AcademicIamA educator who teaches life skills and money management to abandoned and abused refugee children in the Middle East AMA!
Dec 25th 2016 by elibeli • 42 Questions • 5302 Points
Hello again Reddit! The last AMA was a truly incredible experience (you even crashed my website!). Thank you all for the love and support. I hope you had as much fun as I did. I'm looking forward to getting to know more of you and answering more questions. You can see the first AMA here
A short list of my most favorite experiences are: *Being accepted to Frank Lloyd Wright's architectural school *Working with NASA to inform the public on the first unmanned space flights *Being Walter Cronkite's “Hal 9000” NASA connection during live broadcast of the first moon landing *Inventing the first real color monitor for Hewlett Packard *Writing my first book CoreFires - a labor of love 20 years in the making
I've worked on the following movies & shows: * Lead star ship designer for Star Wars - I drew the original designs for the X-Wing, A-Wing, Star Destroyer, TIE Fighter, & Rebel cruisers. I was also the one who designed and sculpted the Death Star and gave it it's trench * 2001, A Space Odyssey - I worked closely with Stanley Kubrick and persuaded him not to start the movie with a 20 minute conference table discussion * Buck Rogers in the 25th Century * Close Encounters of a Third Kind * War Games
I have a deep interest in science - especially quantum physics and space travel. I could not have picked a better time to have been born. So much has happened so quickly! Our dreams of space flight are maturing and I believe one day soon we’ll be exploring the next waiting wonders of our galaxy.
My latest project is a book series called CoreFires. It is free for today and anyone who leaves an Amazon review will be entered to win either a signed copy of the book or a signed print of my original Star Wars ship designs (your choice). 3 Winners will be chosen. Sign up here to enter
You can see my original Pre-Star Wars artwork here
A special thanks to https://www.createbook.org for helping me self publish my book. I highly recommend them to any authors who want help getting self published.I hope that's enough to get us started. AMA!
It has just come to my attention that Carrie Fisher passed away today after her heart attack several days ago. I'm sure you will join me in sending our sincerest condolences to her family and loved ones
Welcome to reddit! If you could tell one thing to every person in the world, what would it be?
Thanks for doing an AMA. So I just want to know, what ship you designed changed the most from the first idea to the final model? Oh and what do you think about the newer ships in the SW franchise that are based on your ideas?
I would like to spread awareness about brain tumors. Support the fight against childhood cancer. May is brain tumor awareness month. I'd like for people to support it more especially during that month
The Millennium Falcon was originally designed in a lizzard shape. We learned that another film had created a similar design, so it was immediately modified into its final form.
Hey Gray, I'm a 17 year old battling brain cancer now. Do you have a favorite doctor/nurse that you love talking to? And what advice would you give to me or others who are battling childhood cancer?
I have one more question - would you be open to attending the largest gathering of sci-fi model builders, at Wonderfest in Louisville Kentucky, in early June? It will be a celebration of everything, but also a specific showcase of the Star Wars 40th anniversary.
I think I speak for all the fellas when I say we would love to have you attend and show you what we have made, inspired by your designs!
Just try not to think about what you have. Let your family or whoever take care of that. Just focus on being a kid. You know who I got that from? M. O. M.
Send me your email and we can talk.
Hey Gray, what would you say is the thing that keeps you so positive in the face of having dealt with this for ten years?
As lead designer of the Death Star, do you ever worry about potential Rebel Alliance assassins?
Gray said he wants to video his first response. We are uploading it and will edit this link shortly!
All the time!!
Hi, just wanted to ask a small question about the Star Destroyers. Did you include any turrets on the model, or did you omit them because they were too small to put on such a large ship? I can't help but notice in the movies that the lasers come out of seemingly nowhere on the ships.
Wow, your résumé is crazy! What was it like working with Stanley Kubrick?
Way beyond crazy. Way into genius territory 24/7
Good morning Gray. I've been helping my Wife through a similar situation for a bit over 5 years now. Four bouts of various types of cancer (gastrointestinal [neuroendocrine carcinoma], cervical, ovarian and now, just last month, stage 3 melanoma) How have you dealt with the depression and/or isolation that typically comes with this ordeal?
Michelle, as a caregiver, same question.
Did you ever think Star Wars would get as big as it is today?
