Porgs: Everything you'll want to know about the adorable 'Last Jedi' breakout stars
Neal Scanlan admits he was terrified when director Rian Johnson tasked him with creating a new bird-like creature called porgs for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
The creatures and droids supervisor knew he was walking a perilous line creatively.
"You go too cute, and you disengage some people. Don't go cute enough, you're going to exclude younger viewers," says Scanlan. "Creating something that hits the mark, that was a harrowing experience. I thought, 'I'm going to be getting hate mail.' "
But there's been no deluge of hostile letters as The Last Jedi nears its Dec. 15 opening. The wide-eyed porgs are the movie's undisputed breakout stars.
Here's what you should know about the winged critters:
There are SO MANY porgs: The porgs are everywhere on Luke Skywalker's hideaway planet Ahch-To. We've seen the screaming porg on the Millennium Falcon. But there are "murders" of porgs (the term for groups), along with porglets (baby porgs). Male porgs are slightly taller than female porgs,
"They are slightly irritating, in an endearing way, in that they are forever a presence," Scanlan says. "They are everywhere."
They have bird qualities: The mischievous creatures were inspired by Johnson's visit to the puffin-filled Irish island of Skellig Michael. They can fly, though "it's more like a flutter, it's not elegant," says Scanlan. They are distracted easily by shiny objects; they don't speak, but make frequent sounds, especially fearful cries.
Not everyone is a fan: The porgs have their vocal critics online and there were even anti-porg factions on The Last Jedi set.
"They’re nasty, to be honest," says John Boyega (who plays Finn). "There were really tiny ones all bunched together in a hole in the Falcon and they just looked like a bunch of cockroaches."
But Daisy Ridley (Rey) says she has an "adorable" toy porg, and new cast member Kelly Marie Tran (Rose Tico) went full porg for Halloween. "I even made my own costume. My porg love goes deep," Trans says.
Even Gwendoline Christie (evil Captain Phasma) manages a soft spot for the critters. "What’s everyone’s problem?" she asks. "I do not understand how people can possibly hate the porgs."
They work Wookiee magic: The Last Jedi features one porg who works his way into Chewbacca's hairy heart. The creature was designed with Wookiee-like qualities in its face and coat to enhance that "special friendship," says Scanlan.
The interspecies kinship is real. "The little critter finds a way into Chewie's emotional place in a way we haven't seen much before," Scanlan says. "Porgs can push those buttons."
Porgs are stars: Complicated scenes were aided by computer-generated imagery created by Industrial Light & Magic. But porgs are predominantly puppet creations worked on set, interacting with the actors.
The porgs required grooming by a team of four handlers, who did everything from glistening their wide eyes to plumping feathers.
"During last checks (before shooting), there would be people making sure Daisy Ridley's hair and makeup were perfect. Then, look to the left, and there's a porg getting the same treatment," says Scanlan. "The porgs were just short of having their own trailers."
Contributing: Brian Truitt