When the time came to re-release the original Star Wars trilogy, George Lucas grew excited with the prospect of using advances in computer-generated imagery to complete his vision. But even if he had access to more resources, re-inserting Jabba the Hutt into “A New Hope” still came with some challenges.
Taking on the task was former Industrial Light & Magic animator Steve Williams. While audiences were accustomed to seeing Jabba in “Return of the Jedi,” Lucas had a different set of instructions for the team in this instance. “So what George said specifically to me was, ‘Imagine Jabba under a Jenny Craig program,'” Williams recalled in a VFX Blog interview. “He goes, ‘I want a slimmed-down version of Jabba.’ And, I mean, the thing that was kind of most captivating about the practical Jabba was the amount of slime coming out of his mouth. George didn’t want any of that stuff.” Similarly, given that Jabba doesn’t move in “Return of the Jedi,” the team used slugs as references to break down how the character carries himself throughout the scene.
Jabba’s inclusion in the 1997 special edition — which was further altered for the 2004 DVD release — remains a controversial addition for fans. Even Williams himself has qualms with the scene, telling VFX Blog, “A lot of people pissed on it because Lucas had insisted having the Harrison Ford character walk behind Jabba and step on his tail and go down, and it just — it never ever looked right. It never looked right in my view.” In the end, however, Lucas fulfilled his vision for “A New Hope,” further evolving filmmaking technology.