I feel like I get depressed and alone but I always remember that I have people to help me through those moments. And when I remember that, it makes me feel peppy again. That there are people out there that are cheering for me and it helps me not feel alone and conquer what I'm going through. From Michelle, keeping him involved with people with similar conditions. Like CoachArt. When you do things with CoachArt, there are families and kids with similar situations and we get to be together as a group. Creating opportunities to share within the foundations we are involved with is an outlet for him to share. It creates a support network Gray says I like CoachArt because it helps me meet people who know how I feel and it makes me feel better because other people really don't know how I feel
I knew that the opening scenes had to be exceptionally successful, but little did I foresee the outcome.
This is probably going to get buried, but I wanted to let you know that when I was diagnosed with a brain tumor at 24, I became really jaded and relied on gallows’ humor to cope. I am 27 now and can be rather bitter over how much I have lost (peripheral vision, being able to drive at night, decent looking hair/skin, and a modest credit score) over my diagnosis and subsequent treatment.
Reading your AMA has blown me away with how positive and insightful you are at 16. You have a lot to be proud of and I hope your co-captain knows that she raised a wonderful young man.
Per this subreddit’s rules, I have to ask a question : when you went through chemo, did you have Temodar (the oral chemo?) Have you found it to be more mild than intravenous chemotherapy?
Hi! So, did the trench run finale actually come about because of your design?! Did you meet Carrie Fisher?
I'd like to say thank you and I'm sorry to hear about what you lost. But just remember, there's always a silver lining at the end of the rainbow!
I did not meet Carrie. The trench was my idea... thereby the action scenes
Hello Mr. Cantwell, I know these are probably going to be too specific and a little focused, but can I ask some model related questions, as it might help a small gang of builders replicate your builds? My first question is, what inspired you to use 5 dram pill bottles on so many of the Star Wars designs? They pop up in almost every build you made. Were they readily available/cylindrical shapes?
To find a cure to brain tumors. I have lots of dreams but that's my biggest dream. I think 7 kids die from a brain tumor each day. I could be wrong about how many but that's scary to me
You bet... they were readily available, a drawer full!!.
Good morning Gray! Hopefully you're having a good day. What do you feel most proud of?
Ooh, hello Sir, congratulations and thank you for your amazing work! I'd love to see you team up with Dr Michio Kaku - what a dream team that would be! Have you got a ticket for a commercial space flight? Who'd be your dream team to go to space with?
Hi! Just the fact that I'm still here and still going. Any time that I'm feeling down and having a bad day, I remember that I'm a brain tumor survivor and that's not by luck. It's a little luck but we've fought hard
i did significant flying while lying in bed with tuberculosis as a child. No ticket yet, but Stephen Hawiking would be a REAL TRIP.
Hi Gray, thank you for sharing your experiences with us!
What has been the hardest part of dealing with your medical issues? Would be interested to hear from your mother about this as well.
Do you find it difficult to create artwork that looks unique for each different project you work on?
Also your "sign up here to enter" link doesnt work
Just going through treatments one after another after another after. Every time I have an MRI or surgery, I'm wondering "am I gonna make it or am I gonna die? Sometimes I wonder if this is the last one." Mom said hardest for Gray has been the anxiety and anticipation of going through treatments. That's ALWAYS been the hardest.
No, my mind is always ready to hunt for something new instead of repeating. We'll fix the link in a few minutes.. Thanks for the heads up
First off, just want to say that you're an amazingly strong young man for enduring what you have. I just lost my mom (4 months ago) to cancer after a 4+ year battle. She's the strongest person I've ever known, and I can only imagine what it was like for her, but I'm so happy that you've fought just as hard as she did, and you're still at it! People like you two inspire me and millions of others to never give up in life.
Also, what are your top three favorite games?
I have seen pictures of the Y-Wing you made with a WWII fighter cockpit for a canopy, which was later changed to the squared styrene one that it has now, and which was painted by McQuarrie. Did you often meet with George Lucas while building the models, and how often were you asked to modify or change a build?
That touched my heart, thank you. Skip Bo, Monopoly Deal, and Uno Attack. This is from Joe, I can tell you first hand Gray is savage in Skip Bo
I met with him to ask mostly about the role of the ship storywise. A lot to begin with and less frequently as time went on. He seldom made suggestions on design changes.
