Some of these old “making of” documentaries are so great. While Return of the Jedi is easily the least of the three original Star Wars films, it’s still quite good. Among the good things is the fact that they just didn’t have access to modern CGI filmmaking and so were forced to do things that were physical, and in my opinion, more real. In fact, in this documentary, they say that even at the time, George Lucas wanted to use CGI but they just couldn’t do it because of the limitations of the time. He was unhappy with the look and the puppetry. Well, I have to tell you that Jaba looks the most real in Return of the Jedi and he looks terrible in his CGI appearance in the special editions of Star Wars and in The Phantom Menace. He looks far less real in both of those films as a CGI creation. Here, he looks substantial.
One of the things that Lucas said is he wanted Jaba to be able to move around on his own. But frankly, I think he works best as an overlarge slug who has grown so fat that he can’t get around on his own. Until I saw Phantom Menace, I had always assumed Jaba had grown so fat that he could not move around, that’s why he was on that pedestal being wheeled around in Jedi.
Anyway, let’s just say that I’m a fan of the work and puppetry that went into Jaba here. And this documentary is a lot of fun to see how they put him together and coated him with slime and the like (which again, add realism and physicality to the character which just isn’t present with CGI).
Check it out: