Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Speaking of Things I'd Like to Know...

Chewbacca is played by Peter Mayhew.

Chewbacca's creation as a "gentle, hairy, non-English-speaking co-pilot" was inspired by George Lucas seeing his own Alaskan Malamute sitting up on the passenger seat of Lucas' car. The Malamute, named Indiana, also inspired the name of the lead character in another one of Lucas' film franchises - Indiana Jones. . It is said that Chewbacca's name is derived from собака (sobaka), the Russian and Ukrainian word for dog.

Chewbacca, a Wookiee, became Han Solo's first mate and companion after Solo, then an Imperial Captain, refused an order to kill him while Chewbacca was a slave of the Empire. Solo was dismissed from the Imperial Navy for disobedience and became a smuggler. Chewbacca owed a life debt to Han and would serve Han Solo for the rest of his life.

In all four screen appearances, Chewbacca was played by Peter Mayhew, who was chosen for his height — 7'3" (2.2 m). Five identical costumes were made for Mayhew to wear. In the three original films and a holiday special, the suits were made of yak hair and mohair. For Revenge of the Sith, the suit was made of more comfortable materials, though Mayhew's filming only lasted for a day. Only Mayhew's blue eyes could be seen in his costume, but fans easily recognize him by his distinctive gestures; his coworkers said they were able to tell when a stand-in was taking his place.

Chewbacca's voice was created by the original films' sound designer, Ben Burtt, from a mix of recordings of walruses, lions, camels, bears, rabbits, tigers and badgers in Burtt's personal library. The individual recordings were mixed at different ratios for Chewbacca's different utterances. One of the most prominent elements in the voice was a black bear named Tarik, from Happy Hollow Zoo in San Jose, California.

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