“I fell in love with her courage, her sincerity,
and her flaming self-respect. And it’s these things I’d believe in, even if the
whole world indulged in wild suspicions that she wasn’t all she should be. I
love her and it is the beginning of everything.”
The bantha was played by a 22-year-old female Asian elephant named
Mardji. At the time she was a resident of Marine World Africa U.S.A.
(currently known as Six Flags Discovery Kingdom and in a new location),
where she was trained to perform tricks like waterskiing. It took six
crew members to make Mardji a costume that would fit her and that she
would tolerate. The base of this costume was a howdah (an elephant
saddle) with added palm fronds to create the shaggy coat of a bantha.
They then added a special head mask that was molded from chicken wire
and then sprayed with foam to give it shape. The beard was made from
horse hair, while flexible home ventilation tubing was the base for the
curving horns. While the weight of the head mask caused some concern, it
was actually the shaggy tail that was made from wood and covered with
thick thistles that took some getting used to for Mardji.
It was the first time that Mardji came outside in the wild, and she
apparently loved it there in Death Valley and played in a creek during
shooting breaks. To make the shoot less unpleasant, one of her usual
trainers was dressed as one of the two Tusken Raiders and she was fed
many apples as a reward. Her trunk would pop out of her costume from
time to time despite her training, but the cast and crew (George Lucas
among them) loved the elephant too much to get impatient. To get the
shot of the two banthas that Luke spots, they used optical compositing.
I guess it’s really obvious but I never realized the banthas were played by an elephant
My new baby needs a name! If you have any suggestions, leave a comment or reblog! He’s still a baby so he’s super tiny compared to my other bettas. He’s impossible to photograph because he hates my camera, so this crappy phone video of him trying to hide from me will have to do. (Please excuse my gross substrate. I moved some things around and it kicked up dead plant matter everywhere. :p)