Hi Colin, hope you get to this. If you've seen Rouge one the Death Star is a big part again. Do you think the team did a good job at portraying the intensity of what you were going for with your initial creation of it? Also, was it originally designed to run off Kyber crystal?
Making moments out of everything. If you're saying something can't be done, someone else is doing it
I think they did a good job with the Death Star. The plans were secret.
Do you have an idea how the Core Fires series is going to pan out or are you just making it up as you go along? And how far have you got with the sequel?
Between Grim Rocket and Grim Chaos, Gray said he likes Grim Chaos better. But it's close
CoreFires Two is complete and will be out before the end of 2017.
Mr. Cantwell, I've never heard about Kubrick wanting a conference table discussion scene for the opening of 2001. Could you talk a little bit about why he wanted it and how and why you persuaded him to go in a different direction? Thanks for doing this AMA.
The conference room scene he proposed while the audience was being seated was a real drag. To me, far more important to begin and then at the end, to feel the majesty of the story.
Good morning, Gray! Thanks for doing this. I think you're awesome and inspiring. Is there a way I can keep following you to hear/read about what you're up to and be able to say hi? PS: Joe is way more popular since he started hanging out with you. Good job teaching him how to be more fun.
Hello Colin, which current real life technology are you most excited about?
That is funny about Joe. I have a Facebook site that I can receive messages: https://www.facebook.com/Amazing-Gray-117720188251784/?fref=ts
Biologic co-evolution and advancing intelligence.
Hi there! As a current medical student/future physician, do you have any advice for me either about a really positive experience you've had with your doctors or even a particularly negative experience that you'd want to share with me?
Thanks for doing this, hang in there and keep fighting! I'm on your side, fighting against cancer, just from a different angle! You are inspiring with all your positivity!
Was there ever any discussion about the death star's propulsion? Watching the old and most recent film, I thought it might be the most cavalier thing of all to not acknowledge what it would take to move an object of that size and shape through space. So was that ever discussed in relation to it's appearance?
Yes I do. The patient is always right. The patient AND their parents are always right. Listen to your patient's parents and also listen to their parents. Don't look at them like they're crazy. Just trust them. They know what they're going through more than you would know because that's why they came to you
Not by me. I thought it more mysterious without detailed explaination.
Good morning awesome folks! As a fairly new father, having something like this happen to my daughter is one of my greatest fears. So I guess this question is aimed more at Lady Crimson: What were the early signs of Gray's illness? What led to the discovery of his tumors? You guys are great and I wish you all the best in the future. Thanks for doing this.
So having worked with NASA during the broadcast of the first moon landing; what exactly were you doing during that time, and what are your feelings about those people among us who say it was a staged event? (I for one know we landed on the moon, but I have met others who swear we didn't)
From Michelle, something seemed off. I would say motherly instincts. Something seemed off that I couldn't figure out and I would take him to the pediatirition. It was pressure in his head that would build up at night and he couldn't sleep. He would wake up very disoriented. After he would be up for a while, he would be fine. Anything that is persistently off, he was symptomatic at four. I didn't get him diagnosed until six. You kind of have to go by developmental milestones. But it's hard to tell at that age and you don't want to take him to the hospital all the time
From Gray, people thought my mom was crazy. But she was right
I was sitting behind Walter Cronkite and known as the "Hal 9000 Computer". During his broadcast I was listening to NASA and feeding Walter the information he was broadcasting on live TV.
As far as skeptics, give me their names and I'll sell them the London Bridge.
Good Morning Gray, do you believe in an Higher Power? Me being in your situation, id always think "Why Me?"
Has anyone ever said you look like a white Snoop Dogg?
I used to feel like God chose me to pick on me. I sort of still feel that way a little bit. Everything happens for a reason but I wonder why God chose me to have the brain tumor? Michelle says "One day Gray said, you know what mom? Sometimes, bad things just happen. And not for a reason"
Now, somone has.
Hi Gray! You're the man! What's your favorite kind of music to dance to?
Why are the TIE Fighters so different from the various rebel craft?
Rock and roll! My favorite song to dance to is "I Love Rock and Roll"
He just sang out the chorus, too
I wanted them each to be evil and "instantly" identified on the screen.
I can only imagine the pain you've been through. If I could ask what exactly is the kind of brain cancer that you have and are you currently in remission?
What was your favorite part about working on Star Wars?
