The "Real" Imperial Snowtrooper (ESB)

We're updating a number of pages on this site and first off is some updates on the Imperial Snowtrooper helmets and costume (covering Original, Licensed and Fan-made). So kicking off with a new page on the Original/Screen-Used costumes" page, where we've been given with some really great help and insight from Chris Williams (TubaChris)!

Used solely in The Empire Strikes Back, and setting the precedent for environment-specific troopers in the Star Wars films, the Imperial Snowtrooper was the Empire's enhanced combat armour for cold-weather combat. When the film was in pre-production in late 1977, George Lucas envisaged the Snowtrooper as a more advanced, and climate specific version of the standard Stormtroopers.  For this design, Lucas described to Joe Johnston and Ralph McQuarrie that he imagined the design as having a Japanese Samurai feel, with a multi-layered look. From this, they set to work drafting and developing the many variations of this new cold assault trooper.'
Above are a couple of early McQuarrie designs for Lucas' new Snowtrooper concept - with McQuarrie's certainly leaning heavily on the Samurai look. (Upper left is an early Snowtrooper Commander concept,  Right side concept art is called "Attack on Generator" by RMcQ. some time later in June 1978). Although McQuarrie's Snowtrooper art concepts were not used for the final design, other aspects of his early art carried over and were re-used in other media. One such instance is with design of the Imperial Cadet Trainee helmets seen in the animated series, Star Wars Rebels. We now also see this currently with the new Range Trooper for the recently-released Solo film.
Above, Johnston's designs had a more contemporary, simplified appearance and over the following months they evolved into the final design below, which now starts to look more like the production Snowtrooper we see in the film. The helmet design began taking inspiration from Russian soldiers, but ultimately he wanted the shape to reflect some aspect of historical military garb. Johnston further added "nostrils" for the imagined purpose of heating the frigid air for breathing, and then completing the look with a full face covering, harkening back to World War 1 aviators who adorned such cold-weather gear to fly in sub-zero conditions. So the designs were finalised and then passed onto John Mollo, who returned as Costume Designer for the production - fresh from his Oscar win for the first film.

Arriving at Elstree Studios in Oct. 1978 (following straight on from his work on Ridley Scott's Alien), it was John Mollo and his teams responsibility to turn this 2D artistic concept into tangible, real-world workable costumes. Looking at the production notes, Mollo's illustrations below show each of the separate costume elements they'd would need to produce - and how together they would form the finished character. As budget was tight for ESB (in an interview with him a few years back he remarked to us how it was even lower than ANH!) the Snowtrooper design was further simplified - and the original number of costumes reduced from 20 to 15.

Above, looking through John Mollo's production notes reveal some other interesting issues - for example whether they would produce their own overalls - or use off-the-peg jumpsuits as they had done in ANH for the black Imperial TIE, and orange Rebel Pilot characters.  Early costuming ideas included the use of gasmask canisters and the fabrication of trooper belts. 

Following the extremely successful use of vac-forming thermo-plastics for the Stormtroopers in ANH, Mollo again adopted the same approach. Using the concepts produced by McQuarrie and Johnston, a full 1:1 clay sculpt was made of the helmet and upper armour, with Mollo's team re-working the mid-section and the knee armor, opting for a more practical costume solution. Modeler Jan Stevens sculpted the helmets utilizing the refined sketches while Mollo’s team took to producing the vacuum-formed helmets and armour from these sculpts. BTW notice the Boba Fett casting top-right...

Above, an early work-in-progress/prototype Snowtrooper sculpt, which still retains much of the look of the final design. The circular "breathing nozzles" can be seen in Johnston's early designs - but was later dropped - only retaining the 2 vertical "nostril" details.

Above image of Property Manager Frank Bruton (far left), John Mollo (centre-right) and Irvin Kershner (right) discussing the costume design. These hard pieces were then added to the bespoke tailored items, belts, boots etc. which were made and assembled by Mollo's costuming team to create the finished production costumes.

Each complete costume was budgeted to cost UK 1,200 Pounds (worth about US$10,000 in 2018 money). Mollo also designed the shoulder bells (which were also used on the AT-AT Driver), hand guards, belt etc. Below a shot of a finished Snowtrooper on set in March 1978.
Below, original screen-used Snowtrooper helmet now in the hands of a private collector.

