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"Hey! Steady, girl. Hey, what's the matter? You smell something?"
―Luke Skywalker calms his nervous tauntaun before a wampa attack[src]

The wampa, or wampa ice creature, was a carnivorous, white-furred species living on the planet Hoth.

Biology and appearanceEdit

Standing at a height of three meters tall and with an average mass of 150 kilograms, the wampa was one of Hoth's top carnivorous predators. While hunting, the wampa would ambush and stun its prey, drag it back to its cave, hang it upside down and devour the prey whenever it needed.[2]

HistoryEdit

Throughout galactic history, Trandoshan hunters often kept trophies such as wampa hide at lodges such as on Wasskah.[2]

With the establishment of Echo Base on the remote ice world of Hoth, vicious wampas would occasionally sneak into the base in the dead of night, forcing the closure of various passageways. Shortly before the Battle of Hoth, Rebel Alliance member Luke Skywalker was attacked by a wampa while scouting the Hoth ice wastes with his tauntaun. Hanging Luke from the ceiling of its cave while feasting on the tauntaun. Luke used the Force to retrieve his lightsaber, which had fallen into the snow, and used it to free himself. The wampa noticed and tried to intervene, however Luke cut off its arm.[3]

During the Battle of Hoth, several cold weather assault stormtroopers were slain by a wampa after opening a door to a room with a clearly marked warning sign.[2]

Behind the scenesEdit

"We knew, for instance, of the scene where a wampa actually broke through into Echo Base and mauled a tauntaun…The wampa filmed in this shot looked absolutely hilarious with a big fluffy face and metallic round eyeballs. We saw the picture in a Kodak shoebox Photo CD Lucasfilm Ltd. provided us with some time ago."
Jon Knoles, discussing Lucasfilm Ltd.'s contributions to creating Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire for Nintendo 64[src]
Wampa unused btm

An early, unused wampa costume design

From concept to creationEdit

The wampa ice creature was created for George Lucas's Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back and first appeared in Donald F. Glut's novelization of the film, just prior to its theatrical debut.[4]

The creature may have been based on the cryptozoological phenomenon of the "Yeti," or the "Abominable Snowman," a humanoid beast believed to live in the Himalayas. Notes from early concept meetings suggest that the wampa, like the Yeti, may have supernatural powers as well. In early story discussions, the wampa was described as a fishlike beast capable of swimming through the snow,[5] and the creatures were intended to be inside of the base where the Rebels were hiding, creating chaos when Vader is approaching to begin his attack on the base.[6]

In the winter of 1977, Mark Hamill was in a serious car accident that left him in need of reconstructive facial surgery. Many believe that the wampa attack on Skywalker was included in the film to explain Hamill's residual scarring and slightly altered facial features.[5]

Some of the earliest production drawings of Echo Base's interior from May 1978 include call-outs indicating where a "Yuzzem" is to break through the ice walls of the base, as seen in The Art of Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. The concept of the now non-canon Yuzzem creature was introduced into Star Wars canon in Alan Dean Foster's novel Splinter of the Mind's Eye, published on March 1, 1978, before the production drawings were created. This suggests that the creature that came to be known as the wampa was first referred to as a "Yuzzem," until Foster adapted the name for his story.[7][8]

To create the wampa's roar, sounds effects artist Randy Thom recorded the noises made by an elephant in the Oakland Zoo. Sound designer Ben Burtt and the film's sound team then recorded the cries of a sea lion at Marineland of the Pacific public oceanarium and mixed that on top of the elephant recording to produce the final effect.[9]

Production strugglesEdit

Originally the wampa was to be portrayed by actor Des Webb wearing a giant suit[5] made of sheepskins[10] on location in Norway, where the Hoth scenes were shot. The costume, which required the actor to stand on stilts, proved too unwieldy, and it was too heavy and hot, causing Webb to suffer heat exhaustion. All of the shots of the life-size wampa were eventually cut from the film. Creature designer Phil Tippett later built a small wampa hand puppet, visible in a quick close-up as the creature attacks Luke Skywalker.[5]

For the Special Edition release of The Empire Strikes Back in 1997, George Lucas decided to expand the wampa scenes. In order to do so, Industrial Light & Magic artist Howie Weed constructed a more mobile version of the costume, without the stilts, which he wore in the film. The new shots were filmed within a scaled-down replica of a cave to create the illusion that the wampa was much larger than a normal Human.[5]

Additional scenesEdit

Outside the Wampa pen

C-3PO and R2-D2 view a warning sign on the Echo Base wampa pen in a deleted scene from The Empire Strikes Back

Wampas originally played a much more prominent role in early versions of The Empire Strikes Back. In the treatment and the first draft, wampas storm Echo Base shortly before the arrival of the Empire. In the original shooting script, a tauntaun was killed when a wampa stormed into Echo Base. Shots of a wampa breaking through one of the walls of the complex and attacking Rebel soldiers were filmed but ultimately dropped from the final version of the movie. In addition, the wall did not crumble properly and the shot was never successfully achieved. Final versions of the script depicted a mass-coordinated wampa attack on Echo Base. There were several scenes shot for the film that showed this incident, as well as a sequence involving C-3PO tearing a warning sign off the door of a wampa pen, followed by a group of snowtroopers entering the pen only to be attacked by the wampas inside. However, these scenes were later deleted and did not make the final version of the film.[5]

In the 2015 reference book Star Wars: Absolutely Everything You Need to Know, the deleted scenes involving the wampa attack on Echo Base were brought back somewhat. With it being stated that various wampas would attack Echo Base at night, and that several Imperial Cold weather assault stormtroopers foolishly entered a room with wampas only to be slain, despite a clearly marked warning sign saying otherwise.[2]

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AppearancesEdit

Non-Canon AppearancesEdit

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