May 25, 2018
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Porgs are the latest entry in the ‘Star Wars’ aimed at hearts and wallets

Lucasfilm via AP | BDN
Lucasfilm via AP | BDN
This image released by Lucasfilm shows Chewbacca, left, and a Porg in a scene from "Star Wars: The Last Jedi."
By Hau Chu, The Washington Post

In a toy meeting far, far away … So the story goes for how some of the creatures that inhabit the world of “Star Wars” came to life.

The popular movie franchise has another chapter in its saga when “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” premieres Friday. The films have provided some of the most iconic figures in pop culture, including Han Solo and Darth Vader, but sometimes these movies also have a scene-stealer.

In trailers for the new movie, one character has captured the imagination of fans: porgs.

Porgs appeared for only a split second in the trailer, but one glimpse of the creatures was enough to stir up a frenzy. A Google search produces more than 3 million results for porgs, many of them revolving around one question: What are they?

The birdlike creature was inspired by puffins on Skellig Michael, an island off the southwest coast of Ireland. That island was the filming location for Ahch-To, the planet where Luke Skywalker appears at the end of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

“You fall into those deep, soulful eyes. I think a lot of people are going to want a porg as a pet,” said Pablo Hidalgo, creative executive for Lucasfilm, the company that has produced the “Star Wars” movies.

Because plot details of the new movie are kept secret, very few can say for sure what porgs will contribute to the “Star Wars” universe. But fans have speculated that they might be more than cute window dressing.

Fans of the franchise are familiar with a character that, while serving a purpose in the story, can attract kids to buy toys and other merchandise. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” had BB-8, and “Return of the Jedi” most famously had Ewoks, little furry creatures that save Luke, Princess Leia and Han Solo from danger.

“Star Wars” fans are sharply divided on the credibility of Ewoks because a squad of furballs seems unlikely to be able to defeat a galactic army. Others have loved them because they’re fun and adorable, and they add laughs to the movie. Many of these fans grew up with Ewok action figures and plush dolls.

According to J.W. Rinzler, a former executive editor at Lucasfilm and the author of several books about the making of the original “Star Wars” trilogy, Ewoks came about because of a thought that series’ creator George Lucas had about his daughter. Lucas wanted her — and all kids — to have a character that would appeal specifically to them.

“He wanted her to have a teddy bearlike ‘Star Wars’ toy, and there wasn’t really anything for girls specifically,” Rinzler told KidsPost.

Lucas has said that selling toys wasn’t the reason he created Ewoks. The inspiration, he said, came from his desire to give the intergalactic space saga a Stone Age touch.

The forest moon Endor would be the setting for a battle between the rebels and the Empire. It was supposed to be the home of Wookiees, including Chewbacca.

But Chewbacca’s character was a skilled pilot and mechanic. Lucas realized it wouldn’t make sense for him or other Wookiees to live on Endor. So he dreamed up Ewoks to serve as the simple creatures to take down the laser-blasting army of clones.

Debates will continue about the intentions of creating porgs, Ewoks or any characters that seem geared toward kids. But Rinzler says he believes that, beyond the business of toys, what has allowed Star Wars to stick for decades with viewers of all ages is the action, energy and message of the movies and how good people feel after watching them.

Lucas “told me the greatest thing about making these movies was the reaction of kids — always,” Rinzler said.

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