STAR WARS: 10 things about Chewbacca you probably didn’t know

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Chewbacca is a key character in the Star Wars saga and a special presence. His origins are more or less known. He came from the planet Kashyyyk and he was saved from slavery by Han Solo. Ever since they became best friends forever and had each other’s back. While you might be distracted thinking if Luke Skywalker‘s going to appear in The Force Awakens, or who’s Anakin Skywalker‘s father, you might neglect Chewie. There are things about him you probably have never heard about.

Check our list and find new, interesting facts about Chewie!

10. The story behind Chewbacca

Chewbacca is a hero of Star Wars and his most heroic characteristic is loyalty. No wonder as the inspiration to create him came from George Lucas‘ best furry friend, an Alaskan malamute.

I don’t know how many of you heard about the story behind Chewie’s creation, or how many of you saw the image of a dog in him, but his origins reside in man’s best friend. No wonder, right? However, his name is a derivation from the Russian word "Sobaka" (собака), meaning… "dog."

George Lucas confessed that his dog would be his copilot in the car, and he was the inspiration for the name of Indiana Jones too.  “He was the prototype for the Wookiee. He always sat beside me in the car. He was big, a big bear of a dog.”

9. Chewbacca’s voice

Chewbacca‘s voice might be the most interesting voice in the Star Wars universe, but have you ever wondered who’s behind his first sounds? Well, there is one person and some animals. Ben Burtt, the sound designer of the movie used recordings of bears, lions, badgers, and other animals to ultimately create Chewie’s vocalization.

After reading the script, Burtt spent a year recording sounds on the field to use them in a final audio cut for the film series.

Brutt revealed how he approached the whole process. “He didn’t have articulated lips,” Burtt explained. “He could basically open and close his mouth. So you also needed to create a sound which would be believable coming from a mouth that was operated like his.”

His experience recording sounds made by animals on the field might seem weird, and even weirder thinking those sounds are the voice of Chewbacca.

“One time I went to Marineland down in Long Beach, CA, to record a walrus for a possible Wookiee effect. Its pool had been drained for cleaning"”the walrus was stranded at the bottom, moaning"”and that was the sound!”

8. Chewbacca’s costume

 

Chewbacca’s original costume was designed by Stuart Freeborn. Lucas wanted the costume to be a mix between a monkey, a dog and a cat. The costume was made from a combination of real yak and rabbit hair knitted into a mohair support.

While the design portrays Chewbacca as a lovable creature, at some point his costume was the subject of a little controversy. Some studio executives thought that Chewie needed to put some clothes on. So the discussion about incorporating some kind of  below-the-waist clothing item started.

Thanks God they didn’t go further on with this idea, as the character would have looked rather ridiculous. George Lucas insisted that this change should’t be applied and his strong opinion was taken into consideration by the studio.

7. He wasn’t going to feature in Star Wars

The original Star Wars draft created by George Lucas didn’t feature Chewbacca, and Han Solo was portrayed as an alien with green skin and gills. To create a human relationship between Han, Luke and Leia, George Lucas decided to make Han Solo a human too.

Due to this change in the draft, the furry friend was created as a non-human sidekick of Han Solo, a loyal partner that would last in the long living Star Wars movies. However, in the beginning he would only be present on the "three or four pages of the original Star Wars screenplay," as Mayhew confirmed.

After realizing the potential of the character, the producers extended his role so he became one of the most important characters in Star Wars.

6. Origins of Wookiees

George Lucas invented a fictional species of intelligent, shaggy bipeds coming from the planet Kashyyyk and named them “Wookiees.” As a Wookiee, Chewbacca is a loyal friend, and a great warrior. Yet, the name of his species has nothing to do with this and it was borrowed from a George Lucas’ movie THX 1138.

There is a scene in THX 1138 where a robotic cop, voiced by actor Terry McGovern, said: “I think I ran over a Wookiee back there”, and so the name for Chewbacca’s species was born.

