George's dog, Indiana, may have lent his name to a certain fedora-topped icon, but we owe him far more than just Dr. Jones. "Indiana used to ride on the front seat of my car," says Lucas. "He was a big dog, and when he sat there he was bigger than a person, so I had this image in my mind of this huge furry animal riding with me. That's where Chewbacca came from."
Appropriately, the Millennium Falcon's first mate remains man's single best friend in the Star Wars universe. In a galaxy where loyalty is at a premium and double-cross and deceit run deep, it's this 200 year-old Wookiee that's its beating heart, the character you would always most want by your side when the going got tough. (The Expanded Universe novel Rebel Dawn tells us that he and Han Solo first met when Han - then a lieutenant in the Imperial Navy - found him unconscious aboard a slave ship and was ordered by his superiors to skin him; Han refused and Chewbacca swore a "life-debt" to him in return.)
Chewie has some fine moments in A New Hope - his chess-based tantrum, the prison-wing ambush - but it's in The Empire Strikes Back, and Cloud City especially, that he really shows his true colours; his mistrust of Lando, his carrying then fixing of the broken Threepio and his heartbreaking howl of anguish as Han gets frozen in carbonite, misting over millions more eyes than any number of "I love you"/"I know" romantic one-twos ever could. Here was, quite simply, the best chum an intergalactic smuggler could ever have.
"George thought of him as looking like a lemur with a huge, ape-like figure," remembers designer Ralph McQuarrie. "I added an ammunition bandolier and rifle. I had shorts on him and a camouflaged flak jacket, but that was edited out..." Of course, over the years Chewbacca has faced far bigger obstacles than dodgy beachwear. He survived 1978's TV car-crash that was The Star Wars Holiday Special, in which we were introduced to his extended family of Mallatobuck (aka Malla), Attichitcuk (aka Itchy) and Lumpawarrump (aka Lumpy).
He dodged a bullet in Return Of The Jedi, where an original and subsequently discarded storyboard saw him take a Boba Fett laser bolt intended for Luke onboard a desert skiff. And he ultimately met his maker, in officially the No.1 Most Memorable Moment of the Expanded Universe, when in the 1999 novel Vector Prime he sacrificed his own life to save that of Han's son, Anakin. (A tragedy that saw Solo subsequently sink into alcoholism and depression.)
That his return, alongside an army of fellow Wookiees, was a draw second only to the birth of Vader for fans in the build-up to Episode III, is proof positive though that, no matter how untimely his demise, the popularity of the saga's purest character, the Mighty Chewbacca, is timeless. Not bad for a walking carpet.