Jabba the Hutt
Jabba the Hutt is a character appearing in George Lucas's space opera film saga Star Wars. He is depicted as a large, slug-like alien. His appearance has been described by film critic Roger Ebert as a cross between a toad and the Cheshire Cat.
In the original theatrical releases of the original Star Wars trilogy, Jabba the Hutt first appeared in Return of the Jedi (1983), though he is mentioned in Star Wars (1977) and The Empire Strikes Back (1980), and a previously deleted scene involving Jabba the Hutt was added to the 1997 theatrical re-release and subsequent home media releases of Star Wars. Jabba's role in Star Wars is primarily antagonistic; he is introduced as the most powerful crime boss in Tatooine, who has a bounty on Han Solo's head. He employs a retinue of criminals, bounty hunters, smugglers, assassins and bodyguards to operate his criminal empire. He keeps a host of entertainers at his disposal at his palace: slaves, droids and alien creatures. Jabba has a grim sense of humor, an insatiable appetite, and affinities for gambling, slave girls, and torture.
The character was incorporated into the Star Wars merchandising campaign that corresponded with the theatrical release of Return of the Jedi. Besides the films, Jabba the Hutt is featured in non-canon Star Wars Legends expanded universe literature. Jabba the Hutt's image has since played an influential role in popular culture, particularly in the United States. The name is used as a satirical literary device and a political caricature to underscore negative qualities such as morbid obesity and corruption.
Jabba the Hutt appears in three of the seven live-action Star Wars films and The Clone Wars. He has a recurring role in Star Wars expanded universe literature and stars in the comic book anthology Jabba the Hutt: The Art of the Deal (1998), a collection of comics originally published in 1995 and 1996.
Star Wars films
Jabba is first seen in 1983 with the third installment of the original Star Wars trilogy, Return of the Jedi. Directed by Richard Marquand and written by Lawrence Kasdan and George Lucas, the first act of Return of the Jedi features the attempts of Princess Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), the Wookiee Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), and Jedi Knight Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) to rescue their friend, Han Solo (Harrison Ford), who had been imprisoned in carbonite in the previous film, The Empire Strikes Back.
The captured Han is delivered to Jabba by the bounty hunter Boba Fett (Jeremy Bulloch) and placed on display in the crime lord's throne room. Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams), droids C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and R2-D2 (Kenny Baker), Leia, and Chewbacca infiltrate Jabba's palace to save Han. Leia herself is soon enslaved by the Hutt, and she is forced to wear her iconic golden bikini, as well as being chained to Jabba. Soon after Leia is enslaved, Luke arrives to "bargain for Solo's life"; but Jabba condemns Luke, Han, and Chewbacca to the Sarlacc. At the Great Pit of Carkoon, Luke escapes execution with the help of R2-D2 and defeats Jabba's guards. During the subsequent confusion, Leia strangles Jabba to death; whereafter Luke, Leia, Han, Lando, Chewbacca, C-3PO, and R2-D2 escape.
The second film appearance of Jabba the Hutt is in the Special Edition of Star Wars which was released in 1997 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the original Star Wars. Here (as in the original), Han Solo disputes with the alien bounty hunter Greedo (Paul Blake and Maria De Aragon), whom he kills; and Jabba confirms Greedo's last words and demands that Han pay the value of the payload lost by him. Han promises to compensate Jabba as soon as he receives payment for delivering Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness), Luke Skywalker, R2-D2, and C-3PO to Alderaan; but Jabba threatens to place a price on Solo himself, upon failure. This conversation was an unfinished scene of the original 1977 film, in which Jabba was played by Declan Mulholland in human form. In the 1997 Special Edition version of the film, a CGI rendering of Jabba replaces Mulholland, and his voice is redubbed in the fictional language of Huttese.
Jabba the Hutt makes his third film appearance in the 1999 prequel, Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, in which Jabba gives the order to begin a podrace at Mos Espa on Tatooine. With this done, Jabba falls asleep, and misses the race's conclusion.
