As a kid watching Star Wars my favorite aspect of the films were their sheer ability to create the impression of a whole planet, through a few well chosen glimpses of scenery. While Hoth, Tatooine and Endor had their own fascinations, no world captured my imagination more than Yavin 4, the Earth-like moon of the planet Yavin. Only perhaps the cloud city of Bespin could give it a run for its money in terms of that sense of magic.
Looming large in the scenery were the Temple ruins, once the residence of an extinct race of ancient warriors. Around the ruins observation towers stand above the treetops to monitor the comings and goings from the base. It is this location which houses our beloved Rebel Alliance in A New Hope.
What is wonderful is that the real world location used to create Yavin 4 was the site of Tikal, located in the Guatemalan jungle; once the capital city of the ancient Mayan civilization. Temples I, II and III of Tikal are clearly visible in the iconic still below.
This image was taken from Temple IV at Tikal; the only temple left that visitors to the site today can climb. In March 1977, Richard Edlund, Richard Alexander, and Pepi Lenzi spent five days shooting scenes for Lucas’ film from the entranceway of the comb structure at Temple IV looking eastward back towards the Tikal Plaza.
Since A New Hope we have had the pleasure of revisiting Yavin 4 in recent years. Sadly though neither Rogue One or Rebels (the latter for obvious reasons) actually needed to film back in the Guatemalan jungle. Stills may however have been used to create composites for use in breathtaking green screen shots.
The expansion of Yavin 4 into other elements of the saga outside A New Hope has helped build upon and enhance the mystique associated with the fictional location in Lucas’ original film.
Some of the most dramatic scenes in the saga use images from directly outside and “inside” the rebel base. Equally evocative in their own way these Rebel hangar scenes were actually shot inside a pair of disused WWII airship sheds at RAF Cardington in England. Shed 1 served as the Rebel hangar in Episode IV while the exterior of the hangar entrance was shot at Cardington through a matte painting of a temple structure.
When film crews returned to Cardington in 2015 to shoot Rogue One, they again filmed at RAF Cardington – this time inside Shed 2.
It would be remiss if this piece didn’t highlight further the recent use of the Yavin 4 base in Star Wars Rebels. There is a great feeling of connectivity between elements of the saga, and the different media when they bond together in the same time period.
Just as it was exciting to see Chopper in Rogue One, and hear mention of Hera, likewise it is just as fun to see Yavin 4 on our screens in the animated format of the Rebels show. Anyway, this article had to highlight the fact that everyone’s favorite Partisan made a recent larger than life appearance on Yavin 4 (much to Mon Mothma’s fury)!
Here’s to more fun adventures on Yavin 4 in the next 40 years – May the Force be with you.
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