“Execute Order 66.” Those three words forever changed the galaxy far, far away. The Republic’s clone troopers turned on the Jedi, helping Chancellor Palpatine become Emperor. But while we know what followed that slaughter, what was it like in the moment for those soldiers? How did they process the unthinkable and forget everything they knew? A gorgeous new Star Wars animated fan short tries to answer that question. “Betrayal” goes inside the mind of a trooper when that infamous order was given, imagining how each clone was made to justify his actions.
“Betrayal” comes from creator Peter Csikasz of Loacher Films. It centers on the murder of a wholly original Quarren Jedi invented for the film, but told from the point-of-view of a clone who turned on him. Csikasz told Nerdist where he got the idea for the short.
“The inspiration came from a random thought I had watching The Clone Wars season finale. In the show the clones have an organic inhibitor chip placed in their brains to force them to obey Order 66. But I thought that there must be more than just forcing obedience. Otherwise the conflicting emotions and thoughts would make the army go mad in a short time, leaving the forming empire defenseless. So my idea was that the chips rewrite their memories along with forcing compliance. This way the clones feel as if the order to kill the Jedi was justified, and that they really were traitors to the republic.”
It’s an idea that makes that awful moment even more tragic, as the clones not only lose all autonomy, they are forced to forget all the good the Jedi did before. It’s terrible, and exactly why it makes so much sense. Palpatine needed to kill the Jedi and create a loyal of his own.
In addition to telling a compelling story, this stunning short also looks like something Lucasfilm itself made with a big budget. But Csikasz did it on his own over 45 days. He used Unreal Engine 4 “for pretty much everything that’s 3D work, aside from animation and modeling.” All the “environment design, VFX, physics simulations, lighting, and rendering” were done in Unreal Engine 4.
“For the animations I did motion capture with a Rokoko Smartsuit Pro, which I then cleaned up in Rokoko Studio,” he said. “Then I transferred the clean mocap data to my characters in Autodesk Maya. There I made additional cleanup and final adjustments. For editing and post-production steps I use Hitfilm Express.”
Getting all of the small details to make this short feel authentic also required some ingenuity.
“One of the things I’m really proud of regarding this short, on a technical level, is my procedural weathering system. I designed a system for my models that takes texture masks of the edges and cavities/holes of the model. It then uses these to add dirt in the holes and paint chipping on the edges, along with random dirt and paint chipping spots. The location of the dirt/paint chipping is randomized for each character, with an option to use fixed values instead of the random offset.”
That option allowed him to quickly “generate weathering variations” for any character. Which made it possible for his characters to to all look unique. “You don’t see the same textures applied to every character, giving you a more realistic result,” he said.
But while every clone trooper looks different, they each had to undergo the same terrible moment. Order 66 destroyed their memories of who the Jedi were. But it wasn’t their fault. They were Palpatine’s victims, too. That’s something we should remember.
Featured Image: Peter Csikasz/Loacher Films
Mikey Walsh is a staff writer at Nerdist. You can follow him on Twitter at @burgermike, and also anywhere someone is ranking the Targaryen kings.