When you look at the final version, its overall a much simpler design, with the standard Snowtroopers having 2 layers of white PVC Vinyl over the face and neck, an addition to the design by Johnston, which McQuarrie commented as a "nice touch" - at times looking like shades of the early Dr Who prop-making techniques!

Above, shots of a complete screen used Snowtrooper costume seen at a number of Lucasfilm exhibitions over the years

Below the vac-formed chest armour (this and other Snowtrooper armor components were also used for both Dengar's and General Veer's costume). As you can see it uses the same shoulder connectors used on the standard Stormtroopers. The "trim" on the Snowtrooper armor is actually formed into the plastic- as opposed to the RotJ Stormtrooper type trim, which was a weather stripping material - attached to the armour.

Below, this near straight-on photo reveals all the sections and details of the final finished costume. If we look specifically at the chest section, the inverted "T"-greeblie is actually a slider knob found on a vintage German sound mixer.

...and below a close up shot of the same suit. The metal disc on the abdominal plate is believed to be a thermostat from a home appliance. As with ANH, Mollo had his team scour local hardware stores for suitable looking costume detailing.

Below, the wedge-shaped backpacks were based of Joe Johnston's designs with John Mollo's team mocking up and vac-forming for the production.  This side on view of the backpack revealing its contours and hand painted detailing.

..and below an interesting comparison of the screen-used prop verses John Mollo's final design. McQuarrie envisioned the backpacks as being "The Snowtroopers power pack containing miniaturized/compact equipment, such as radios, heaters and other accessories".

Below a shot of some of the soft parts from a screen-used costume, the main "Duster" section made from wool, with a pair of white slacks hanging behind it. For filming, they sewed the shoulder bell pieces directly to the duster.

The slacks were created using the same "Calvary" twill used for the Imperial Officer uniforms. All soft part for the Snowtrooper were produced by Caledonian Costumes. The gloves (not shown) were actually modified gardening gloves.

Above one of the screen-used boots, which were actually Canadian Military "Mukluks". Some boots featured modified or faux laces, but all had the added feature of three straps running parallel to each other.
Above a couple more shots of the screen-used helmet seen higher up the page - and below an interesting shot which shows what a Snowtrooper helmet looks like with the white pvc vinyl removed, revealing the ABS nose/beak section - which when not trimmed back is effectively the Snowtrooper Commander helmet. We've recently added a review of the RS Prop Masters replica helmet, which was cast from this production helmet right here...

...and below more photos of a screen-used helmet, which from behind shows its quite simple construction.


Snowtrooper Commander

Much more pleasing on the eye was the "Snowtrooper Commander" (referred to as the "Snowtrooper Officer" in Mollo's notes). The original concept art for the "Super Trooper" was initially intended to be the Snowtrooper Commander variant, however, Lucas decided the design would be better suited for his newest character for ESB - Boba Fett. Only one Snowtrooper Commander costume was produced, as seen below alongside General Veers - with Ian Liston donning the Snowtrooper suit.

So the helmet was essentially a refined standard Snowtrooper. Rather than opting for the double-layer vinyl face cowl, they used an un-cut vac-formed face shield. Its worth noting that all standard Snowtrooper face plates are essentially cut-down Commander face shields, as they retain the distinctive "beak" and nostril details seen with the Commander.

While mostly composed of basic standard Snowtrooper armor components, Mollo altered the details and greeblies on the chest such as the addition of a rank bar, ditching the backpack in favour for a TIE Pilot style backplate with various greeblies and patterns added. Other additions included a blaster pistol and holster, replacing traditional Snowtrooper vambraces (forearm guards) in favour of classic Stormtrooper ones and thick sued and leather welding gloves, adorned with Snowtrooper hand-plates and a "compad" on the left arm. Further separating this variant from the standard Snowtrooper, the Commander inversed the shoulder bell orientation and wore grey moon boots (also shared with the AT-AT Pilot costume). The Snowtrooper Commander chest/back armour sections were replicated in green for General Veer's costume - with some slightly different greeblies used.

Back to Snowtrooper menu here