George Lucas and his dog

How George Lucas' Dog Inspired Chewbacca

They say dog is man’s best friend. To George Lucas, his pet Indiana became much more—the inspiration behind one of the most beloved characters in the Star Wars saga: Chewbacca.

I had an Alaskan Malamute when I was writing the film [Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope]. A very sweet dog, she would always sit next to me when I was writing. And when I'd drive around, she'd sit in the front seat. A Malamute is a very large dog—like a 130 pounds and bigger than a human being and very long-haired.

– George Lucas 

The friendship between Han Solo and his copilot was born out of Lucas’s appreciation for his dog Indiana, who, like Chewbacca, was strong, brave, resilient, imposing, playful, and fiercely loyal. Even in appearance, Chewie started out rather dog-like, with perky ears, bright eyes, and even, at times, a drooping tongue.

Chewbacca storyboard
Joe Johnston, Chewbacca, Han Solo, and Luke Skywalker Storyboard, about 1975, ink and marker on paper.

The Wookiee eventually evolved into a clothed and armored lemur-like figure, and ultimately, the familiar combination of an ape, a cat, and—yes!—a dog, that has become the iconic character we know and love.

Learn more behind-the-scenes facts about the Star Wars films in Star Wars and the Power of Costume.

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Stefania Van Dyke is a senior interpretive specialist. Her favorite Monet factoid is that, in their youth, he and Renoir apparently spent an entire year surviving on potatoes.