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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.


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 Vallejo, California, now Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, 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]


Notes and referencesEdit

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Mardji in the Star Wars Actors Database (content no longer available: see archived version at
  2. SWInsider "Star News"—Star Wars Insider 28
  3. Databank title Bantha in the Databank (content now obsolete; backup link on
  4. SWInsider "The Toughest Ever Creatures"—Star Wars Insider 102
  5. SWicon Empire's Elephant on (content now obsolete; backup link on

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