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What Color Is Jabba the Hutt? (Part 1: Jabba in Return of the Jedi)

This is a question that has been bothering me for some time. I don’t exactly stay up nights worrying about it, but when you’re a Jabba collector, you get exposed to many different interpretations of the character, and in many cases they don’t seem to match what I remember seeing on screen. I’d like to look at this issue in some detail.

JABBA IN RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983)

Instead of just relying on stock photos, I decided to go back and really look at Jabba in Return of the Jedi. In that film, Jabba appears to be a deep reddish-orange color, with darker patches that can appear dark green or dark brown depending on the scene. The green is pretty subtle in many shots — in fact, I’ve heard some Star Wars fans doubt that he even had any green on him at all. His eyes are a deep reddish orange. Here’s one screenshot, but click here for almost every shot of Jabba in the Return of the Jedi.

Jabba in Return of the Jedi

However, if you look at many production photos, his color scheme looks quite a bit lighter, with more obvious green patches. This got me to wondering: did the coloring we saw on screen reflect how the puppet looked in person?

I decided to ask Toby Philpott (one of the puppeteers inside of Jabba) about this issue. He replied that he thought Jabba was probably a bit more of a cream color than he might have appeared on screen, but that he had never seen the puppet in daylight, as on the set you either have harsh work lights or the dim lighting used during shooting. He suggested that I go straight to the source and ask John Coppinger, the man who sculpted and painted the Jabba puppet.

On his site, John has some fantastic in-progress shots of Jabba being made, and he also wrote an excellent article about creating Jabba for themakeupbox.com. There you can see the original color sketch used to come up with Jabba’s color scheme, as well as sketches of his eyes.

Original Jabba the Hutt Color Sketch

In addition, he has some great behind-the-scenes shots of the Jabba puppet on stage, as well as shots of his eyes outside of their housing. John later told me that he felt the on-set shots came out a bit too yellow due to the lighting, but they do give you an idea of what it must have looked like.

John Coppinger shaking hands with Jabba on the set

Jabba reference photo

Inner parts of Jabba's eyes

The sketch and these photos seemed to indicate that the actual Jabba puppet was indeed a somewhat lighter color than what we saw on screen, so I asked John to be sure.

According to him, the picture to the left from OfficialPix is actually the best reference for the Jabba puppet’s color scheme. Unfortunately I don’t have a larger resolution image of this, but this is the shot being used by Wattographs for their Jabba Connoisseur autograph piece, so I will be getting one eventually. However, he said that his favorite picture was the one below. To quote him, “I think the greens are accurate in this one and the irridescent colours on Jabba’s face and in his eyes show up best.”

You’ll notice that the coloring in these shots is rather different from the one from Return of the Jedi I posted above. The colors overall aren’t nearly as dark, and you don’t really see the reddish coloring that you see in shots from the film. I believe this is just due to the lighting on the set — the Jabba scenes in the movie are all quite dark so you never get a really well lit view of Jabba. I asked John about this, and he replied, “I agree that the on set lighting made a difference – But we were very pleased with how he was lit, and the colour was very much how I hoped he would look on film.”

In short, how you view Jabba’s color scheme will depend on whether you want to reproduce how the puppet’s colors appeared in person with good lighting, or how they appeared in the dimly lit scenes in the film. It’s a tricky question that doesn’t really have a single right answer. I’m inclined to follow how he looked on screen, since that’s the main way we got to know the character, but you could also argue that you should follow the colors of the actual puppet, regardless of how it appeared on screen.

(As a side note, many Star Wars fans are familiar with a similar issue involving Han Solo’s winter parka seen in The Empire Strikes Back. Many people swear it was blue, and of course the vintage figure has a blue coat. I think some earlier versions of the film probably did make the coat appear blue, but if you check the film available on DVD today, it appears to be brown. People have also taken photos of the original prop that clearly show it to be brown. Still, opinions are divided — so much so that Gentle Giant decided to make both brown and blue  versions of their upcoming Han Solo mini-bust.)

In the next part in this series, we will look at Jabba in other films.


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2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 9, 2010 12:04 pm

    Looking forward to the next part.

    I can’t say that i’ve ever really considered the question myself, but after reading your article, i realise what you mean. I have often seen you make note of the untrue colour when you post about some of you’re bits and pieces and mention the colour.

  2. September 2, 2011 8:25 am

    Right on!

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