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Creating Chewbacca


Great weekend read: Michael Heilemann explores how George Lucas created Chewbacca, or rather how he…um…borrowed…it from somebody else. The piece’s valuable insights into the creative process apply to all the arts, though they are particularly applicable to filmmaking, in which the final product is formed by the hands of many, influences come from all over, and authorship is often opaque:

Chewbacca didn’t spring to life out of nowhere, fully formed when Lucas saw his dog in the passenger seat of his car. That’s the soundbite. A single step. The reality is complex and human. From vague names floating around, the kernel of an idea, changing purposes and roles of characters, major restructuring, the design hopping from person to person, scrapping the existing concept and going down a different path, seeing existing things in a different light and having to conform a range of ideas to complement and enrich one another.

(via Kottke)

  • Could this be the only George Lucas related post on the whole Internet about which not a single opinion has been offered?

    • The Gee

      Well, the title of the article is kind of opinionated.
      “George Lucas Stole Chewbacca, But Its Okay”

      Anyway, to answer your dramatic question: allow me to be one of the opinionators.

      The thing about the first “Star Wars” movie is that it was such a cobbled together thing. It did owe a lot to those old sci-fi serials and adventure comics and books and stuff from the 30s-40s. So, expecting every part of the first movie to be like Venus sprung from nothing is expecting too much. (though, from my understanding, the some of the additional movies might be parodies of themselves, in unflattering ways.)

      One thing about that brief bit quoted in Amid’s post: The fact that part of the inspiration was his dog who was in the passenger’s seat…
      There’s a really good and funny movie called “Fanboys” which had a quick bit in it. The main characters, four guys were going to get into a van. One of them, instead of calling “shotgun” calls “Chewy!”

      (I am not a sci-fi fan, a Lucas fan or a Star Wars fan, but, I respect what Lucas pulled off; he made a big impact in a lot of areas. And, that movie is either surprisingly accessible or I’m unsurprisingly just that geekydorky that it didn’t go over my head in any way)

    • Anna

      I’m sorry sir, but the Internet simply ran out of opinions on the subject. We have some on backorder and they may be coming in shortly

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    Pretty much everything in Starwars is stolen,even the lightsabers, but I guess since it’s taken from so many sources , in a way maybe it makes it kind of original, like a collage.The final death star scenes in the first movie are taken from The Dambusters.

    • John A

      George should have continued to borrow things from other movies, because the ‘original’ ideas he wrote into the prequels really sucked.

  • The Gee


    I haven’t seen all of the prequels. I think I’ve only seen the first one and I don’t remember much about it. But, it must really suck to have expectations that each and every successor to the original needs to be better and greater.

    Considering some of the early influences for “Star Wars” were those old movie serials, like Flash Gordon and things like that, it isn’t like the bar was set that high. So, it is kind of funny that people diss those movies for not being genius.

    But I guess all action movies made these days have at least a set of three flicks in mind.
    That’s a bar that some should choose to ignore but I guess one of the legacies of Lucas is The Franchise became more important than just making good films and striving for originality.

  • Mark Sonntag

    Check out: The Secret History of Star Wars by Michael Kaminski

  • RodF

    I’m surprised that the Dog Faced Man wasn’t mentioned somewhere in Chewbacca’s inspiration/creation saga.

    It seems obvious that this had something to do with it: