Admiral Gial Ackbar is a fictional character in the Star Wars saga. A member of the amphibious Mon Calamari species, Ackbar was the foremost military commander of the Rebel Alliance who led major combat operations against the Galactic Empire. Ackbar played a supporting role in the 1983 film Return of the Jedi, and later became a prominent character in the novels, comic books and other media of the Star Wars expanded universe.
With his distinctive salmon-colored skin, high-domed head, and large fish-like eyes, Admiral Ackbar was realized in Return of the Jedi through the use of a half-body puppet and slip-on mask, depending on the camera angles used. He was portrayed in the film by puppeteer Timothy M. Rose, who asked to play the part after he was impressed with a sculpt of the puppet. Ackbar was voiced by Erik Bauersfeld, who made up the voice he believed matched the character after looking at a photo of Ackbar.
The Ackbar character has been received positively by critics and fans. The line "It's a trap!", which he says during a scene in Return of the Jedi, was one of the most popular lines from the Star Wars films and became a popular Internet meme. The first name of Ackbar's character, Gial, was not established until the April 2012 release of the Star Wars reference book The Essential Guide to Warfare.
Admiral Ackbar was designed for the film Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, the final entry in the original Star Wars trilogy. However, before the May 1983 debut of that film, the character made his first chronological appearance in a series of Star Wars newspaper comic strips by Archie Goodwin and Al Williamson. There he was portrayed as the leader of the alien species Mon Calamari, who were allies of the Rebel Alliance in their conflict with the Galactic Empire. The Mon Calamari are a species of fish-like, amphibious humanoids with salmon-colored skin, webbed hands, high-domed heads, and large fish-like eyes. Ackbar's back story was not explained in Return of the Jedi, but has since been established in Star Wars books and other media since the film was released.
Ackbar was born on the planet Dac, a world almost entirely covered by water, where his species built giant floating cities. The peaceful Ackbar was the leader of his home town, Coral Depths City, when forces from the Galactic Empire invaded and almost destroyed the planet. Despite the Mon Calamari attempts to make peace, the Imperial forces destroyed several of their cities, stole their technology, and enslaved many of the aliens. Ackbar was one of the first to be enslaved, and was eventually presented as an interpreter and personal servant to Grand Moff Tarkin, a high-ranking Imperial official. During this time Ackbar learned much about both the Empire and military tactics in general, and also learned of both the Rebel Alliance and the Death Star, a moon-sized superweapon Tarkin was developing.
Ackbar was freed from captivity during a failed attempt by Rebel forces to capture Tarkin. Afterward he joined the Rebel Alliance and helped convince his species to support the cause, playing an integral part in persuading his people to contribute their massive starships, the Mon Calamari cruisers, to the Rebel Alliance. Starting with the rank of Rebel commander, Ackbar helped design the B-wing, a powerful line of starfighters, which prompted Rebel leader Mon Mothma to promote him to Admiral. Following events in the film Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, including the destruction of the Death Star, Ackbar helped the other Rebel leaders establish new bases of operation and manage a Rebel mobile task force in starships spread across the galaxy. His responsibilities kept growing until Mon Mothma promoted him to commander of the entire Rebel fleet and head of military operations, as well as one of her top two advisers.
Return of the Jedi
When Rebel spies discovered plans for a partially constructed second Death Star, Ackbar and Mothma planned a surprise assault on the battle station as it orbited the forest moon of Endor. The attack, which became known as the Battle of Endor, involved General Han Solo leading a strike team on the moon's surface to destroy the Death Star's energy shield generator, while Ackbar and General Lando Calrissian led a space battle against the Death Star II itself. Ackbar personally led the assault from his flagship, the Mon Calamari cruiser Home One. The attack did not go as planned, however, because the Imperial forces were expecting the assault and had in fact allowed the Death Star plans to fall into Rebel hands to lead them into a trap. The Imperials launched a massive counterattack against the Rebel fleet with TIE starfighters and Star Destroyer capital ships. Ackbar initially called for a tactical retreat, but Calrissian convinced him to move forward with the attack. The Rebel forces suffered heavy casualties but ultimately succeeded in destroying the Death Star II, dealing a devastating blow to the Empire.
The Force Awakens
Although his role in Return of the Jedi was relatively brief, Admiral Ackbar became a prominent character in the Star Wars expanded universe, which encompasses all licensed stories in the Star Wars universe outside of the six main feature films, such as novels, comic books, video games and television shows. He was a signatory on the formal declaration of the New Republic, the government which replaced the Empire in power, and was one of nine individuals to join the New Republic Provisional Council, the governing body of this new form of government. Ackbar retired before the beginning of The New Jedi Order series, but comes out of retirement to help fight the Yuuzhan Vong. It is revealed in The Unifying Force, the final novel of the New Jedi Order series, that Ackbar died of old age shortly before the war ended. The death does not take place within the prose of the book, but rather the characters are notified that it has occurred.
The Clone Wars
In the fourth season of the 2008 animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars, it shows Ackbar as the captain of the army of Mon Calamari. After the planet's king is assassinated, the races of the planet, the Mon Calamari and the Quarren argue about who should be the next king. Ackbar is meant to protect the prince of Mon Calamari, Lee Char, as a battle for the planet begins, led by the Separatist commander Riff Tamson. The battle is lost however, even with the assistance of the Jedi Ahsoka, Anakin Skywalker, and Kit Fisto. Ackbar is captured, leaving Lee Char to survive with the guidance of Ahsoka. But when the Quarren decide to betray Tamson at the public execution of Lee Char, Ackbar is freed and a battle ensues to retake the planet. Tamson is defeated and Lee Char is crowned king.
