fans love detail. The intricately crafted worlds of the films and expanded universe are what sell the fantastic as reality and keep viewers and readers coming back for more. Many fans aren't content to accept a background alien as just a background alien: they want to know who he, she, or it is, its planet of origin, and what exactly the alien was up to in that scene.
From the earliest days of writing Star Wars, George Lucas dovetailed his interests in science fiction, fantasy, and anthropology and wrote elaborately detailed backstories for his creations. In the Lucasfilm Archives are transcripts of brainstorming sessions wherein Lucas laid out the ecology of Kashyyyk, and the complete cultural roots of the Wookiees -- all this for a species that would ultimately be represented by a single character, Chewbacca, and a planet that would go unseen in the original trilogy.
The Mos Eisley Cantina is a wealth of character and alien information, but much has been lost over the quarter-century of Star Wars. Misplaced production notes and half-remembered anecdotes make piecing together who was in the shadowy watering hole difficult. During the publishing resurgence of the early 1990s, many of the cantina aliens were given full histories, but these were invented from scratch; the authors essentially had a clean slate to work with, with little more than simplistic filming nicknames as a starting point. "Four Eyes," "Bat" and "Plutonian" are hardly compelling character names.
In the summer of 2000, shortly after Lucas shot the Outlander Club sequence for Episode II, dozens of the nightclub extras were promptly assigned character names and species in anticipation of spin-off fiction or licensing possibilities. These details were established concurrent with production, rather than invented long after the fact. Lucas and Lucasfilm named such barely-glimpsed nightclub denizens as Lunae Minx, Oakie Dokes, Sel Maa and Nyrat Agira.
The 1970s were a far different time. Back then, naming and establishing the backstory of the cantina aliens was not anyone's priority. Furthermore, Lucas was never entirely pleased with the progress of the cantina scene, and had more pressing concerns. During the initial shooting of the sequence in England, Makeup Supervisor Stuart Freeborn was ill and could not complete enough aliens in time. Lucas later had to cajole 20th Century Fox for more money for reshoots, and photographed insert shots of booth-dwelling aliens crafted by ILM and Rick Baker.
Lucas was surprised that the cantina became an audience favorite, since it had always represented compromise and disappointment in his mind. But the skills of Freeborn, Baker, and other makeup artists, along with judicious editing, made the cantina appear much more than the sum of its parts. In 1978, when Kenner Products began making action figures, cantina aliens were high on the wish list. The toymakers began requesting names and details for the many nameless aliens.
So, in 1978, internal memos at Lucasfilm established names for many of the aliens, though only Walrus Man, Hammerhead, Snaggletooth and Greedo ever got to action figure form. Also that year, "The Star Wars Holiday Special" aired for the first and only time, and it too featured a scene in the cantina, with more aliens supplied by Rick Baker. But even then, there wasn't much information about the bar's inhabitants.
Fast-forward to 1989. Star Wars publishing is largely dormant, with West End Games being the sole publisher regularly expanding the universe through roleplaying games and guides. Galaxy Guide I: A New Hope added more information about the cantina aliens -- including names and backgrounds for many of them, though author Grant Boucher invented much of the material since there was nothing to go on. Also that year, author Troy Denning shed light on more history with Galaxy Guide 4: Alien Races. In 1995, Bantam Books' Tales From The Mos Eisley Cantina not only added more names, but added personality and histories to a number of cantina aliens. That same year, Decipher Inc. fleshed out more cantina aliens in their Star Wars Customizable Card Game.
Earlier this year, poking through the photo archives at Lucasfilm revealed more secrets of these cantina denizens. Here's an exclusive look at what the research uncovered: