’s all about imagination. It’s about the future. It’s about design innovation. It’s beyond automotive. And when we first talked to Disney-Lucasfilm it was a bit of a battle to find that common denominator that would not look cheap, and would produce something exciting. And at the end of the day, we’re so happy that we found this overlap or this touch point of design and collaboration.

If you look at starships and Star Wars, this is design, it’s functional design. It’s beautiful. And yet it has to work. So it has to be part of a movie that people believe in. And our cars, of course, have a different design philosophy. Bringing that together and seeing how we can benefit from each other was a great process.

When Doug Chiang came over to our research and development department, it was a bit like a kid in a candy store because it was design at its best for cars. And then when he started talking to our head of design Michael Mauer, I mean, they wouldn’t stop … I think they were sitting together sitting there talking about design, and philosophy, and what you have to take into consideration for hours and hours. So it truly is something that is very much related to brand, but also to persons. And now we couldn’t be more proud to see a spaceship that they produced together.

Let’s pretend that you can see far into the future. When do you think Porsche will make spaceships for us to fly around?
Zellmer
: We have announced that we are working on a flying object that will be electric. And that will serve for short mobility needs in urban areas. It looks a bit like a Star Wars ship, actually. And this is a sheer coincidence, because that flying object has to serve, you know, certain technical purposes. And so maybe we can do that.



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