This is a replica of the AT-ST (internally referenced as “The Chicken Walker”) from The Empire Strikes Back. This is a fascinating subject to model, due to it’s unusual history. As much as I have been able to verify from first and secondhand stories from ILMers, it was built “as a joke” by Joe Johnston (or perhaps just as a fun side design, not called for at all by the story), and placed on the table with all the other designs that George Lucas would view and approve or pass on. Apparently Lucas loved it, and wanted it added to the film. The problem was, it was built as a static model , so in order to make it work for production, the model was stripped apart, and a metal articulated armature was machined by Tom St. Amand. From there it was animated for the movie, and was by some accounts a problem to work with, as parts tended to pop off on the animation stand. This design problem would be solved for Return of the Jedi by Bill George, who said he mastered the leg parts as a solid cast that was bolted to the armature, so that it stayed put. The Jedi AT-STs were also radically changed by shortening the legs, making the head a bit boxier, and many more subtle details. I have always assumed that “in-universe” it’s the same design, but the physical miniatures are quite different.

The actual ESB miniature today is almost totally stripped of detail with the armature, leg base parts, and some of the head remaining. It was reported to be in “rough shape” during the Jedi production, and the archival photos taken in 1979 or so show a miniature that has somewhat melted and distorted (perhaps due to hot stage lights) and with hot glue blobs holding many things in place. The right (starboard) side of the miniature is unfinished as well, with the words “OFF CAMERA” written down the side of the leg. For this replica, I wanted to finish the model off, completing the right side. Because I cannot leave well enough alone, I also fleshed out parts of the design that were left blank or where reference doesn’t exist – the underside of the head, the inner thighs, etc. I also added lights – a subtle red glow inside the guts of the back of the head, and two spotlights that are in the spirit of both the German armor kit donors and what I feel would be a natural extension of the design. I also “completed” the underside and back of the body, where the armature mount existed and negated the opportunity for detailing. The front chin guns swivel downwards, as I also re-designed that area, hacking up the base pieces used and grafting them back together in articulated pieces.

The whole model is built on a machined metal armature, with a vacuum-formed head shell made from two halves, and all styrene donor kits. Not a single piece of resin was used on this build. The feet screw into the laser cut acrylic base, the side “cheek” guns articulate in ball and socket joints, and an extra rubber tire (folded inside out per the original) was stacked to the neck, so that none of the armature is visible. Painted with acrylics and weathered with oils, this is the culmination of years of research by the community, and was a pleasure to build.

Back to square one