Arguably the best thing about the original Star Wars trilogy are the puppets. As George Lucas was not yet visually unleashed by CGI, these films had to work within technical limitations to create the bold and ambitious scenes that the scrips demanded. And no puppet (except, maybe Yoda) was as memorable or complex as Jabba the Hutt.
After interviewing one of Jabba’s main puppeteers, filmmaker Jamie Benning, who has made several fascinating film documentaries, decided to create a 20-minute mini doc celebrating the galaxy’s most despicable slug-like crime lord called Slimy Piece of Worm-Ridden Filth – Life Inside Jabba the Hutt. Puppeteer Toby Philpott talks through the creation of the Jabba puppet, possibly one of the most expensive puppets ever made, and how the team was able to pull off some of Jabba’s more elaborate moves. Accompanying Philpott’s monologue are behind-the-scenes footage of Return of the Jedi and tons of interesting insights, such as this one:
George Lucas wasn’t as impressed by [Jabba]. I think he would have liked to have done it by CGI, even then, but the technology wasn’t there yet, and I’m not sure he was entirely convinced by a three-dimensional puppet. He wasn’t satisfied that Jabba couldn’t walk around for instance, where I quite like that fact that he obviously was gigantic slug who rarely goes anywhere and when he does, people carry him, I guess.
Of course, George Lucas eventually did get his CGI Jabba for the special edition remake of A New Hope, a scene which is often cited as one of the most offensive CGI additions of the original trilogy.
A Slimy Piece of Worm-Ridden Filth is a wonderful snapshot of science fiction history and makes me miss film puppeteering — a cinematic art endangered by the consuming maw of computer-generated imagery. [Vimeo and Filmumentaries.com]