From Michelle - he has diffuse fibrillary astrocytoma throughout the brain and spine. He is not in remission, we do the best we can to manage tumor growth and all the effects through chemo and surgeries
The creativity of working with Lucas
Hey Gray, I'm a neurosurgery resident currently at our children's hospital and work with kids with brain tumors. What are some things that you and your parents appreciated (or maybe didnt appreciate) from your neurosurgeon? It's an understatement to say what you and your family have been through is challenging, but your attitude is awesome. Keep it up.
Incredible, thank you for all you've done Mr. Cantwell. It must be so great seeing your creations still used in movies and marketed everywhere.
What is your take on the direction NASA is going with mars? What was the general feeling around the country after the reporting of the moon landing? That would've been amazing to experience.
From Joe, I actually have a classic Gray story. He was beating me pretty bad in Skip Bo one day, I was completely out-strategized. I said "Gray, you know that you are really smart, right?" He responds, "well, I do hang out with a lot of neurosurgeons."
I await more and more progress by NASA relevant to human co-evolution.
I was smack dab in the middle but still on earth. Everyone was pretty excited.
Morning gray, hope your day is going well. If I may ask, what advice would you give someone who has just been diagnosed with brain cancer?
Also thank you for the ama!
I currently work for NASA and I was wondering, with Mars on the horizon do you think that traveling to Mars will be covered in the news outlets as much as the Moon landings?
If you had the chance, would you like to cover the Mars landing?
To not worry. That you're in good hands with your family and your doctors. Make sure your family knows that they need to trust what they believe in and not always trust what the doctors say. And your family will always take care of you no matter what you go through
Hopefully it would be more accurate than the cover image of National Geographic which swapped the lowest terrains with the highest. Yes I would like to cover the Mars landing.
Hi Gray! Do you have any weird favourite snacks? I personally like eating anchovies straight from the little jar sometimes, maybe you have something new for me to try :)
Thanks for the AMA! Huge fan. How do you feel the modern Star Wars movies i.e. The force awakens and Rogue 1 compare with the original trilogy? Thanks!
My favorite thing right now is cauliflower rice mixed with eggs and bbq spices. Yeaaah
I really enjoyed seeing the new story tellng in both.
Hi Gray, it will be interesting to read your responses! After living with this for many years, what would you say are some of the most common misconceptions and/or preconceived notions that you face regarding your situation?
Also, what are your favorite movies? Take care!
What are your thoughts on Elon Musk?
People think that I'm fine sometimes. "Oh, he's fine, he's not chronically sick." I just want to be heard and my story be heard. Michelle says "I think people think you get cancer and they take it out, you get treatments, and it's done. But it's not like that, he's been in and out of treatment for 10 years. Some cancers are too dangerous to remove"
EDIT: To add movies, mom said Chicken Run used to be a favorite. But Gray said emphatically that it is no longer the case. He said "I love Zootopia and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer"
He's an amazing visionary
What are your opinions on medical cannabis and what is holding you back from CBD trials?
Was the design of the Rebel Cruiser (triangle) directly affected by the need to provide an impact in the opening scene? Thank you!
From mom, we actually tried it like five years ago. Had to get him a card. We didn't try it as a treatment, we tried it for anti-anxiety and neuro calming effect. At that point, they didn't have all the blends so the amount they were giving was so much that he would be knocked out. That prevents us from being able to maintain accurate neuro status and that's very important
Very strongly. That opening series of scenes had to work for the film to succeed.
Hello Grey! I'm 31 and I have cervical cancer, gone through two rounds of chemo, 5 surgeries, and hoping to get on a clinical trial since it spread to my lungs. I too, am often asked how I'm so positive. I tell them the alternative is depressing. I can't think about how horrible everything could become. I'd just be a sad depressed person. I too get very anxious with treatments and tests. I'm always thinking "is this where I find out there is nothing else we can do?" My mom gets anxious as well. So far I have a way forward and I focus on that as a positive. Keep up you sprints and enjoy Christmas crafts! I do crafty things to keep my mind busy too :-)
Hi Colin, I understand the millennium falcon design was a collaborative effort- what parts of the ship we're your concepts? I've always thought the dish was your idea but was interested if any thing else was.
If you're not positive, negative things are going to happen. You get what you put out. Think positive and positive things happen. Good luck to you! EDIT: From Michelle, there was a pivotal point in which I decided that we were going to live, we were not going to let his treatments take over and stop us from living. You have to live your life. Why fight for it if you're not going to actually live for it?
