Jan 5, 2014

The legend, the myth and the balls of Admiral Gial Ackbar

Admiral Ackbar in the Battle of Endor

Probably the most popular character in the history of movies that looks like a giant gold fish, Admiral Ackbar was one of the heroes in the Battle of Endor, commanding Rebel fleet with enough resolve to give the Millennium Falcon enough time to carry out it's mission.

But who is this character? Where did he come from and what kind of stuff is he made from?

Origin of the character in Return of the Jedi pre-production

During a production meeting where George Lucas, film Director Richard Marquand, and others players had divided up their coterie of aliens between foreground and background creatures, Lucas offered Marquand the chance to create a legend:

“George suddenly said to me, ‘Who’s going to play Admiral Ackbar? I just decided he should be a creature, so you can pick out Admiral Ackbar.’ I said, ‘George, I think this should be your decision. He’s one of your new characters here.’

And he said, ‘No, you choose.’”

Marquand then determined to choose "the most delicious, wonderful creature out of the whole lot, this great big wonderful Calamari man with a red face and eyes on the side.”

It was a painting by concept artist Nilo Rodis-Jamero.

According to Marquand, “One or two people around the table, who shall be nameless, said they thought it was a terrible idea: ‘People are just going to laugh when they see this guy.’”

admiral ackbar concept design by artist Nilo Rodis-Jamero
It's a piece of concept art!
So what species of creature is Ackbar?

He is a Mon Calamari a sentient species indigenous to the world of Dac. Many fans simply refer to the Mon Calamari as Calamari.

They are humanoid in shape and form and stand about 1.7m tall.

They are most commonly seen with salmon-coloured skin tones.

What is Ackbar’s back story? How did he join the Rebel Alliance?

The expanded Star Wars universe has come to the party and back filled the origin of Ackbar. The short version is Mon Calamari was attacked by the Galactim Empire and Ackbar was forced to act as an interpreter for Grand Moff Tarkin.

He was freed from captivity during a failed attempt by Rebel forces to capture Tarkin.

He joined the Rebel Alliance and helped convince his species to support the cause, playing an integral part in persuading his people to contribute their fleet of starships to the Rebel Alliance. Ackbar then built his way up in the Rebel Alliance to the point that he was seen as an Admiral in Jedi. 

What kind of stuff is Ackbar made from?

In Jedi Ackbar senses that the Rebel forces are over run and he signals a retreat which seems like a pussy thing to be doing at time like that but he was able to be convinced by Lando Calrissian do stick it out a little longer. He then set to work and managed the fleet er admirably well showing a clear head for battle conditions.

Kirk Thatcher with various Ackbars and Calamari friends
What is the origin of the quote "It's a trap"?

Everyone knows that Ackbar's phrase "It's a trap!" has became almost more famous that Ackbar himself. But that was not the original line in Kasdan's script for Jedi. The actual words were, "It's a trick!"

During post production it was felt the line didn't quite have the desired effect. The change is now the stuff of Star Wars and film making legend.

What is his full name? Where does Gial come from?

The first name of Ackbar's character, Gial, was not formal published until the 2012 release of the Star Wars reference book The Essential Guide to Warfare, some 28 years after Ackbar first appeared on the silver screen!

Such was Ackbar's enduring popularity, he was brought back for a small role in The Force Awakens as a military advisor to Princess Leia.

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