Jabba makes his final appearance in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, wherein his son Rotta is captured by Separatists; Anakin Skywalker and Ahsoka Tano return him to Jabba, in exchange for the safe passage of Republic ships through his territory. Jabba has also appeared in three episodes of the third season of the series: In the episode "Sphere of Influence", Jabba is faced by Chairman Papanoida, whose daughters were kidnapped by Greedo, and Jabba allows a sample of Greedo's blood to be taken to prove him the kidnapper. In the episode "Evil Plans", Jabba hires the bounty hunter Cad Bane to bring him plans for the Senate building. When Bane returns successful, Jabba and the Hutt Council send Bane to free Ziro the Hutt from prison. Jabba makes one short appearance in the episode "Hunt for Ziro" in which he is seen laughing at Ziro's death at the hand of Sy Snootles, and pays her for delivering Ziro's holo-diary. In the fifth season's episode "Eminence", Jabba and the Hutt Council are approached by Darth Maul, Savage Oppress, and Pre Vizsla; and when disappointed by these, Jabba sends bounty hunters Embo, Sugi, Latts Razzi, and Dengar to capture them. After a battle, the Shadow Collective confront Jabba at his palace on Tatooine, where Jabba agrees to an alliance.
With the 2012 acquisition of Lucasfilm by The Walt Disney Company, most of the licensed Star Wars novels and comics produced since the originating 1977 film Star Wars were rebranded as Star Wars Legends and declared non-canon to the franchise in April 2014.
The first appearances of Jabba the Hutt in non-canon Star Wars Legends literature were in Marvel Comics' adaptations of A New Hope. In Six Against the Galaxy (1977) by Roy Thomas, What Ever Happened to Jabba the Hut? (1979) and In Mortal Combat (1980), both by Archie Goodwin, Jabba the Hutt (originally spelled Hut) appeared as a tall humanoid with a walrus-like face, a topknot, and a bright uniform. The official "Jabba" was not yet established as he had yet to be seen.
While awaiting the sequel to Star Wars, Marvel kept the monthly comic going with their own stories, one of which includes Jabba tracking Han Solo and Chewbacca down to an old hideaway they use for smuggling. However, circumstances force Jabba to lift the bounty on Solo and Chewbacca, thus enabling them to return to Tatooine for an adventure with Luke Skywalker—who has returned to the planet in order to recruit more pilots for the Rebel Alliance. In the course of another adventure, Solo kills the space pirate Crimson Jack and busts up his operation, which Jabba bankrolled. Jabba thus renews the reward for Solo's head and Solo later kills a bounty hunter who tells him why he is hunted once more. He and Chewbacca return to the rebels. (Solo mentions an incident with a "bounty hunter we ran into on Ord Mantell" in the opening scenes of The Empire Strikes Back.)
The Marvel artists based this Jabba on a character later named Mosep Binneed, an alien visible only briefly in the Mos Eisley cantina scene of A New Hope. The 1977 mass market paperback novelization of Lucas's Star Wars script describes Jabba as a "great mobile tub of muscle and suet topped by a shaggy scarred skull", but gives no further detail as to the character's physical appearance or species.
Later Non-Canonical Expanded Universe novels and comics adopt a version of the character's image as seen in the film. They also elaborate on his background prior to the events of the Star Wars films. For example, Zorba the Hutt's Revenge (1992), a young adult novel by Paul and Hollace Davids, reveals that Jabba's father is a powerful crime lord named Zorba the Hutt and that Jabba was born 596 years before the events of A New Hope, making him around 600 years old at the time of his death in Return of the Jedi. Ann C. Crispin's novel The Hutt Gambit (1997) explains how Jabba the Hutt and Han Solo become business associates and portrays the events that lead to a bounty being placed on Han's head. Other Expanded Universe stories—especially the anthology of Dark Horse comics by Jim Woodring titled Jabba the Hutt: The Art of the Deal (1998)—likewise detail Jabba the Hutt's rise to the head of the Desilijic clan, his role in the criminal underworld of the Star Wars universe, and the establishment of his crime syndicate on Tatooine in the Star Wars galaxy's Outer Rim Territories.
Tales From Jabba's Palace (1996), a collection of short stories edited by science fiction author Kevin J. Anderson, pieces together the lives of Jabba the Hutt's various minions in his palace and their relationship to him during the last days of his life. The stories reveal that few of the Hutt's servants are loyal to him and most are in fact plotting to have him assassinated. When Jabba the Hutt is killed in Return of the Jedi, his surviving former courtiers join forces with his rivals on Tatooine and his family on the Hutt homeworld Nal Hutta make claims to his palace, fortune, and criminal empire. Timothy Zahn's novel Heir to the Empire (1991) reveals that a smuggler named Talon Karrde eventually replaces Jabba as the "big fish in the pond", and moves the headquarters of the Hutt's criminal empire off Tatooine.
