What Is the First New Creature in ‘Star Wars: Episode VII’?
When director J.J. Abrams recorded his first video from the set of Star Wars: Episode VII in Abu Dhabi, he was sending a number of messages to different kinds of Star Wars fans. The obvious message, meant for all kinds of fans, was that they should enter a charity contest with probably the coolest prize in history: a bit part in the still-unnamed Episode VII.
But the arrival of a large muppet-like creature halfway through Abrams’ monologue sent another few messages to more serious fans. It was a clear signal that Episode VII will use the retro puppeteering of the original trilogy — think the motley crew of Jabba’s palace — alongside the somewhat soulless CGI of the prequel era.
“We’re going to use every tool in the toolbox,” was how Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy put it last summer. No doubt there will be one or two computer-generated beasties in the final movie, but the fact that this curious creature is the first non-droid we’ve seen in Episode VII is surely intended to calm any older viewers who felt Episodes I to III fell too far into the uncanny valley (population: Jar Jar Binks).
Meanwhile, the identity of the on-screen beastie has not been officially confirmed, but according to Wookiepedia, it appears to be a dead ringer for a species called the H’drachi. That’s an extremely nerdy reference for Abrams to be making, since the camel-like H’drachi have only been seen in a few Star Wars comics.
This is especially interesting given last month’s announcement that the so-called Expanded Universe of Star Wars comics and novels was being moved to the universe next door; now, none of its storylines officially happened in Star Wars canon.
Using a species as obscure as the H’drachi in Episode VII seems something of a sop to Expanded Universe fans: Don’t worry, it says, we still respect the source material, and we’re going to use it liberally in this brave new Star Wars universe.
And there’s one more thing. Fans of the various wonders to have poured out of Jim Henson’s Muppet workshop over the years find this creature, with its lumbering movements and sleepy eyelids, to be surprisingly familiar. A lot of us looked at it, and were reminded of this:
They’re the Mystics, ancient creatures from the much-underrated 1982 movie Dark Crystal. That movie in itself has a Star Wars connection, being a collaboration between Henson and Gary Kurtz, who produced both the original Star Wars and the Empire Strikes Back.
Mystical camel-like muppet aliens lumbering around with bird-filled carriers on their backs? That sounds a lot like the Star Wars we used to know. Roll on, Episode VII.
Chris Taylor is the author of How Star Wars Conquered the Universe, the first complete history of the Star Wars franchise and its fandom. The book releases September 30 and is available for pre-order here.
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