This post takes a look at the two big beasts in Return of the Jedi, both of which are located on Tatooine. First up is the Rancor, a carnivorous beast from the planet Dathomir that averages between 16 and 32 feet in height. The one that Jabba the Hutt keeps as a pet in a dungeon beneath his audience chamber leans towards the shorter end of that range.
Described as being something of a cross between a gorilla and a potato, or a bear and a potato, the rancor was originally going to be portrayed in the film by an actor wearing a monster suit.
Test footage was shot using a roughly constructed suit in order to work out movement requirements and film speeds in order to make the rancor seem to be much larger than it actually is.
A finished suit was completed, and while it looks really cool, was not convincing enough in filmed footage to serve the film's high quality special effects, so the suit approach was scrapped.
A much more scaled down version of the rancor was constructed as a sophisticated rod puppet, which was shot on miniature sets and edited into live action footage of Mark Hamill and the actor playing the Gamorrean guard. A full size rancor arm was also constructed for the live action scenes.
While filming the live action, a life size cutout of the Rancor was placed on set for reference for both the actors and the special effects personnel who would operate the puppet.
The rancor was cared for by three staff members shown above, including the human, Malakili who provided the memorable moment, sobbing for his slain pet.
The rancor would find itself incorporated into toy form numerous times over the years, including this large scale action figure (above) from the original action figure line.
More recently, the rancor has appeared in numerous sizes and forms as shown above.
The second big beast was the Sarlacc found in the Great Pit of Carkoon.
The sarlacc originally appeared as what was essentially a giant ant lion, or if you want to be more cynical about it a giant vaginal maw in the sand.
CGI tinkering for the 1997 "special edition." added a mobile squid-like beak as well as more tentacles.
This version may have been more animated (take the pun as you will) but, to me, gave the sarlacc a much unneeded comical personality. It also seemed to give its victims a quicker more merciful death than the "new definition of pain and suffering as you are slowly digested over a thousand years." that Jabba promises. The original ant lion/pitcher plant design lent more credibility to this fate.
Of course, if you think about it, such a slow digestive system combined with such a large organism existing in an environment where there isn't going to be a lot of foot traffic to ensure a steady supply of clumsy banthas and jawas to keep its nutritional needs met, is just plain silly. It's even more ridiculous when you consider the actual enormity of the entire sarlacc hidden beneath the sand. How enormous? Just look...
The sarlacc actually made its way into toy form a few times, believe it or not. First up was a Parker Brothers game which came out with the movie. It looks really cool, but as someone who owns it, let me just tell you I don't think I ever finished playing a single game. I remember it being complicated and actually pretty boring. I may have to pull it out again some day and give it another shot.
There was actually an action transfer kit as well. For those of you too young to know what one of these is, it was basically a foldout illustrated cardboard background on which you could position various characters that were like stickers, only you used a wooden stick like a sharpened, leadless pencil to rub the image from a transfer sheet onto the background. They were not reusable, and were a lot like an iron on transfer -- which you also probably are unfamiliar with. This is what us old people had for fun in the days before computers and the xbox.
There was also a more recent action figure set that included various characters, one of the desert skiffs, and the sarlacc that was made so that you could use it either in its original rubber prop look, or in its CGI form.