Star Wars: Fun with Action Figures in Death Valley
Star Wars locations in Death Valley are not that hard to find. To locate them, one has to keep one thing in mind. These shots were taken in 1976 to fill in for Tunisia where most of the location shooting had already been done. Basically, there were some transition shots, and it was too expensive to head back to Northern Africa. So, these shots were set up quickly and cheaply, which means - they were not very far from the road. Also, they brought along an elephant to pose as a Bantha, and didn't want to cart it very far. So, if you find you have walked a long way from the road and haven't found the location, you've probably gone too far.
Shot No. 1 - R2 heads off on his own.
There is a series of sand dunes near Stovepipe Wells, marked clearly by an interpretive sign. The dunes, of course, change constantly as the wind blows, but if you look carefully at the surrounding mountains, you can figure it out.
Shot No. 2 - Artoo's Arroyo.
An Arroyo is a dry river bed, and fans of course know this location as Artoo's Arroyo. This location is really close to the parking lot for Artist's Palette, a colorful rock formation. I took this picture standing on a rock formation behind the porta-potty that has been put there for the needs of tourists.
Shot No. 3 - Jawas and the Sandcrawler.
This location is also near Artist's Palette, just south of where you first turn in to the parking lot. You are looking southward - and it's best to bring a photo along for this one so you can position the mountains correctly.
Shot No. 4 - Speeding Across the Desert.
Luke's landspeeder speeds across Tatooine in this segment. As I recall, the landspeeder was on a trailer that was being pulled along to create this effect. There is some confusion about this sequence - apparently several attempts were made to get this shot, both in Death Valley and in Southern California. Key to the shot was the positioning of a mirror. My own opinion is that the shot on the above right, where the bottom of the speeder is obscured was likely taken in Death Valley, but there appears to be no way to corroborate this. The fact that the shot is in motion, against a non-descript backdrop which is blurred adds to the difficulty in determining the shot's location.
Some sources have indicated the Death Valley landspeeder shots were filmed along West Side Road which winds through a portion of the park. I picked an arbitrary location along here to take the action figure picture.
Shot No. 5 - Tusken Raider jumps onto his Bantha.
OOPS! I was close but no cigar on this one - I figured this one out once I came home. I mistakenly thought the Bantha scenes were filmed in Golden Canyon when in fact they were actually filmed within about a mile or so of Golden Canyon in Desolation Canyon. This obviously was the trickiest site to find - I didn't find it! However, I think simply asking a park official where Desolation Canyon is could have solved this one!
Shot No. 6 - "Mos Eisley spaceport.."
This scene is filmed right up at the top of a vista called Dante's view - looking northward down the valley towards Furnace Creek. You don't see Furnace Creek in the actual shot, and a matte painting of Mos Eisley in the distance was added to the final shot Star Wars. This one is closest to the parking lot - the crew must have been standing on the guard rail to film this one.
Last updated on Sunday, 19, July, 2009 at 4:49:10 PM
Click here to get to the Star Wars: Tunisia page
Click here for the Star Wars On Location: Mohave and Tatooine
Other links of intrerest
Sandcrawler Station - some info here on Star Wars locations in Death Valley
Yahoo Map - Furnace Creek - one possible starting point for a tour of Star Wars locations in Death Valley