Star Wars: Thala-sirens Required Two Puppeteers and a Helicopter to Come Alive for 'The Last Jedi'

The Last Jedi introduced audiences to a variety of new creatures, from porgs to vupltices to fathiers, with each creature being seen in promotional materials for the film. One creature that took audiences by surprise were the thala-sirens, who basked on the shores of Ahch-To. Even though they didn't get much screentime, the production went to great lengths to make the animals as believable as possible, enlisting multiple puppeteers and even a helicopter to get the job done.

“At the very beginning of the film, [writer/director] Rian [Johnson] said to me that he wanted to take animatronics and practical effects and put them there on a real location—he didn’t want to do certain things in the studio,” creature shop head Neal Scanlan explained to Nerdist. “We went to that location, we photographed that location, and we created a digital map of it so that later back at Pinewood we could recreate the rocks. When we sculpted the thala-siren—she’s a full-sized animatronic puppet and she’s about 18 feet tall—she was sculpted to fit into the rocks so that she actually looked like she was sitting in that environment.”

The creature may have been designed to sit in one location, yet there were still elements of motion that were required to make the creatures appear real. It required two different puppeteers to control its motion, in addition to creating the illusion of Luke milking the thala-siren for nourishment.

“One would operate the shoulders and the flippers at the top and the other person would operate the belly and the milking mechanism or the udder mechanism at the bottom,” Scanlan pointed out.

With the remote location of Skellig Michael serving as the filming location for Ahch-To, the production team faced challenges even getting the puppet there in the first place.

“It’s the only creature I’ve ever flown by helicopter,” Scanlan joked. “We had two puppeteers on the outside, one did the head from a rocky position at the top—he had the head on a rod—and there were two other puppeteers at the bottom that did the bottom flippers."

Not only was the general public restricted from visiting the location, but scenes featuring the thala-sirens also required fewer people nearby so the cameras could capture the size of the creatures.

“There were the only three other people on the set, and then Mark [Hamill] and Daisy [Ridley] came and acted out the scene," Scanlan detailed. "And when Mark, as you know, wanted delivery of the milk from the udder, then the puppeteer on the inside duly obliged.”

You can see the thala-sirens in The Last Jedi, in theaters now.

[H/T Nerdist]

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