Behind the Mask Artists

Kilian Plunkett


"The Clone Wars" Designer of the Mandalorians


From a interview between Pete Vilmur and Kilian Plunkett:

Q: I understand the Mandalorian designs for The Clone Wars were based on the original Fett design used in the "Star Wars Holiday Special." Can you elaborate?

A: Actually, the main source for the The Clone Wars Mandalorian armor design was the Jango Fett costume. It's the armor from closest in the timeline and the "clean, industrial" look fit the script better than battle-scarred, heavily-customized classic trilogy Boba Fett armor. The first idea was to come up with a slightly more ornate/ceremonial/swoopy look than the familiar Fett outfit, but after a few attempts at re-working the helmet it became apparent that the McQuarrie/Johnston costume couldn't be improved upon and that the helmet in particular was iconic.

The first Filoni-approved version was a very close match to the Episode II Jango. It got approved during design rounds one morning but I wondered if the differences between our Mando helmet and our Phase 1 clone helmet were a little too pronounced. So at lunch the same day I pitched Dave the idea of drawing from the Nelvana ["Holiday Special"] Fett design as a way to introduce a "retro" influence and to tie it in better with the Clone Wars Rex/Clone Phase 1 design. The Nelvana T-visor is very similar to the "face" on a Clone Wars clone, so it seemed like a good fit.

Q: The insignias on the helmet, shoulder, and serape appear new -- did you pull these from existing source material or were they devised specifically for The Clone Wars?

A: Not initally, no. In the very earliest drafts of the script(s), Death Watch wasn't mentioned by name and the various insignia were worked up from scratch. Happily, the "trident" on the Vizsla helmet forehead looks a lot like a streamlined version of the established Death Watch symbol. Originally the Pre Vizsla cape sported the same skull as the one on the left Boba Fett shoulder, but it was replaced by the Death Watch symbol as that aspect of the story was finalized. The rank insignia are still all new, the hexagonal shape seen in this insignia informs a lot of Mandalorian designs, both warrior and otherwise (the Mandalorian citizenry and Prime Minister Almec were designed by Davide Le Merrer).

Q: When it came to the Mando design, did you guys have to re-examine the Jango and Boba costumes to determine just what was original to Mando warriors and what would have been added or customized by the Fetts?

A: Any excuse to visit the archives! The tooling on Jango gear is fantastic -- that outfit's genuinely heavy and very robust. Its metallic sections seem to be real metal, too. We decided early on that Jango's guns are custom and that the new, more severe geometric gun fit better with the Mandalorian aesthetic as seen in The Clone Wars. The biggest visible difference between the generic Mando armor and the Fetts would be the rangefinder. There was some debate over whether making the rangefinder "standard issue" would make the helmet look too much like Rex. The fact that he modified his helmet makes Jango Fett more unique, anyway.

The way I see it, if you had only one reference point for a modern American Marine and they were wearing night-vision goggles, would you assume that all American soldiers always wear night-vision goggles? I like that the rangefinder and some of the more brutal elements of the armor, such as the flamethrower or Kyber-Dart launcher, are custom additions. In the series, Jango's relationship to the Mandalorians is much closer to the original '70s "stolen armor" concept. It looks like the single-use rocket launcher is part of the original armor, though.

Q: Do all the Mandos carry a blaster on each hip, a la Jango Fett?

A: Yes, symmetry is a bigger deal with these "technologically advanced super-soldier" Mandos. It fits with their culture of uniformity and kept the army more faceless. These Mandalorian troops are precursors to stormtroopers in more ways than one, it seems.

Q: Are there any other features of the costume that may have been resurrected from old, unused design ideas for the Fetts? Any new features we've never seen?

A: The poncho, especially as it appears in hologram form at the end of [upcoming episode] "Voyage of Temptation," is straight from McQuarrie's Empire Strikes Back production paintings, including the two-tone pattern.


Last updated: February 20, 2023
Article ID: 158