While you may think the huge Jabba the Hutt was computer animated, in 1983 this wasn’t possible. In order to make Jabba the Hutt in Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi, the team had to build an incredible full size puppet which weighed in at one ton, cost almost $500,000 and was operated by three puppeteers, all of whom were crammed inside Jabba’s body.
Puppeteers David Alan Barclay (who narrates the video below), Toby Philpott and Mike Edmonds (who all worked on the Muppets) were inside the enormous puppet, each with a separate task. One of them operated Jabba’s right arm and mouth, another controlled the left arm, head and tongue – and a final puppeteer was responsible for the movement of the tail. Jabba’s eyes and facial expressions were controlled by radio control.
As you can see from the following documentary by Jamie Benning (give him a tip for his amazing work making ‘filmumentaries’: patreon.com/jamiebenning), coordinating Jabba the Hutt’s movements proved especially difficult, as all the puppeteers could see from inside was a small monitor showing a feed from a single camera outside Jabba’s body.
Of course, in the very early days of Star Wars, Jabba the Hutt was portrayed as a man. In this original cut of Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, you can see Jabba being played by Declan Mulholland. If you’re familar with the newer special edit of this scene, you’ll remember that a CGI Jabba the Hutt was added in.
Here’s another video narrated by Mark Hamill, which explains in more detail the story of Jabba the Hutt.
Hopefully these videos gave you a rare insight into the interesting story behind the incredible Jabba the Hutt puppet.