Concept and creation
For Admiral Ackbar's appearance in Return of the Jedi, a combination of a half-body puppet and slip-on mask was used, depending on the camera angle required for the shot. In close-up scenes of Ackbar that required dialogue, puppeteer Timothy M. Rose sat inside the chest of the character and operated the head like a hand puppet from below. Rose moved the mouth using his hand, while Mike Quinn operated the eyes via cables. For wider shots that showed Ackbar's full body, Rose wore the mask and costume while Quinn operated the mouth via remote. Although the character was created with the best available puppetry technology at the time, Star Wars creator George Lucas was not entirely pleased with the final result and felt it was a compromise.
During filming of the 2005 Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Lucas was so impressed with the animatron mask used on the Mon Calamari character Meena Tills, that he briefly considered reediting Return of the Jedi and replacing footage of Admiral Ackbar with an improved mask, although he never did.
The first name of Ackbar's character, Gial, was not established until the April 2012 release of the Star Wars reference book The Essential Guide to Warfare. Co-author Paul R. Urquhart told the website TheForce.Net said the name was taken from Gial Gahan, a Mon Calamari Senator character who played a minor role in the Star Wars: Legacy comic book series.
Rose was not originally hired to portray Admiral Ackbar, but instead to help build and operate the Sy Snootles puppet for the Max Rebo Band, which performs at the palace of the alien crime lord Jabba the Hutt. While backstage at the workshop where several alien puppets were stored, Rose saw the sculpt of Ackbar's character on a display stand and asked Phil Tippett, who designed most of the creatures, if he could play the part. He did not know that Ackbar played a major supporting role in the film and only asked to portray him because he liked the look of the character. Rose had believed it would be a background character whose role had not yet even been determined in the film, and said he was "thinking he was going to be in the third row in a new Cantina sequence or something".
The voice of Admiral Ackbar in Return of the Jedi was performed by Erik Bauersfeld, a radio dramatist who also voiced Bib Fortuna in the film. He was cast after Star Wars sound designer Ben Burtt approached him while Bauersfeld was producing a radio drama with Lucasfilm sound designer Randy Thom. The recording session took one hour, and Bauersfeld made up the voice he believed matched the character after looking at a photo of Ackbar. Bauersfeld reprised the role in the 1993 LucasArts computer game Star Wars: X-Wing.
Admiral Ackbar ranked number 16 in 1998 list of the "Top 20 Star Wars Characters" featured in the magazine Star Wars Insider. Scott Chernoff, a writer for that magazine, called the character "one of the most visually striking and memorable characters introduced in the final installment of the saga". Scott Chitwood of TheForce.Net criticized the fact that Ackbar's death in The Unifying Force was so abrupt and only mentioned in passing by the characters: "He deserved a little more attention. I would have liked to see him killed in action in the final battle, but I guess that's asking a lot of a sickly old Admiral."
"It's a trap!"
Admiral Ackbar's line, "It's a trap!", which he says during the Battle of Endor in Return of the Jedi, became one of the most famous and beloved lines from the original Star Wars trilogy. More than 1,000 fan videos have been created on the video-sharing website YouTube featuring or parodying Ackbar and that line of dialogue. Admiral Ackbar can be played as a hidden character in the Nintendo Wii version of the 2008 video game Star Wars: The Force Unleashed if the player enters the cheat code "ITSATWAP". Footage of Ackbar reciting the line was featured on both Comedy Central comedy shows The Daily Show and The Colbert Report on February 11, 2010. On both shows, it was intercut with footage of various Republican leaders describing an invitation to President Barack Obama's health care summit as a trap. "It's a Trap!", the 2011 episode of the animated comedy series Family Guy spoofing Return of the Jedi, took its name from Ackbar's famous line; Ackbar himself makes an appearance in the episode, portrayed by the talking goldfish character Klaus Heissler from the animated series American Dad!
Admiral Ackbar's full-sized costume from Return of the Jedi was featured in a 200-piece exhibition of Star Wars costumes, props and other memorabilia featured at the Smithsonian Institution called "Star Wars: The Magic of Myth". The exhibit opened at the Washington, D.C. museum complex in 1997 and later went on a national tour which lasted until 2002 and visited various museums, including the San Diego Museum of Art, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Toledo Museum of Art and the Brooklyn Museum. Ackbar was prominently featured in a sketch during Robot Chicken: Star Wars, a 2007 episode of the stop motion animated television series Robot Chicken dedicated entirely to Star Wars parodies. The sketch is a commercial for "Admiral Ackbar Cereal", with Ackbar presenting the breakfast cereal to two children and declaring, "Your tongues can't repel flavor of that magnitude!", a spoof of his line from Return of the Jedi. The character was also featured in a 2009 CollegeHumor video called "Ackbar! The Star Wars Talk Show", where he played the host of a talk show similar to The Jerry Springer Show. Morgan Phillips, an independent hip-hop musician and disc jockey, included a song about the character called "Admiral Ackbar Please" on his album Star Wars Breakbeats.
When the University of Mississippi began a process to find a new mascot in 2010, students Matthew Henry, Tyler Craft, Joseph Katool, and Ben McMurtray started a campaign to have Admiral Ackbar selected. Although their efforts started out as a joke, some students began to seriously push for the idea, while others strongly opposed it and felt it was an embarrassment for the university. The campaign quickly went viral and received national news media attention, and Lucasfilm issued a tongue-in-cheek statement about the matter which read "The last time we checked in with Admiral Ackbar he was leading the Rebel Alliance Fleet on a critical mission so it will be difficult for him to show up for the games!".
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