"Star Wars" kids books can be fun for the whole family. In the case of "Star Wars Epic Yarns" series by Jack Wang and twin brother Holman Wang, fans of all ages can appreciate favorite movie moments recreated in felt.
The "Star Wars Epic Yarns" series retells the original trilogy, with each of the three books summarizing 12 iconic scenes in a single word like "fly." The books are painstakingly illustrated with photographs of felted figures and handmade sets.
The titles, which were released in mid-April, are "Star Wars Epic Yarns: A New Hope," "Star Wars Epic Yarns: The Empire Strikes Back" and "Star Wars Epic Yarns: Return of the Jedi." Each book sells for about $10 (£7, AU$13).
In a behind-the-scenes video, the authors explain the process of crafting the dolls and scenes through needle felting. It's a sculptural process in which you take loose wool roving and poke it repeatedly with a barbed needle. As the fibers become entangled, the wool gets firmer and takes on the shape you want. The figures each take from 20 hours to 60 hours to complete.
"The hardest felt figure to create was undoubtedly C-3PO," Holman Wang told CNET's Crave blog on Monday, which happens to be May the Fourth/Star Wars Day, an annual celebration of all things "Star Wars." "The tricky part was figuring out how to create the hard edges of his robot armor in felt. So I came up with some techniques, which integrated, craft felt sheets (which could be cut to create hard edges) with the loose wool that is used for needle felting. In the end, our felt C-3PO turned out like the character we all know and love."
The authors had to make dolls with removable heads in order to maintain character continuity while being able to do elaborate costume changes -- such as switching Luke Skywalker's head from a body with his white tunic and beige pants to one with his orange Rebel pilot suit.
To create the droids like R2-D2, the authors used foam appliques for the astromech's signature markings. They also cut and glued layers of craft felt to create the hard edges of R2-D2's legs.
For larger figures like the tauntaun and Jabba the Hutt, they used Styrofoam for the core then needled felt into the surfaces to create the final look. For the X-wing and Millennium Falcon ships, cardboard was used for both ships' core and then felt covered it.
The only digitally added effects to the books are for lightsabers and Force lightening. Many of the sets are made with cardboard and Styrofoam, with LED lights added where needed.
Some of the sets were real-life outdoors settings like snowy Vancouver for the Hoth battle scenes and forests for Endor. Arizona's deserts served as the backdrop for the Tatooine backgrounds.
"Our books really are all-ages," Jack Wang told Crave on Monday. "They're age-appropriate word books for the youngest of learners, but they're also storytelling vehicles for toddlers and young children. For older kids and adults, our books are a fun, ironic riff on 'Star Wars.' The plushness of our felt figures appeals to the very young, while the craftsmanship appeals to older kids and adults."