Jabba the Hutt exemplifies lust, greed, and gluttony. The character is known throughout the Star Wars universe as a "vile gangster" who amuses himself by torturing and humiliating his subjects and enemies. He surrounds himself with scantily-clad slave girls of all species, chained to his dais. The Star Wars Databank—an official online database of Star Wars information—remarks that residents of his palace are not safe from his desire to dominate and torture: in Return of the Jedi, the Twi'lek slave dancer Oola is fed to the rancor monster.
Jabba the Hutt's physical appearance reinforces his personality as a criminal deviant: in Return of the Jedi, Han Solo entitles Jabba a "slimy piece of worm-ridden filth"; and film critic Roger Ebert describes him as "a cross between a toad and the Cheshire Cat"; and astrophysicist and science fiction writer Jeanne Cavelos gives Jabba the "award for most disgusting alien". Science fiction authors Tom and Martha Veitch write that Jabba's body is a "miasmic mass", and that "The Hutt's lardaceous body seemed to periodically release a greasy discharge, sending fresh waves of rotten stench" into the air. Jabba's appetite is insatiable, and some authors portray him threatening to eat his subordinates.
Nonetheless, in one Expanded Universe story, Jabba prevents a Chevin named Ephant Mon from freezing to death on an ice planet; whereafter Ephant Mon becomes his servant. In Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Jabba seems to have genuine affection for his son Rotta, and is worried by his kidnapping and angered by his supposed death.
Lucas has noted that there was a potential role for Jabba in future Star Wars films.
Concept and creation
Episode IV: A New Hope
The original script to A New Hope describes Jabba as a "fat, slug-like creature with eyes on extended feelers and a huge ugly mouth", but Lucas stated in an interview that the initial character he had in mind was much furrier and resembled a Wookiee. When filming the scene between Han Solo and Jabba in 1976, Lucas employed Northern Irish actor Declan Mulholland to stand-in for Jabba the Hutt, wearing a shaggy brown costume. Lucas planned to replace Mulholland in post-production with a stop-motion creature. The scene was meant to connect Star Wars to Return of the Jedi and explain why Han Solo was imprisoned at the end of The Empire Strikes Back. Nevertheless, Lucas decided to leave the scene out of the final film on account of budget and time constraints and because he felt that it did not enhance the film's plot. The scene remained in the novelization, comic book, and radio adaptations of the film.
Lucas revisited the scene in the 1997 Special Edition release of A New Hope, restoring the sequence and replacing Mulholland with a CGI version of Jabba the Hutt and the English dialogue with Huttese, a fictional language created by sound designer Ben Burtt. Joseph Letteri, the visual effects supervisor for the Special Edition, explained that the ultimate goal of the revised scene was to make it look as if Jabba the Hutt was actually on the set talking to and acting with Harrison Ford and that the crew had merely photographed it. Letteri stated that the new scene consisted of five shots that took over a year to complete. The scene was polished further for the 2004 release on DVD, improving Jabba's appearance with advancements in CGI techniques, although neither release looks exactly like the original Jabba the Hutt puppet.
At one point of the original scene, Ford walks behind Mulholland. This became a problem when adding the CGI Jabba, since he had a tail that happened to be in the way. Eventually, this problem was solved by having Han stepping on Jabba's tail, causing the Hutt to react with a yelp of pain.
Lucas confesses that people were disappointingly upset about the CGI Jabba's appearance, complaining that the character "looked fake". Lucas dismisses this, stating that whether a character is portrayed as a puppet or as CGI, it will always be "fake" since the character is not real. He says he sees no difference between a puppet made of latex and one generated by a computer.
Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
Lucas based the CGI on the character as he originally appeared in Return of the Jedi. In this film, Jabba the Hutt is an immense, sedentary, slug-like creature designed by Lucas's Industrial Light & Magic Creature Shop. Design consultant Ralph McQuarrie claimed, "In my sketches Jabba was huge, agile, sort of an apelike figure. But then the design went into another direction, and Jabba became more like a worm kind of creature." According to the 1985 documentary From Star Wars to Jedi, Lucas rejected initial designs of the character. One made Jabba appear too human—almost like a Fu Manchu character—while a second made him look too snail-like. Lucas finally settled on a design that was a hybrid of the two, drawing for further inspiration on an O'Galop (Marius Rossillon) cartoon figure flanking an early depiction of Bibendum, the "Michelin Man." Return of the Jedi costume designer Nilo Rodis-Jamero commented,
My vision of Jabba was literally Orson Welles when he was older. I saw him as a very refined man. Most of the villains we like are very smart people. But Phil Tippett kept imagining him as some kind of slug, almost like in Alice in Wonderland. At one time he sculpted a creature that looked like a slug that's smoking. I kept thinking I must be really off, but eventually that's where it led up to."
Production and design
Designed by visual effects artist Phil Tippett, Jabba the Hutt was inspired by the anatomy of several animal species. His body structure and reproductive processes were based on annelid worms, hairless animals that have no skeleton and are hermaphroditic. Jabba's head was modeled after that of a snake, complete with bulbous, slit-pupilled eyes and a mouth that opens wide enough to swallow large prey. His skin was given moist, amphibian qualities. Jabba's design would come to represent almost all members of the Hutt species in subsequent Star Wars fiction.
In Return of the Jedi, Jabba is portrayed by a one-ton puppet that took three months and half a million dollars to construct. While filming the movie, the puppet had its own makeup artist. The puppet required three puppeteers to operate, making it one of the largest ever used in a motion picture. Stuart Freeborn designed the puppet, while John Coppinger sculpted its latex, clay, and foam pieces. Puppeteers included David Alan Barclay, Toby Philpott, and Mike Edmonds, who were members of Jim Henson's Muppet group. Barclay operated the right arm and mouth and read the character's English dialogue, while Philpott controlled the left arm, head, and tongue. Edmonds, the shortest of the three men (he also played the Ewok Logray in later scenes) was responsible for the movement of Jabba's tail. Tony Cox, who also played an Ewok, would assist as well. The eyes and facial expressions were operated by radio control.
Lucas voiced displeasure in the puppet's appearance and immobility, complaining that the puppet had to be moved around the set to film different scenes. In the DVD commentary to the Special Edition of Return of the Jedi, Lucas notes that if the technology had been available in 1983, Jabba the Hutt would have been a CGI character similar to the one that appears in the Special Edition scene of A New Hope.
Jabba the Hutt only speaks Huttese on film, but his lines are subtitled in English. His voice and Huttese-language dialogue were performed by voice actor Larry Ward, whose work is not listed in the end credits. A heavy, booming quality was given to Ward's voice by pitching it an octave lower than normal and processing it through a subharmonic generator. A soundtrack of wet, slimy sound effects was recorded to accompany the movement of the puppet's limbs and mouth.
Jabba the Hutt's musical theme throughout the film, composed by John Williams, is played on a tuba. One reviewer of Return of the Jedi's soundtrack comments, "Among the new thematic ideas [of the score is] Jabba the Hutt's cute tuba piece (playing along the politically incorrect lines of tubas representing fatness) ...." The theme is very similar to one Williams wrote for a heavyset character in Fitzwilly (1967), though the theme does not appear on that film's soundtrack album. Williams later turned the theme into a symphonic piece performed by the Boston Pops Orchestra featuring a tuba solo by Chester Schmitz. The role of the piece in film and popular culture has become a focus of study by musicologists such as Gerald Sloan, who says Williams' piece "blends the monstrous and the lyrical."
According to film historian Laurent Bouzereau, Jabba the Hutt's death in Return of the Jedi was suggested by script writer Lawrence Kasdan. Lucas decided Leia should strangle him with her slave chain. He was inspired by a scene from The Godfather (1972) where an obese character named Luca Brasi (Lenny Montana) is garroted by an assassin.
