Did Oakland’s Cranes Inspire the AT-AT Walkers? in “The Empire Strikes Back?” The Answer Finally Revealed!
Posted on Thursday, June 26th, 2008 by Peter Sciretta
For the last 27 years, residents of the San Francisco Bay Area has been proud of the container cranes at the Port of Oakland because according to local lore, the cranes were the inspiration for the AT-AT Walkers from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. There is even a popular t-shirt that is sold in the area drawing the comparison.
I’ve always been skeptical of the claim. Two weeks ago while driving across the Bay Bridge on my way to Pixar Animation Studios, I discussed with Alex from FirstShowing a possible story to discover the truth behind the creation of the AT-AT Walkers. The problem is that no one in publicity or available contacts could provide us with a definite answer, and that the only way you could be sure is to ask George Lucas himself, which is, well, almost impossible. And we concluded that we would probably never get the real answer.
Well it turns out that San Francisco Chronicle journalist Peter Hartlaub was finally able to ask Lucas about the story, and guess what? Yup, it’s completely untrue. Just another urban myth:
“That’s a myth,” Lucas said, politely but firmly. “That is definitely a myth.”
And for anyone who might also believe that the trench-like San Pablo/MacArthur exit on I580 might have inspired the surface of the Death Star, Lucas also insisted “that’s a myth, too.”
Phil Tippett, the stop-motion animator who was responsible for the sequence says that the original vehicles actually looked nothing like a container crane, and more like a garbage truck.
“At one point in the design they were going to be big and kind of radio controlled,” he said. “More like big armored vehicles with wheels.”
So there you have it. Another Urban Movie Myth BUSTED.