Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Ape of the Geek: Chewbacca the Wookiee!


Species: Wookiee from the planet Kashyyk

First Appearance: Star Wars (aka Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope), Lucasfilms/20th Century Fox, 1977)

Chewie and Han Solo, from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
Other Appearances: The Star Wars Holiday SpecialThe Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, Revenge of the Sith, numerous issues of various Star Wars comics, books, video games, and more.

Merchandising: Chewbacca has been extensively licensed for toys, costumes, masks, etc.

Biography: Chewbacca was born on Kashyykk, but unlike most of his fellow Wookiees, he had a sense of adventure and exploration, wanting to leave his planet's lush forests. While he'd always make an effort to be home for the holidays, his exploits kept him off world. He had a knack for vehicle repair from a young age. He met his future wife Mallatobuck ("Malla") around 100 years of age, aided by the friendship of Malla and his cousin, Jowdrri. Before the Battle of Naboo (Episode I: The Phantom Menace), Chewie and his father built most of the villages on Kahsyyk. It was while they were colonizing Alaris Prime when they faced the Trade Federation, leading to Chewie's encounter with Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi of the Jedi Knights. Jinn provided guidance to Chewie at this time. 

Chewie left Kashyyk after this due to threats from the father of a Wookiee Chewie had defeated in a duel for the hand of Malla, but returned to try and eliminate rivalries between different Wookiee families. During the Clone Wars, Chewie was one of the greatest Wookiee warriors, and worked closely with the Jedi. 

During the second year of the Clone Wars, Chewie was captured by trophy hunters, but he was able to defeat the hunters. Later, he was involved in the Battle of Kashyyk, battling alongside Yoda against invading droid forces. When Order 66 went into effect, turning the Clone Troopers against the Jedi, Chewie helped Yoda escape the planet.

With the rise of the Empire and Darth Vader, Chewie wandered the galaxy, eventually being captured by slavers, although he later escaped and worked to help free other Wookiees who were captured by these same slavers. At one point, his ship was attacked by TIE Fighters led by Lt. Han Solo, who convinced his commander Chewie would be more valuable as a slave. Later, Solo saved Chewie from a whipping, leading to Solo being drummed out of Imperial service.

In gratitude, Chewie considered himself bonded to Solo, and accompanied Solo in his new career as a smuggler, an occupation that served them well at times and less well in others. Eventually, they were contacted by Jabba the Hutt, who used their skills at smuggling, although Solo would eventually become indebted to Jabba after needing to dump a load of spice he was smuggling before being boarded by Imperials.

Based out of Mos Eisley spaceport on the planet Tattooine, Chewie was contacted by Obi-Wan Kenobi, who sought passage for himself, Luke Skywalker, and two droids, R2-D2 and C-3PO to the planet Alderaan. It's not known if Chewie remembered Kenobi from the Clone Wars, or if Chewie's friendship with Yoda influenced his decision to help, but regardless, Chewie convinced Han Solo to accept the deal Kenobi offered (which would allow him to pay off his debt to Jabba).

When Solo's ship, The Millennium Falcon reached Alderaan, they discovered the planet had been destroyed by The Death Star, a huge space station constructed by the Empire with an energy weapon capable of destroying worlds. The Falcon was snared by a tractor beam and brought aboard the station, and during a series of escapes, the group not only managed to escape, but also were able to rescue Princess Leia Organa, bringing her to Yavin IV, where the Rebel Alliance was headquartered at the time, so that plans for the Death Star hidden in R2-D2's memory circuits could be used to devise a way to destroy the Death Star. Unknown to Solo or Chewie, they had been allowed to escape so that a tracking beacon hidden on the Falcon could be used to find the Rebel base.

As the Death Star approached Yavin IV, Solo and Chewie left the Rebels, having collected a reward for saving Leia, but during the battle between the Rebels and the Empire, Solo had a change of heart and joined in the battle at a crucial time, not only sending Darth Vader's personal TIE fighter spinning off into space, but also giving Luke Skywalker the chance to destroy the Death Star.

Honored for their heroism, Solo and Chewie continued to assist the rebels, although they'd soon learn that a bounty had been placed on their heads by Jabba the Hutt. Even as the Rebels had changed bases to the planet Hoth, Solo planned to leave and straighten things out between him and Jabba, but when the Empire discovered the base and attacked it, Solo and Chewie were forced to rescue Princess Leia from the Empire again.

After further encounters with Star Destroyers and a gigantic space worm, The Millennium Falcon proceeded to the cloud city of Bespin, which was being run by Lando Calrissian (original owner of the Falcon, he'd lost it to Solo in a card game). They didn't know at the time that Lando had made a deal with the Empire whereby he'd allow the Empire to capture Solo, Chewie and the Princess in return for Bespin being left alone by the Empire. 

Lando had a change of heart, however, helping Chewie, the Princess, and C-3PO escape (Luke and R2 had gone to Dagobah so Luke could train as a Jedi with Yoda, but they came to Bespin when Luke sensed his friends were in danger). It was too late to save Han, however, as he had been frozen in Carbonite and turned over to the bounty hunter Boba Fett.

With Solo being beyond Chewie's reach, Chewie teamed with Lando to continue working with the Rebels, until they learned that Boba Fett had delivered Han to Jabba the Hutt. A plan was made to rescue Han, which involved disguises and deceptions, eventually leading to Han being released from the Carbonite and Jabba being killed.

Word had gotten to the Rebels that the Empire was building a second, even larger Death Star in orbit around the world of Endor, and after rejoining the Rebels, Han and Chewie led a team to Endor to sabotage the force field generator protecting this new Death Star. With the unlikely help of the native Ewoks, they were successful, and the second Death Star was destroyed.

While the final defeat of the Empire was celebrated, there were still scraps of the Empire to be dealt with as the New Republic was established. Solo, Chewie, Skywalker and the others continued to work with the New Republic to establish order to the galaxy.

Many are the stories that have been told of what happened since then, but it's not known how many of them are true... Chewie's destiny since the Battle of Endor will no doubt be revealed this month with the release of Star Wars Episode VII!

Powers: Chewbacca has the standard strength of a Wookiee of his size and age -- which is considerable! Wookiees are strong enough that they can reportedly rip an enemy's arm out of its socket. He is also very agile for a being of his size. Chewie can understand the standard language of humans, although he cannot speak it (fortunately, Solo can understand him).

Miscellaneous: Chewie is one of my favorite characters in the Star Wars movies! I've long wanted to make a Chewie costume to wear at conventions, but have yet to do so. 

George Lucas has said that his inspiration for Chewie was his dog, Indiana, who Lucas once saw sitting up on the passenger seat of his car. Peter Mayhew has been the on-screen portrayer of Chewbacca in all four movie appearances, as well as the upcoming Episode VII, as well as in The Star Wars Holiday Special and an episode of The Muppet Show. Chewbacca's voice was created by sound designer Ben Burtt from recordings of various animals from Burtt's sound collection, and mixed at different ratios. 

OK, admittedly, Chewie isn't properly an ape, but he is certainly ape-like, and with Episode VII coming out this month, what better time to include him here?

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