What is mise-en-scene?
Mise-en-scene in film is, essentially, everything. It’s everything that creates the atmosphere and “the look” of a film- forming the “storyworld”. Set design, sound, lighting, cinematography style- all the artistic elements that come together to make what’s happening on screen have the right “feel” to it.
Specifically, I’d like to look at the set design of different places in the storyworld of Star Wars Rebels. Rebels obviously takes place within the wider Star Wars franchise galaxy, which has its own specific feel to it. Even further, Rebels’ mise-en-scene is closely linked to that of the original trilogy, due to its place in the Star Wars timeline, as well as Star Wars: The Clone Wars, being that it is (at this point) the only other CG animated Star Wars show, and they share many of the same creative team members.
Analyzing mise-en-scene can be fun and can help us gain some insight into the characters and world we love. It also makes us really dive deep into the virtual sets that these animators no doubt spent countless hours perfecting and look at all of the small details that can give us a little more insight into the story and characters of Star Wars Rebels.
The Ghost is Hera’s ship and the home of the “space family,” or the titular “Rebels” of the show, and a perfect (and a little easy) way to start this series. It’s also a vessel for transportation between different locations that we go to through the story and the backdrop for a number of fun scenes- and some more emotional ones too. While the Ghost has many rooms, nooks and crannies, there are a few rooms where we spend time that have bits of our favorite characters scattered about, and can give us further insight into them when looked at a little closely.
The cockpit of the Ghost is one of the more iconic parts of the ship’s interior. Though it’s off of the original model of the Silver Angel, a ship we see in The Clone Wars’ seventh season, it’s aesthetic isn’t dissimilar from that of the even more iconic cockpit of the Millennium Falcon- which makes sense, given that Star Wars Rebels takes place within a few years of A New Hope, and sometimes tends to go for an aesthetic closer to that of the original trilogy (though, because of the animation and inspiration from Ralph McQuarrie’s original art, more colorful).
It is from here that the ship is flown, often by Hera, though there are seats for the rest of the crew to sit in too. The cockpit, like the rest of the ship, is primarily full of neutral gray colors, with accents of dull, dark teals or pale yellows. The cockpit differs from most of the ship however, because it is covered in buttons, switches, and screens used to control and monitor the ship’s functions.
The cockpit simply serves its purpose in this way. It’s extremely practical, pretty much above all else- not unlike the cockpit’s most frequent occupant. The only real customization it looks like Hera is responsible for is a padded cushion placed over her pilot’s seat in the front- but it doesn’t really match anything else in the room, it’s again more valued for the practicality over the look. The fact that the cockpit seems so, for lack of a better word, “plain,” really says a lot about Hera’s character. From the book A New Dawn, we know that by season 1, Hera has had the ship for at least the better part of a decade- yet the cockpit of the ship doesn’t appear to have any kind of decor that screams “this belongs to Hera Syndulla,” and I think Hera likes it that way.
Now, that doesn’t mean nobody has left their mark on the Ghost’s cockpit.
I think everybody watching the show (or even just seeing promotional pictures beforehand) could tell that the seat painted with orange stripes, a checkered pattern and a few magenta splotches belongs to Sabine Wren before seeing her sit in it. It matches her aesthetic and tells us before we really spend too much time with her character that she’s someone who values personalizing things and making them her own, especially in a way that others will be able to recognize immediately as hers specifically.
We see this also in Sabine’s personal room on the ship- a lot.
Sabine’s room is covered in different paints, mostly of symbols she designs and her own depictions of the things that she sees around her. One of the defining parts of Sabine’s characters is obviously that she’s an artist, and her room more than reflects that. Her individuality is a trait that’s important to her, and she needs to have her personal space reflect that. It also shows that art is something that brings her comfort, and is a way that she’s made the Ghost her home.
Not to mention, as we see Sabine’s room at several different periods throughout the show, we can see how she’s progressed as an artist in technique and style. Her relatively simpler art in the beginning of the show, while cute and clearly showing her talent, definitely improves by a later point in the show.
Her later art shows a lot more detail, and it’s something interesting to look for as we see her also grow greatly as a character through the seasons. In addition, we see that a lot of her earlier art wasn’t of the crew, but rather different creatures and things she saw. While she didn’t abandon drawing those things as she got older, we see more family-focused art in the later seasons- her above painting of the Ghost crew, a painting of Zeb and Kallus, and more. While Sabine’s love for the rest of the crew is pretty obvious in the early seasons, a great part of the show is watching all of the bonds grow stronger, and keeping track of how Sabine paints her family more and more often is a great measure of that.
The other three bedrooms in the Ghost- Zeb and Ezra’s, Kanan’s, and Hera’s- aren’t ones we see very much of, nor do we have very many shots filled with the kind of details that the others are, and there isn’t as much to analyze there- perhaps on purpose, as it would make sense for Hera and Kanan to both have pretty minimalist styles when it comes to their bedrooms, and what little we do see of Zeb and Ezra’s room is a little messy, which also makes sense. However, there is another room we can look at in the Ghost- the lounge area.
The lounge is one of the rooms in the Ghost were we most frequently see the entire crew spending time together. Like the cockpit, the Ghost’s lounge has the same wall colors and floor as much of the rest of the ship, though it also has a curved seat around a black and white holotable, where we see the crew go over schematics, play dejarik, or watch holovids. It’s really a family room, and the fact that it is among the rooms of the Ghost where we spend the most time really shows how much emphasis that Star Wars Rebels places on family.
The Ghost’s lounge doesn’t really boast any major details that reveal anything about the crew (except for a painting of Sabine’s phoenix on one of the walls, but we’ve covered her pretty well), however it is certainly a nice place where we spend quite a bit of time, and definitely a cozy living room. While Star Wars Rebels of course is a part of the science fantasy genre like the rest of Star Wars and has the action-tied conventions of that genre, some of my personal favorite scenes are the more character-focused ones that are more dialogue-heavy, and sometimes much softer. I think that the Ghost’s lounge is the perfect setting for many of these.
Which brings us to my main point- that the mise-en-scene of the scenes in the Ghost gives off a real “homey” feeling. All of these traits- little messes, wear and tear, splashes of paint, and more- make the Ghost feel really lived-in and like a natural home for the cast of characters that we grow to love throughout the show. All of these things come together in order to create a setting where the character feel absolutely in their element, and safe (most of the time). More importantly- we can feel the impact that the characters are having on their living space, and it gives both them and the set more personality.
Next week, we’ll be taking a look at the mise-en-scene of a few favorite locations around Lothal.