Colin Cantwell, 'Star Wars' spaceship designer, dies at 90

In the 1960s, Mr. Cantwell was a contract worker for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, developing programs to educate the public about ea...


In the 1960s, Mr. Cantwell was a contract worker for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, developing programs to educate the public about early space missions, and for Graphic Films in Los Angeles, which made action films and animation for NASA, US Air Force and Industry Clients. Douglas Trumbull, who died this yearhad worked at Graphic Films before being hired by director Stanley Kubrick for “2001”.

Mr. Trumbull became special photographic effects supervisor on “2001,” and Mr. Cantwell joined the Graphic Films team in 1967, during the last six months of its production. He organized 24-hour animation teams to complete the film’s animation, according to “Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Making of a Masterpiece” (2018), by Michael Benson. Mr. Cantwell also produced some of the space footage for the film, suggested different camera angles to depict the arrival of a shuttle to the film’s space station, and worked with Mr. Trumbull to depict Jupiter’s moons.

And, Mr. Benson wrote, Mr. Cantwell’s conversations with Kubrick about Ingmar Bergman’s cinema led Mr. Cantwell to produce a tightly symmetrical animation shot that appeared in the “Dawn of Man” sequence in the beginning of the film: a low angle view of the mysterious black monolith on Earth, with clouds beyond, the sun rising and a crescent moon above.

For “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (1977), Mr. Cantwell contributed technical dialogue and created the first computer-generated images of unidentified flying objects strafing the Devils Tower landing site in Wyoming, for a sequence at the end of the film. His UFO footage didn’t make it into the film – Steven Spielberg, the director, instead relied on old-fashioned special effects technology created by Mr. Trumbull – but the subject of UFOs intrigued Mr. Cantwell, who claimed to have been part of a group that witnessed a mysterious object in the night sky.

In a letter of provenance for an auction of his artifacts and memorabilia in 2014 he described the experience: “An intense, silent light rose in the east, climbing to our zenith where, instantly doubling in brightness, it shot straight upwards.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: Colin Cantwell, 'Star Wars' spaceship designer, dies at 90
Colin Cantwell, 'Star Wars' spaceship designer, dies at 90
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