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Mardji (19511995) was an Asian elephant who portrayed two banthas in the original release of Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope.

BiographyEdit

Creating a bantha

Mardji being transformed into a bantha

Some on-line sources identify Mardji as an African bush elephant, rather than an Asian elephant, and describe her as being born wild in the African savanna.[1] However, pictures of Mardji appear to be of a female Asian elephant (among other differences, she was tuskless, like most Asian elephant cows).

Mardji was transported from Marine World Africa USA in Redwood City, California, to a Star Wars shooting location in Death Valley, California. There, she was outfitted with a bantha costume, made up of layers of fur and a lightweight horned headpiece. Though Mardji was a well-trained elephant, she had difficulty adjusting to her costume, often trying to remove it while the cameras were rolling.[3] Since the filmmakers could only afford a single dressed-up elephant, the scene where Luke Skywalker spotted two Banthas side by side was realized through optical compositing.[4]

During the production of Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back, footage of Mardji was taken by a team including special effects artists Dennis Muren, Phil Tippett and Jon Berg. This footage was used as a reference for how the AT-ATs should move.[5]

Mardji spent the rest of her life as a Marine World attraction. She was euthanized in November 1995, after suffering from chronic bone inflammation.[1]

Several years after her death, she inspired the use of dog actors for the Corellian hounds of the 2018 Star Wars Anthology film Solo: A Star Wars Story, as revealed in The Art of Solo: A Star Wars Story.[6]

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