|Star Wars character|
|First appearance||Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace|
|Last appearance||Star Wars Visionaries|
|Portrayed by||Andy Secombe (voice)|
Watto is a fictional character in the Star Wars universe, featured in the films The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. He is computer-generated and played by voice actor Andy Secombe. He is a mean-tempered, greedy Toydarian, and owner of a second-hand goods store in Mos Espa on the planet Tatooine. Among Watto's belongings are the slaves Shmi Skywalker and her son, Anakin. He acquires them after winning a podracing bet with Gardulla the Hutt, and he puts them both to work in his store. Anakin demonstrates an incredible aptitude for equipment repair, and Watto decides to profit from it by having the boy fix various broken equipment in the store. He eventually loses Anakin in a podracing bet with Qui-Gon Jinn when he bets on a competitor, Sebulba, who is defeated by Anakin.
Concept and creation
Initial designs for Watto were of a more bird-like nature, including plumage and a beak. Another design included tentacles and a cigar. Watto's face originated in an early Neimoidian picture by design director Doug Chiang. The hooked trunk and crooked teeth were carried over to the Toydarian design. Animation supervisor Rob Coleman realized that the alien's dental work would need some modification when the time came to create Watto on screen, as Watto's craggy teeth made lip-syncing difficult. To solve the problem, Coleman broke off one of Watto's incisors, giving him a "corner-of-the-mouth" vernacular. The sound of his wings flapping is a looped recording of sound designer Ben Burtt opening and closing an umbrella.
Watto first appears in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, the first title chronologically in the Star Wars series. He has both an ability for haggling and a resistance to the "Jedi mind trick," a technique used to persuade people. He is both a junk dealer and slave owner on the planet Tatooine, possessing both Shmi Skywalker and her son Anakin. When challenged to a bet for Anakin's freedom, Watto agrees. After Anakin beats Sebulba, a competing racer that he challenged throughout the race he participated in, he was let go. Watto makes a final appearance in the sequel Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, which takes place 10 years after the original film, the now-adult Anakin returns to Tatooine to find his mother. Searching Mos Espa, he finds Watto, who has lost his shop and is now destitute. Watto tells Anakin that he sold Shmi some years ago to a moisture farmer named Cliegg Lars.
Watto makes multiple appearances in the Star Wars series' Expanded Universe. One appearance details his time on his home planet before he came to Tatooine during a war. It also tells how he sustained his broken tusk and disabled leg. He later learns his business savvy from the Jawas, native to the planet Tatooine. His final appearance is in the non-canonical Star Wars comic book Star Wars: Visionaries, which reveals that Watto is killed when Darth Maul, antagonist of The Phantom Menace, encounters him after tracking down his nemesis, Obi-Wan Kenobi, to gain vengeance for his defeat during the Battle of Naboo.
In other media
He is also a playable character in the Lego Star Wars video games.
Watto is also available to purchase as a Lego minifigure, under the Lego Star Wars line.
Editors for IGN ranked Watto 78th in their list of Top 100 Star Wars characters. They wrote that he was "one of the most confusing scientific anomalies" due to "the idea that a creature so potbellied is able to stay afloat for so long". They added that he was "no prince" for his unscrupulous deals. In the book The Holy Family and Its Legacy, author Albrecht Koschorke discusses the presence of "The Holy Family" in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, stating that while there was no "solicitous guardian watching over the mother and the holy child," Watto acts in a similar position as a "man who possesses patriarchal powers without being the father."
Allegations of antisemitism
It has been suggested that this character is offensive because he resembles a stereotypical Jewish caricature. He has a large nose, beady eyes, and speaks in a gravelly, Hebrew-sounding accent and is portrayed as greedy and covetous, another common stereotype of Jews. J. Hoberman of The Village Voice called him a blatant ethnic stereotype due to his hooked nose. Bruce Gottlieb of Slate magazine criticized him as well, comparing his character to the anti-Semitic notion that the Jewish race is "behind the slave trade." Patricia J. Williams of The Nation stated that Watto was also described as a stereotype of Arabs, but that he was "more comprehensively anti-Semitic -- both anti-Arab and anti-Jew." She added that Watto reminded her of an "anti-Semitic caricature published in Vienna at the turn of the 20th century." Jane Prettyman of the American Review noted that after leaving the theater, she heard two young boys describe him as 'that weird little Jewish guy with wings,' describing his depiction as "not at all subtle," and that "it can be counted on to flush out already-formed Jew-haters among young audiences and give them permission to continue their hatred out loud."
- "All Droid Up". The Village Voice. May 19–25, 1999. Retrieved 2006-06-11.
- "The Merchant of Menace: Racial Stereotypes In A Galaxy Far, Far Away?". Slate. May 27, 1999. Retrieved 2006-06-11.
- "Racial Ventriloquism". The Nation. June 17, 1999. Archived from the original on 2006-09-20. Retrieved 2006-06-11.
- "George Lucas serves up anti-Semitic stereotype in Star Wars Episode I". American Review. June 3, 1999. Retrieved June 11, 2006.