wampa ice creature

  • Appeared in:
    I
    II
    III
    IV
    V
    VI
    CW
  • Homeworld:
    Hoth
  • Size:
    3 meters tall
  • Diet:
    carnivore

From the Movies

The bone-chilling cold is not the only danger that awaits a traveler on the Hoth plains. Despite standing over two meters in height, the wampa ice creature is nonetheless a stealthy predator. Its white fur is the perfect camouflage, and the howling Hoth winds mask its approach until it is too late. With a crushing blow from its clawed hand, a wampa is strong enough to snap the neck of even a hardy tauntaun.

Wampas live in caves carved from the Hoth ice. It is here that the ice creature drags its prey. It suspends its victims from the cave ceiling until it is ready to feast.

The Rebels were plagued with wampa attacks when they erected their hidden base on Hoth. Commander Luke Skywalker was savagely attacked by a wampa while on scouting duty. Skywalker narrowly escaped becoming a meal and dying in a Hoth blizzard. Despite bacta treatment administered by the skilled medical droid 2-1B, Luke still bears scars from that encounter.

Just prior to the evacuation of the Hoth base, the Rebels had to deal with repeated wampa attacks. The first indication that was something amiss was the discovery of a dead tauntaun, its neck mysteriously broken. Attracted to the sound of astromech droids, several wampa ice creatures penetrated deeper and deeper into the Alliance caverns. The Rebels were able to capture at least one wampa in a pen before having to abandon Echo Base altogether.

From the Expanded Universe

Wampas never hunt when hungry, yet they prefer live meat whenever possible. As such, the creatures try keep their prey alive within their icy caves. A wampa uses its hot breath and saliva to suspend prey against the ice cave's ceiling.

The wampa physiology is so well adapted at conserving heat that the creatures do not show up on most life-form sensors. This is how they have escaped detection for so long. Wampas have recently become the favored target of galactic big game hunters hungering for a challenge. These adventurous ones travel to the remote Hoth system in hopes of capturing an impressive wampa trophy.

The creatures are said to possess a long memory. Jedi Master Luke Skywalker returned to Hoth nine years after his run-in with a wampa. In a mind-boggling example of coincidence, he ran into the same wampa ice creature whose arm he severed years ago. According to Skywalker, the creature remembered him and his lightsaber.

Behind the Scenes

The wampa has been one of the most difficult creatures to get onto the screen in a realistic manner. The first version of the wampa started off as an immense costume designed by Joe Johnston, intended for location shooting in Finse, Norway. Actor Des Webb wore the shaggy outfit, while wearing stilts to add to his already impressive height. Stilts, a fur suit, and snow do not mix well, unfortunately. Footage gathered of a wampa ice creature constantly falling over, while humorous, did not suit the story needs of The Empire Strikes Back.

The shooting script of Empire included a wampa sub-plot that was ultimately edited out of the final film due to difficulties in shooting the creature. The Rebel's Echo Base was to be the victim of chronic wampa attacks, wherein sections of the ice caverns were infiltrated by wampas attracted to the tootling of R2-D2 and his fellow astromech droids. Eventually, the Rebels would figure out the reason for the mysterious attacks, and would even succeed in a capturing several of the beasts and putting them in pens with clearly marked warning labels affixed to the door.

These wampa attacks used a version of the creature suit with eerie silver eyes. The actor burdened with the heavy suit would suffer from heat exhaustion often, and the breakaway effects of the ice wall were not convincing. Though several of these scenes were attempted, none looked good enough to commit to the final film. The labeled doors are still visible in the released version of Empire. In fact, the trailer for Empire shows a scene cut from the film that hints at the wampa subplot. While Imperials are in pursuit of the fleeing Rebels, C-3PO would tear a label from the door. Not seen in the trailer were the pursuing snowtroopers who unwittingly storm the sealed chamber, only to be torn apart by an enraged snow creature.

Having failed to shoot the full body wampa scenes, the filmmakers instead shot around the creature, offering little glimpses of the monster. For instance, the arm that knocks Luke off his tauntaun is just that -- an arm. The 12-frame long close up of the roaring wampa in that same scene is just a puppet, shot against a non-descript sky.

When Empire was revisited for 1997's Special Edition release, the wampa could finally be shown in all its gory glory. Since the wampa would be shown on its own, without visual cues as to its size, no immensely tall actor or a suit incorporating stilts would be needed. ILM artist Howie Weed designed and wore the new the wampa suit. ILM built a set scaled in such a way to make Weed look huge. New footage of the wampa was shot and mixed in with the existing Empire scene.




Keywords: Databank - Episode V

Filed under: Vault, Creature
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