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So yeah, in case you’ve been living under a rock or don’t really connect to the Interwebs that much (and if that’s the case what are you doing here?) the latest installment of the Star Wars
trilogy saga mythology has recently been released to the rabid movie going populace. I’ve seen it. You’ve seen it. We’ve had some time to reflect on the movie beyond misplaced hype and excitement. What do I think of the film?
It was good. It wasn’t a masterpiece or a huge unimaginable epic, but I think it’s just what the Star Wars franchise needed right now.
But with all this Star Wars on everyone’s mind, it got me thinking, ‘how can I talk about Star Wars and interweave into something about dinosaurs so I can talk about it on my blog?’
What can I say, my mind tends to go to these places.
Well, I remember as a kid instantly attaching to something that had dinosaurs in it. It didn’t matter what the movie was or what it was about, if it had something that even looked like a dinosaur I was sold. And honestly, that was one of the things that sucked me into Star Wars as a kid. Sure, I thought the space battles were cool and the lightsabers were neat and all that stuff, but I remember really loving it when the alien creatures showed up. And as I remember, a lot of them looked like dinosaurs.
And you know what, I really understand that. When film makers design alien creatures they often take traits from actual animals and just sort of mix them up a bit. That gives us as the audience an alien creature that looks plausible as a living thing but still different enough to be considered extraterrestrial. It actually kind of helps us get sucked into the world, we can believe something like this can exist. And dinosaurs are perhaps the most alien looking creatures that have ever inhabited our planet. And yet, they were real. They actually existed. So even when we make a creature look vaguely dinosaurian, the audience can still buy it as a functioning creature because it’s based on something they’re familiar with.
The Dewback, as seen in Star Wars: A New Hope.
The Dewback, a large reptilian beast of burden that lives on the desert planet of Tatooine, seems to be based very much on large quadrupedal dinosaurs. It has a similar body structure of a dinosaur, but with claws and a face more like that of a lizard. Still, studying dinosaurs probably gave the filmmakers knowledge on how to make a large reptilian creature realistically move and live.
This can probably be said for any large quadrupedal reptilian creature seen in the Star Wars universe. They may not look exactly like dinosaurs, but they’re body structures are obviously based on them, and that foot in reality does give them a level of credence.
Even the infamous Krayt Dragon had it’s skull based on that of an Apatosaurus. You fellow dinosaur geeks can’t unsee that now, can you?
Of course, sometimes you don’t want to create a peaceful four legged beast of burden. Sometimes you want to create a terrifying blood thirsty monsters. And of course, the Mesozoic provides many design options for that. Few creatures rival the kind of terror the name Tyrannosaurus rex invokes, so it would make sense that Star Wars would eventually create a monster based on our favorite theropod. In The Clone Wars TV series, famous Star Wars villain General Grevious owns a pet Roggwart named Gor, which he releases upon Jedi Master Kit Fisto and his Mon Kalamari Padawan (man, that is one nerdy sentance). And this creature is obviously based on a tyrannosaur, or at least a theropod of some kind. Personally, his boxy head reminds me of a abelisaur.
I’m not the only one who sees it, right?
Of course, sometimes the theropod influences aren’t nearly as in-your-face as they are with the Roggwart. Take the Acklay for example, famous for it’s appearance in Attack of The Clones. At first glance it just looks like a terrifying mix of a crab and a praying mantis. But when George Lucas pitched the idea, he wanted a creature that was a mix between those two creatures and a (Hollywood) Velociraptor. And in the concept art, I can really see it.
Yeah, if I was tasked to create a part mantis part crab part raptor monster, this would probably be the end result still.
The dinosaur influences can be a little more subtle from time to time, sometimes to points were I’m not sure it’s intentional and I might just be reading into it too much. For example, the Varactyl from Episode III is obviously based more on a lizard than a dinosaur, but the feathers and the beak and the other bird-like qualities still just bring dinosaur to my mind. I don’t know, putting feathers on a reptilian creature, they had to know something.
