There’s a very simple reason why there are adorable little Porgs in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” (and no, it’s not just because of merchandising).
Creature concept designer Jake Lunt Davies explained to Starwars.com how the Porgs came to be: In a word: Puffins! The distinctive birds are native to Skellig Michael, the Irish island that stands in for Luke Skywalker’s retreat in the film and it was just too hard to remove them from the location.
Rian [Johnson] had gone to shoot this sequence on Skellig Michael, which is the real island location that stands in for Ahch-To, and that island is covered in puffins. It’s a wildlife preserve and everywhere you look there are hundreds of birds dotted around the landscape. From what I gathered, Rian, in a positive spin on this, was looking at how can he work with this. You can’t remove them. You physically can’t get rid of them. And digitally removing them is an issue and a lot of work, so let’s just roll with it, play with it. And so I think he thought, “Well, that’s great, let’s have our own indigenous species.” We’d already started work on the Caretakers, which again was a brief from Rian. We’d just been told “puffin people.” Yeah, there was going to be this race of people and puffins again were a source of inspiration for Rian. The puffins were sort of a big influence on everything, really.
Davies added in some seal cuteness and the bug-eyed eyes of a pug and Porgs were born:
I probably got the porg within the first [few attempts]. I did about four or five pages of totally different sketches, and the porg was probably in one of those sketches. It was influenced by a seal and a pug dog and the puffin. The big eyes of a seal or the big eyes of a pug dog and the sort of funny, ugly face [of a pug]. I mean, pug dogs aren’t, by their nature, obviously cute. There are other animals and there are other cartoon creatures, I suppose, which are very obviously cute, and the porg doesn’t necessarily take what you think is obviously cute. But something like a pug dog is actually quite cute. There’s something incredibly appealing about it. Maybe it’s the big eyes. But like a pug, porgs have this very sort of sad, neutral face.
Davies said he had no idea the Porgs would become an Internet sensation.
It was a huge surprise. You are concerned about audience reaction. I want to create something that I can be proud of, obviously. And then I kind of forgot about it really, because we got caught up in the next one and in Solo, and then they released the trailer and the little clip behind the scenes with the porgs. I was surprised when, suddenly, the Internet goes crazy for it and it turned into a meme fest.… It’s amazing. I’m sort of blown away. It’s amazing. It’s great.
“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” is now playing across the galaxy.