The Millenium Falcon is the most popular spaceship of the Star Wars franchise, and one of the most iconic spaceships in science fiction. However, the ship we know and love was redesigned several times, as it was initially supposed to look entirely different.
When the first prototype of the Falcon was designed, George Lucas and his crew realized that it looked too similar to the main ship of “Space: 1999”, a science fiction series that was filmed shortly before A New Hope and aired from 1975 to 1977. The first prototype of the Falcon still earned its place in the original trilogy: Tantive IV, Princess Leia’s ship in A New Hope from which the droids are sent to Tattooine, was actually a modified and re-scaled prototype of the Falcon.
Since Lucas decided that the Falcon needed to be redesigned, modeler Joe Johnston had about four weeks to create an entirely new version of the Falcon for the filming of A New Hope.
The only guideline Lucas had for the new design of the Falcon was that Johnston was to “imagine a flying saucer”.
Johnston didn’t want to create a regular flying saucer, and instead designed an exceptional spaceship that became a cultural icon.
According to the legend of the Falcon’s conceptualization, the final version of the ship was actually inspired by a hamburger. George Lucas allegedly saw a hamburger with a bite taken out of it and an olive pinned to its side and advised Johnston to envision such a shape while designing the flying saucer.
Also, the Millenium Falcon initially had a name that was much more mundane: it was simply called the “Pirate Ship”, and didn’t get its famous name until well into the production of A New Hope.
Several models of the Falcon in different scales were built for the filming of the original trilogy, and the models from The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi differ from the one seen in A New Hope.
The model used in The Force Awakens also features a slightly redesigned version of the original, with the recognizable circular array on top of the ship changed into a rectangular one.