inside jabba

What a Great Job!

The original Jabba the Hutt

in Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi.

After working for Jim Henson on The Dark Crystal, I was approached to make a second film (cloaked in secrecy) at the same studio - Elstree, London. They called it 'Blue Harvest' to outsiders, and 'Revenge of the Jedi' to us.

When I saw the creature we were going to work in, I was astounded. Jabba the Hutt was probably the most complex (and expensive) animatronic puppet ever made.

me and entourage

David Barclay* (his home page) is an extraordinary puppet maker, performer and action coordinator who wanted to extend his work on film (he'd already on Frank Oz's Yoda crew). We got on well, working together on The Dark Crystal, and he got me the job as co-pilot inside Jabba. (See his agent's page here)

Dave Barclay

Dave directed all our overall body movement, lip synched the mouth, (speaking the lines in English, and talking to the actors - as Jabba - through a mike), and was the right hand. I imagine he was fairly disappointed when they dubbed Huttese all over his careful work, but you can hear his voice in 'From Star Wars to Jedi', a 'making-of' video. Find an online clip of the relevant section here, if you have a fast connection.

I was the silent part of the brain, but as the left hand I got to eat frogs, hit people, smoke a hookah, etc. I also animated the head (with my right hand) and the body (by swiveling my seat, legs braced) and the tongue (a separate job for the right hand.

Operating the tail, to express mood swings, was the ever-cheerful Mike Edmonds.

Members of the team who had built Jabba did breathing (mechanically), and the expressive eye movements (by radio remote control). They also had to paint gunk on the tongue, and blow cigar smoke through a tube (for Jabba's hookah!) Check out John Coppinger's site for more detail.

*Dave Barclay worked on the orginal Yoda team before arriving at Jabba, and you can find a funny (!) story about the time ThatYodaGuy nailed Dave to the floor, just when George and others came to it here!

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