Star Wars Explained is our ongoing series where we delve into the latest Star Wars shows, movies, trailers, and news stories to divine the franchise’s future. This entry examines the best takeaways from the Disney+ Boba Fett documentary Under the Helmet.
It’s stupid how much we love Boba Fett. The Empire Strikes Back features only four short bursts of bounty hunter dialogue. His total cinematic screentime is six minutes and thirty-two seconds. And he concludes Return of the Jedi by getting a bump on the noggin and tumbling into the Sarlacc pit, with his final gasp drowned out by the monster’s humorous belch.
Whatever. Boba Fett simply looks too cool. Forty-plus years after his introduction (which was not in Empire Strikes Back, nor was it in the Star Wars Holiday Special – don’t worry, we’ll get into it in a bit), we can’t shake the galactic gunslinger. He’s more popular than ever and weeks away from finally having his own solo series, The Book of Boba Fett.
For Disney+ Day, the streaming service attacked us with an onslaught of commercials, including a sneak peek at the Obi-Wan Kenobi series and a neverending strand of Marvel Studios properties. People seem excited about much of it, but maybe the most joyous release was the least flashy, the mini-documentary, Under the Helmet: The Legacy of Boba Fett.
You’ll probably be well-versed in much of what the short doc has to say. However, I was struck by several interesting takeaways that were either totally new to me or presented slightly differently from what I’ve heard before. I came away from Under the Helmet with six tidbits worth noting. Some speak to why Boba Fett remains an icon so many decades after his creation, and others celebrate the many creators who helped shape the badass.
Budgetary Concerns Created Boba Fett
Boba Fett was not created as a bounty hunter. Originally, the armor was white. Conceptual artists Ralph McQuarrie and Joe Johnston (who would direct The Rocketeer and Captain America: First Avenger) designed it as an upgraded Stormtrooper suit. These guys were supposed to be the real heavy-hitters, the soldiers the Empire called in when they needed to hit their targets.
After they constructed the prototype costume, they discovered that it was just too damn expensive to produce on a massive scale. So an order of a hundred was reduced to one. That didn’t phase Geroge Lucas in the slightest; he almost immediately rebranded the character as a bounty hunter. Cowboys, especially spaghetti western cowboys, were his jam.
We Love Boba Fett Because He’s Medival
According to Lucasfilm senior writer Pete Vilmur, the reason we respond so strongly toward Boba Fett has to do with his T-visor helmet. It harkens to the Medieval era, a time of sword and sorcery. It’s subconsciously mysterious, aesthetically matching the conundrum of who or what is actually underneath the suit.
Joe Johnston does not remember who came up with the T-visor design. He only knows that he and Ralph McQuarrie were trading sketches back and forth, and someone and some point suggested it. Once the T-visor was inserted, there were a few alterations here and there, but for the most part, the character changed very little from that point forward.
Once the decision was made to make Boba Fett a bounty hunter instead of a soldier, Johnston sprayed the costume silver and then painted over it using railroad colors. He then scarred the topcoat to expose the metal underneath, suggesting a rough and tumble lifestyle for this blaster brute.
Boba Fett’s First Poncho was a Star Wars Towel
Sound Designer Bun Burtt was tasked with hosting a production video showcasing the white Boba Fett armor for the English crew across the pond. In it, you can see him sheepishly highlight the many weapons hidden throughout the suit. Here’s the flamethrower on his gauntlet. Over here, we have a “rather deadly” dart-throwing device. On his knees, these shoot darts too. He then looks to folks off-camera, wondering if he’s right or just making it up as he goes.
Duwayne Dunham was the first person to wear the Boba Fett suit. He was from the editing department and merely had the proper measurements. Something didn’t quite look right with him, and George Lucas said, “he needs a cape,” and they fetched a piece of Star Wars merchandise to complete his look, a beach towel.
Boba Fett’s Spurs Were A Joke
Wherever Boba Fett stumbles, we hear his spurs jingle jangle. This sound effect started as a joke from Ben Burtt. He said that if George Lucas wanted him to be a Clint Eastwood cowboy character, he should sound like one. To his surprise and delight, foley artist Robert R. Rutledge took the comment seriously and made the sound canon. If he only knew how excited we would get when we caught those spurs in The Mandalorian years later.
Boba Fett’s First Appearance was in a Marin County Parade
Boba Fett did not first appear in The Empire Strikes Back. Nor did he first appear in the cartoon stuck in the middle of the Star Wars Holiday Special. Nope. About a month before that turkey hit the airwaves, Boba Fett walked the streets of George Lucas’ hometown in a Marin County California parade. The director wanted to get his neighbors stoked for the sequel, so he threw them a surprise.
Once again, Duwayne Dunham wore the suit, and it was the one actually used in The Empire Strikes Back. He was paired with Darth Vader, and the two of them strolled through the streets, signing autographs for fans. Obviously, kids knew who the Sith Lord was, but they had questions when they saw Fett. Where he went, the young ones squeed. The Lucasfilm folks knew they had something special with this bounty hunter.
Boba Fett Makes the Star Wars Holiday Special Watchable
No one hates the Star Wars Holiday Special as much as George Lucas, but even he has to recognize quality when he sees it. While he had very little to do with the television program, his idea was to premiere Boba Fett in the animated cartoon within. And even though no one has a kind word to say about the live-action bits, many at Lucasfilm celebrate Fett’s animated arrival. Star Wars: The Clone Wars’ showrunner Dave Filoni refers to the ‘toon as “beautiful work” and points to its extreme stylization, something he and Lucas would take to heart when designing their animated collaboration. Realism, bah.
Under the Helmet: The Boba Fett Legacy is now streaming on Disney+.