By Brian Anderson
TK-7602, 501st Legion
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away….
Wow! It really was a long time ago: hard to believe that we started this project more than seven years ago! And now the Big Slug will be the star of the second annual Rancho Obi-Wan Gala on Sept. 20th! (Get tickets now!)
I had been thinking about the idea of building a full sized Jabba the Hutt prop for some time. I didn’t want a static Hutt though. I wanted a fully operational puppet. I knew it was a terrible idea, but I kept thinking about how awesome it would be!
At a small New England Garrison troop in Rhode Island around July, 2007 I met Mark Poutenis, and life would never be the same. We started chatting. Chatting led to sketching. Sketching let to a build day.
By the end of the first day, Mark and I had something that looked like a Hutt. He continued to work on detailing him until the Hutt wore out his welcome in the Poutenis household. One night Mark gave me a call and said “This thing has got to go!”
I hopped in the truck and brought the big guy home. By that point he needed a right arm, skin on his upper body and paint.
I got him finished up and ready for his first big troop: The 2007 Woburn Halloween parade.
To say Jabba was a hit was an understatement!
- He was featured on the home page of Starwars.com.
- We got so much traffic to our site that 501st NEG had to change servers.
- That November at Super Megafest, we had our best charity fundraiser to date thanks to photos with Jabba!
Here are two of my favorite quotes about the big guy:
First, from Toby Philpott, one of Jabba’s puppeteers:
I came across this, and (as one of the puppeteers in the original ROTJ Jabba) I have to say it looks amazing. At Celebration III I met a life-size origami Jabba, which freaked me out…and this year I have met a sculpted one in London (Celebration Europe and- I heard there was one in LA as well) but this is the first one I have seen which is actually useable, and capable of acting. Awesome guys! Congratulations!
And this from John Coppinger, the original Jabba builder:
I got some links from Toby Philpott about your Jabba puppet. So, just a note to say I think it / he looks great. I’ve seen some very good static sculpts but making the old beast move is another story!!
Congratulations and Best Wishes,
Jabba soon became a staple at our events: Free Comic Book Day, Granite State Comiccon, Super Megafest… That slug got around!
By 2010 he was really starting to show his age: seams splitting, frame collapsing on itself, and a general shabbiness that wasn’t good. While a team of builders fabricated an amazing platform for him to rest his bulk upon, I took on the task of repairing and improving him.
The biggest thing was replacing the irrigation tube skeleton. Over time he had gotten shorter and wider as the ribs bowed out. I build a new PVC frame that would remain rigid and support him properly.
Of course, you can’t do something like this without a few upgrades, so I made him bigger! I added about 18 inches of height and extended his tail by around 24 inches. After this work, Jabba stands around 6 feet tall and is close to 16 feet long!
The exalted Jabba enjoyed his time in the spotlight again, but ultimately landed in storage for all of 2011.
In 2012 Jabba returned for his biggest, most exciting event ever: Star Wars Celebration VI in Orlando Florida! Thanks to the generous sponsorship of Stoopid Monkey (Seth Green and Matthew Senreich, producers of Robot Chicken), Jabba took the long road to Orlando. (Seth and Matt also helped sponsor Jabba’s latest trip westward.)
In preparation for this, we did a lot of upgrades:
- Bob Gouveia sculpted new gargoyle heads for his platform and cast them in resin and led the rehab of his platform.
- Sean Carmichael sculpted new eyes with real depth and texture
- I made a new silicone tongue to replace the cloth and foam one he had.
501st members Gouveia and Aaron Mistretta drove him down, sharing their progress at Jabba on Board. As host of the 501st Imperial Bash, Jabba was literally in the spotlight all night long. I think one of my happiest moments of the convention was seeing Mark Hamill on stage interacting with the Jabba we built!
As we planned our 2013 event schedule, I started to feel like Jabba had peaked, and was ready for retirement. New England is pretty small, and you see the same people at conventions and Star Wars themed events year after year. More and more I was hearing people casually saying “Oh look, there’s Jabba” instead of marveling at him. Time for the NEG to do something new!
I contacted Steve Sansweet, former head of fan relations at Lucasfilm and world-famous Star Wars collector. Steve currently runs Rancho Obi Wan, the Guinness Book record holder for largest Star Wars collection.
“Hey Steve, remember that big Jabba from Celebration? Do you want it?” The conversation progressed, and we all agreed that Rancho Obi Wan was the perfect retirement home for our beloved slug.
Rhode Island ComicCon 2013 was Jabba’s official retirement party. After the con, he went in storage, waiting for Rancho Obi Wan to be ready. He ended up in storage for 8 months, where Heather and Gordon Gravelese cared for him like their own child. In August 2014 Rancho Obi Wan was ready for the illustrious Jabba the Hutt to move in!
And so began Jabba’s final trip with Gordon, his friend Rich Fowler and—they insist—Salacious Crumb, sharing the driving! And soon Jabba will fill Rancho Obi-Wan’s new Events Room in all his Huttness. He’ll premiere at Rancho’s second annual fundraising gala and I hear he’ll be surrounded by dancing girls. Lucky slug!
Brian Anderson is a Waltham, Massachusetts resident with an insatiable need to build things, usually costumes or full scale props. His home has gradually evolved into a full scale fabrication shop with welding, thermoforming and machine tools scattered throughout. Thankfully his wife and daughter are extremely understanding! You can follow his projects on facebook or on most social networks as stormtrooperguy.