toby philpott                                                                                                     last updated:   26 January, 2008

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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 approachedMe and my entourage... 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.

Click to see largerWhen 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.

                                         David Barclay (his home page) is anI found this image on the web, thanks to MYsterySith extraordinary puppet maker, performer and action coordinator who wanted very much to extend his work on film (he'd already been involved with Yoda). We got on well, working on The Dark Crystal, and he got me the job as co-pilot inside Jabba. (See his agent's page here)

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. You can find an online clip of the relevant section here, if you have a fast connection.

Toby inside Jabba (from the 'making-of' video) 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 rightMike in the tail (ever careful not to knock over actors!) 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). Check out John Coppinger's site for more detail.

Get an autographed picture

John Coppinger (Jabba sculptor) & HR Nielsen       

Fan Sites I have visited          Online Interviews I have given

 Is real Jabba better than cgi?          amusing and instructive links

Images Return of the Jedi 1983, 2000 Lucasfilm Ltd

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