A show focused on the creation of Star Wars characters revealed that Wookiees were inspired by orangutans and lemurs as well (not only monkeys, dogs and cats). Orangutans and lemurs have long hair and live in a warm climate. This complex mixture of animals resulted in a Wookiee resembling a mythological simian.

5. Chewie has retractable claws but he doesn’t use them

Adult Wookiees have different characteristics than most humans, hence Chewbacca’s height. But they also posses a range of various unique abilities. Their pure strength is not to be found in any other no humanoid species from books and comics. They adapt to different environments wearing only their fur, and have keen senses.

A special characteristics of theirs is that they have retractable claws meant to help them climb the tall trees on their planet. However, it is dishonorable to use them in fights and that is why we never say Chewbacca using them. Those who have used the claws in fights were named “madclaws” and excluded from their communities.

4. Shyriiwook is his native language

Those sounds you hear from Chewbacca’s mouth are generated by a combination of noises made by different animals, and you can read about that above. But what’s the name of Wookiee’s languageShyriiwook (Wookiee Speak or “Wookieespeak“) is the name of Chewbacca’s native language consisting of roars and growls.

Members of other species can understand Shyriiwook, but it cannot be reproduced by others than those who have a Wookiee’s physiology. On the other hand, Wookiees can understand Galactic Basic but due to the structure of their vocal cords they cannot reproduce it.

Han Solo understands Shyriiwook language and Chewbacca understands Han’s language. In the Star Wars novels, Chewbacca builds a Shyriiwook translator in the form of a droid (“Em Teedee“) for his nephew Lowbacca.

3. His costume featured a water-cooling system

Chewbacca‘s costume came with some difficulties. And Peter Mayhew was the one who had a hard time inside the furry outfit. At some point Mayhew would sweat in the costume and his face would detach from the mask creating a weird appearance of the character. Not mentioning how uncomfortable that was, and required him to put the costume on and off all the time.

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith came with a revolutionary change in the design of Wookiee’s costume so when Mayhew reprised the role it was easier to wear it. The suit featured an overhaul to incorporate a specially made water-cooling system. And so, the problem was solved, Mayhew wasn’t getting overheated and he could wear the costume for long periods. No more sweating and no more on and off.

2. Casting Peter Mayhew required one main quality

Peter Mayhew had one single task to do at the auditioning for the role of Chewbacca: standing up. After remarking the 7 feet 3 inches of Mayhew, George Lucas concluded “I think we’ve found him.” And so it was.

At 71, the actor reprised the role of the iconic character in The Force Awakens and he pointed out that age in Wookies doesn’t matter, yet the size, that does matter.

“People will notice that he has more gray hairs than last time they saw him, but 30 years in Wookiee time isn’t the same as 30 years to humans.

“Chewbacca was 200 in the first Star Wars film and middle age starts at around 310 for Wookiees.

“His size isn’t intimidating because he’s on your side. Chewie doesn’t waste time talking, he just comes in and saves the day.”

1.David Prowse turned down the role of Chewbacca

George Lucas‘ first choice for the role of Chewbacca was not Peter Mayhew. Initially, he offered the role to David Prowse an English bodybuilder, weightlifter and actor. Prowse started as a bodybuilder, and he became friends with actors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno. After appearances in televised sporting events, Prowse was offered a role in Casino Royale (1967) as “Frankenstein’s Monster.”

And so his acting career has begun. He featured in films as A Clockwork Orange (1971), Up Pompeii (1971) and in 1977 George Lucas proposed to him the role of Chewbacca. But he rejected. Instead he accepted the role of Darth Vader stating that “Everyone remembers the villain, George.” At the time, the space opera was not that big, but with the upcoming installments and the critical acclaim, Prowse became the most popular actors portraying a villainous character. Perhaps Chewbacca’s heroic personality did not fit Prowse’s acting aspirations.

 

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