Jabba the Hutt was played by Declan Mulholland in scenes cut from the 1977 release of Star Wars. In Mulholland's scenes as Jabba, Jabba is represented as a rotund human dressed in a shaggy fur coat. George Lucas has stated his intention was to use an alien creature for Jabba, but the special effects technology of the time was not up to the task of replacing Mulholland. In 1997, the "Special Edition" re-releases restored and altered the original scene to include a computer generated portrayal of Jabba. In Return of the Jedi, he was played by puppeteers Mike Edmonds, Toby Philpott, David Alan Barclay and voiced by Larry Ward. Jabba is played by an uncredited voice-actor in the 1997 special edition of "Star Wars IV", and in The Phantom Menace. In The Phantom Menace's end credits, Jabba is credited as playing himself. His puppeteers have appeared in the documentaries From Star Wars to Jedi: The Making of a Saga and Classic Creatures: Return of the Jedi. David Alan Barclay, who was one of the puppeteers for Jabba in the film, voiced Jabba in the Super NES video game adaptation of Return of the Jedi. In the radio drama adaption of the original trilogy, Jabba is played by Ed Asner. In the film Star Wars: The Clone Wars and the following television series, Jabba is portrayed by Kevin Michael Richardson. All other video game appearances of Jabba were played by Clint Bajakian. Jabba was supposed to appear in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, but was left out due to time constraints. A cutscene was produced featuring a conversation between Jabba and Juno Eclipse (voiced by Nathalie Cox), which was scrapped from the game. He appears in the Ultimate Sith Edition.
With the premiere of Return of Jedi in 1983 and the accompanying merchandising campaign, Jabba the Hutt became an icon in American popular culture. The character was produced and marketed as a series of action figure play sets by Kenner/Hasbro from 1983 to 2004. In the 1990s, Jabba the Hutt starred in his own comic book series collectively titled Jabba the Hutt: The Art of the Deal.
Jabba's role in popular culture extends beyond the Star Wars universe and its fans. In Mel Brooks' Star Wars spoof Spaceballs (1987), Jabba the Hutt is parodied as the character Pizza the Hutt, a cheesy blob shaped like a slice of pizza whose name is a double pun on Jabba the Hutt and the restaurant franchise Pizza Hut. Like Jabba, Pizza the Hutt is a loan shark and mobster. The character meets his demise at the end of Spaceballs when he becomes "locked in his car and [eats] himself to death." The Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., included a display on Jabba the Hutt in the temporary exhibition Star Wars: The Magic of Myth, which closed in 1999. Jabba's display was called "The Hero's Return," referencing Luke Skywalker's journey toward becoming a Jedi.
Since the release of Return of the Jedi, the name Jabba the Hutt has become synonymous in American mass media with repulsive obesity. The name is utilized as a literary device—either as a simile or metaphor—to illustrate character flaws. For example, in Under the Duvet (2001), Marian Keyes references a problem with gluttony when she writes, "wheel out the birthday cake, I feel a Jabba the Hutt moment coming on." Likewise, in the novel Steps and Exes: A Novel of Family (2000), Laura Kalpakian uses Jabba the Hutt to emphasize the weight of a character's father: "The girls used to call Janice's parents Jabba the Hutt and the Wookiee. But then Jabba (Janice's father) died, and it didn't seem right to speak of the dead on those terms." In Dan Brown's first novel Digital Fortress, an NSA technician is affectionately nicknamed Jabba the Hutt.
In his book of humor and popular culture The Dharma of Star Wars (2005), writer Matthew Bortolin attempts to show similarities between Buddhist teachings and aspects of Star Wars fiction. Bartolin insists that if a person makes decisions that Jabba the Hutt would make, then that person is not practicing the proper spiritual concept of dharma. Bortolin's book reinforces the idea that Jabba's name is synonymous with negativity:
One way to see if we are practicing right livelihood is to compare our trade with that of Jabba the Hutt. Jabba has his fat, stubby fingers in many of the pots that led to the dark side. He dealt largely in illegal "spice" trade—an illicit drug in the Star Wars galaxy. He also transacts business in the slave trade. He has many slaves himself, and some he fed to the Rancor, a creature he kept caged and tormented in his dungeon. Jabba uses deception and violence to maintain his position.
Outside literature, the character's name has become an insulting term of disparagement. To say that someone "looks like Jabba the Hutt" is commonly understood as a slur to impugn that person's weight and/or appearance. The term is often employed by the media as an attack on prominent figures.
In another sense of the term, Jabba the Hutt has come to represent greed and anarchy, especially in the business world. Jabba the Hutt ranked #4 on the Forbes Fictional 15 list of wealthiest fictional characters in 2008.
Jabba the Hutt has likewise become a popular means of caricature in American politics. William G. Ouchi uses the term to describe what he sees as the inefficient bureaucracy of the public school system: "With all of these unnecessary layers of organizational fat, school districts have come to resemble Jabba the Hutt—the pirate leader in Star Wars."
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