Few endeavors in the history of cinema have been as divisive as the Star Wars prequels. Or rather, I can't think of another trilogy that so many people delight in hating. While I dig an epic space opera as much as the next guy, I'm clearly not a Lucas devotee. However, as an OG movie effects lover, I must say the exponentially increasing CG distracted from the plot (arguably a mercy) and clogged the movies with bewildering, fake-feeling detail. Beautiful as hi-res screenshots, sure, but difficult to take in. Imagine my surprise when I learned that each of the prequels used more physical models than the last!
Not to oversell it (Lucas did a good enough job himself), according to the SlashFilm story, physical miniatures bore a decent amount of weight in scene setting during several crucial moments. Using state of the art materials like clay and painted Q-Tips, the team of set builders and model makers created backdrops and objects in the film's most epic shots. Seen as a cost-effective and high quality method for delivering believability, miniatures were used in scenes as wide ranging as the pod racing arena and the Ultimate Showdown on Super-Lava Island, respectively depicted by a room-sized clay model full of cotton swab spectators, and a 20×50ft slanted miniature set that they poured under-lit ooze through.
Setting aside any lingering resentment (or love—what man is without folly), take a look at these ironically grainy behind the scenes shots of impressive models that made the madness possible.