Even this kybuck, from the 2D animated Clone War mini series, is basically a modern day antelope but with a theropod body plan. This is another example of designers taking traits from two different creatures mixing them together, and creating something new. It’s a tried and true formula, and it really works. Personally I think the kybuck looks really cool.
Of course, dinosaurs aren’t the only source of inspiration prehistory has to offer. The Reek, from Episode II, has obvious inspiration from a bull and a rhino, but the overall body design is very reminiscent of a Placerias.
Even down to the cute little stub tail.
The Mesozoic’s second most famous group of reptiles, the pterosaurs, also supply ample inspiration for the creature designers. The Dactillion is basically just a pterosaur with forelimbs along with winged appendages. In fact, the creature looks so similar to the Walking With Dinosaurs Ornithocheirus, when I searched for the above image on Google it directed me to information on said show before it took me to anything related to Star Wars.
Of course, the Ruping from The Clones Wars TV series looks so much like a Hollywood pterodactyl they might as well have called it Rodan.
And even though the Aiwha seems to have more cetacean influences in it’s body design (wait a minute…Aiwha…air whale?….God Damn It Star Wars!) the influence from pterosaurs is still quite visible.
Although not nearly as common, some animals in the Star Wars universe take inspiration from Ice Age mammals as well. No person familiar with paleontology cam deny that the Eopie looks incredibly like a Macrauchenia.
Man, an unaltered Macrauchenia would fit fine within the Star Wars universe.
Now, let’s move on from simple animals to fully sapient residents of the Star Wars galaxy. The infamous Gungans of The Phantom Menace are perhaps the most hated alien species to ever appear in a Star Wars movie, thanks in on small part to the pervasiveness of Jar Jar Binks. But as a kid, I liked him; no only because I was four and I would gobble up any slightly cool crap that was put in front of me, but also because they kind of looked like dinosaurs. The Gungans have obvious amphibian influences in their design, but their faces bring to mind classic depictions of duck billed hadrosaurs, specifically old school illustrations of ‘Trachodon’.
Heck, even the mounts of the Gungans (the Kaadu) look basically like hadrosaurs with their forelimbs cut off and their tail shorten.
Of course, some sentient alien designs hit the whole dinosaur angle a little bit too hard on the nose, especially in the Expanded Universe. The Ssi-ruu, for example, are and often seen species in Star Wars novels and comics, and more or less look like sapient theropods (apart from the weird tongue things coming out of their noses, had to be different somehow).
The Tiss’shar, also from the Expanded Universe, take this even farther. Depending on the artist, they could look vaguely dinosaurian to full on Jurassic Park Velociraptor!
I claim copyright infringement!
The only time a creature like this had appeared in the original trilogy was probably in Bossk from The Empire Strikes Back, but even then it can be argued that his design looks more lizard-y than anything distinctively dinosaurian.
When it comes to obviously dinosaur based beings, the prequel trilogy ones up what came before it by giving us an actual dinosaur Jedi Knight! Coleman Trembor, as seen in Attack of the Clones, is obviously based on a Parasaurolophus. I remember watching this movie in the theaters, and when this guy showed up, it immediately got my attention. In that one second of screen time, he was automatically my favorite Jedi (in the long standing tradition of loving Star Wars characters simply because they look cool and not because they contribute to the story). I was on the edge of my seat waiting for this guy to do something awesome. After some action focusing on the other characters, we finally see him again. He jumps in front of Count Dooku, wielding his lightsaber, prepared to strike. Oh my God! He can take out Count Dooku right now! This could put an end to the Clone Wars before they even begin!
Then Jango Fett comes out and shoots him.
He only have five seconds of screen time. He was never seen again.
Seven year old me was sad.
So yeah, dinosaur influence can be seen all throughout the Star Wars franchise, whether the usage is subtle or in your face. But dinosaurs are pretty alien themselves, nothing quite like them (except birds of course) exists today. So yeah, taking influence from them when creating new bizarre creatures does make sense. Now if you excuse me, I’ve got to go. Must…see…Star Wars…again…..