Mise-en-scène (French: [miz. ɑ̃. sɛn]; "placing on stage") is the stage design and arrangement of actors in scenes for a theatre or film production, both in visual arts through storyboarding, visual theme, and cinematography, and in narrative storytelling through direction.
The planet “Kessel” was first mentioned all the way back in 1977 as being a place with spice mines where prisoners are sent to work. We’ve since seen it appear in Solo and in an episode of season 7 of The Clone Wars, but Kessel’s first screen appearance was actually in the premiere of Star Wars Rebels. All the way back in “Spark of Rebellion,” we traveled to Kessel to watch the Spectres free some Wookiees from Imperial control- and watch Kanan reveal himself as a Jedi (a scene that I wrote about the cinematography of).
While this is the only time we see Kessel in Star Wars Rebels, I wanted to cover it because the location has always stuck in my mind, ever since I first saw “Spark of Rebellion.”
The most notable thing about Kessel in Star Wars Rebels to me is that the sky is a really sickly yellow color. It doesn’t take a lot to put together why this choice was made- yellow skies (outside of sunsets or sunrises) are often seen as synonymous with smog and pollution, and being that the Empire is exploiting the planet for its spice, it’s obvious that the planet’s atmosphere would be polluted because of that. We can see more clearly in the shot below that the location we go to on the planet (where the Wookiees are enslaved) is just… dirty. The equipment looks rather rusted and brown, compared to the shinier, gray-toned Imperial bases we’re used to in Star Wars.
The use of Kessel meant that the creators of Star Wars Rebels had control over its canon appearance, being that they were the first to use it on-screen. They had guidelines to follow on its implementation- the spice mines and the Wookiees, and the polluted appearance is definitely a natural conclusion of that. However, I think that they went with such a boldly yellow sky because of the way that it makes Kanan look when he reveals his lightsaber.
Kanan’s green jacket and armor are more yellow in shade, making him not stand out very much against the background (unlike a purple character like Zeb), but his lightsaber really stands out against the yellow sky. Blue and yellow are close to opposite on the color wheel (or are opposite on some), so Kanan igniting his lightsaber for the first time in a place that really makes the color stand out only adds to the sense of importance of Kanan revealing himself as a Jedi.
The color choices on Kessel were very deliberate- both to provide a sense of what kind of planet Kessel is and to create a strong contrast for Kanan’s lightsaber reveal.
Next week (on Christmas), we’re going to look at Maul’s hideout from “Visions and Voices.” That’s festive… right?