The turret survived the re-invention of the millennium falcon from my original lizzard design.
Watched your video, thanks for being pretty awesome and having way better dance moves than me!
Besides the dancing, how do you like to spend your free time? Any favorite movies or books or hobbies you have?
Hello Colin! Did you have any involvement with Rouge One? If not, have you seen it, and what did you think about the new starships designed for the movie?
Doing arts and crafts. I like to do all arts and crafts.
EDIT: From Joe, his Pinterest username is "michelleandgray" He loves Pinterest!
No I was not involved, but enjoyed the ships a lot.
Yo Cap, what's the best hospital food you have ever had? Way to keep battling bud! You are tougher than I.
What inspired your design for the Death Star?
EDIT: Like, their grilled cheese's are the real deal. If I had two places to choose to get grilled cheese, it would be In N Out or the hospital
The Death Star was a sphere because objects needed to be able to fly around it and attack it from all sides. When the two plastic hemispheres arrived, I had to invent a way to use them without revealing their equitorial flaws.. Hence the trench.
There is a design you created that has the pill bottles as engines in a large "X" configuration in the rear, and two long threaded rods that terminate in a tank chassis that serves as the "head" of the ship. Is this the original prototype for the "Princesses Ship" and NOT a second "Pirate Ship" model? (The Pirate Ship has two large model kit motors at the rear for engines, and the plastic cup for a cockpit. )
I'm not exactly sure to which ship you are referring. Where did you see this?
How did you land these awesome jobs? Talk about a dream come true.
Dodgers! I have friends that play on a little league Dodgers team so that's why
Based on the work I had previously done, many of these jobs were referred to me by others.
Do you get tired of people focusing on cancer as a defining quality of you? I mean, would you rather people talk about something else more often with you?
We also have noticed (to the dismay of our wallets) that you used multiples of kits in single builds, or even scattered across designs over all. For example, you used at least 8 Revell Gemini/Mercury kits. So at the time, were these inexpensive enough that you just purchased stacks of the same kit because you knew it would provide you with multiple pieces for pattern replication in your designs, or did you purchase single sprues from the kit makers as ILM some times did (for the same reason - guaranteed multiples of similar pieces)?
I half think people just associate me with cancer. But mostly I think people think I'm a normal kid and look like a normal kid. Part of it is because I don't have the typical signs like losing my hair and stuff. It's feels bad when people give me a weird look like they're scared of me when they find out I have cancer. Sometimes my doctors focus on the bad even though I know they are just doing their job and trying to make me better. Sometimes I don't like being at the hospital because of the negativity. Sometimes I feel poisoned with negativity. Outside of the hospital I feel like I can breathe. The negativity is like smog and I'm breathing in the smog. It feels nice and good not to have negative thoughts
I dismembered kits, storing the best parts in a six foot high and 8 foot wide wall of drawers. From thereon it was as the spirit moved me. I shopped in poorer sections of town where the boxes were already opened, and then I purchased the kits with the best parts. THE FIRST TIME THE SALES LADY ASKED IF I WAS GOING TO OPEN A STORE.
Ayo Captain Gray!
If you won a million dollars what would you do with it?
What was the most used model kit while kitbashing the ships together?
Donate all to brain tumor research. To find cures for brain tumors
I had 200 drawers of kit parts, and most of my decisions were spur of the moment.
Hi Captain Gray! Do you play any kind of video games? PC, Console, or mobile, it doesn't matter. If so, what kind of games are you inclined to? First person shooters? Or Racing games? or Role-playing games?
Hey! We are friends on Facebook and I saw that you would be doing an AMA. My question is this: how many revisions did the original ships go through before they came up with the end product that we all saw in the movies?
Super Mario Bros for the Nintendo DS. I play food games on my iPad. Cake Mania is one
One in most cases for the original movie.
Hi Mr. Cantwell, thank you for providing our childhoods with amazing space ships and dreams of space travel! I was wondering, what was your reaction was to the Spacex landing of the Model 9 booster rocket and what do you think is our next step is in taking the first person to Mars?
I was pleased to learn of the landing and I'll leave the next Mars steps to the experts
why did the original tapes of the moon landing end up in a dusty box under someone's desk...how come nobody saw these items as important historical documentation?
Believe me, I'm not the one to ask