Lucas Stole Chewbacca!!
My original inspiration for Chewbacca was my dog Indiana. She was the one that sat there with me as I was writing the script all the time. She’d ride with me in the car as a co-pilot. And as she’d sit in the car, she’d be as tall as I am. She’s an Alaskan malamute, she’s very big. I thought that was a funny image.”
Walter Murch: “[We] got hold of some improv actors, and among these was Terry McGovern who was also a radio DJ. We would sit them around the table and give them each an identity, and in the middle of this dialogue you can hear Terry McGovern say “I think I just ran over something back there, I think I ran over a wookie”. This is the first emergence of the word Wookiee as we know it today. And the small wookiees in THX who lived in the shell of this environment became the large wookiee that we all know in Star Wars.”
And later on after the recording I asked Terry ‘What’s the Wookie?’ and he said ‘Oh that’s a friend of mine who lives in Texas, Ralph Wookie, and I just threw his name in there as I always want to stick it to him and thought he’d get a kick out of hearing his name in a film’. Little did Terry know what kind of thing he was creating, this off-hand phrase has since become a character that literally billions of people probably know about
[IMG][/IMG][…] five Wookees, (huge grey and furry beasts) […] The eight foot Chewbacca, who resembles a huge, grey bushbaby with fierce baboon-like fang […]
George thought of [Chewbacca] as looking like a lemur with fur over his whole body and a big huge apelike figure. I took another track, added an ammunition bandolier and put a rifle in his hands. I had shorts on him and a flak jacket and all kinds of gear, but that was edited out.
We had an old 30’s illustration showing a hairy ape-like creature that George kinda liked.” … “We started out with the idea of him looking sort of like a lemur, and then I did one creature that had breasts down the front of him. I removed the breasts because it wasn’t to be a female, and I put a bandolier on there and gave him a weapon
As an aside, it’s interesting to note that Lucas rarely talks about bushbaby Chewie, perhaps because he knows that if he starts down that road, he might have to try and bridge the gap from that to the post-Schoenherr Chewie, which he can’t do without admitting that it was essentially borrowed wholesale.
Ben is standing next to Chewbacca, an eight-foot-tall-savage-looking creature resembling a huge grey bushbaby monkey with fierce baboon-like fangs. His large blue eyes dominate a fur-covered face and soften his otherwise awesome appearance. Over his matted, furry body he wears two chrome bandoliers, and little else. He is a two-hundred-year-old Wookiee and a sight to behold.
The article has a lot more content and is really worth reading.
Incidentally I remember a lot of those old drawings from the Art of Star Wars book that I had as a kid.