Star Wars is one of the most popular media franchises ever, breaking records and solidifying its place in modern media forever. With such a long history, it’s also been the center of a lot of controversy and tension amongst fans, particularly in recent years, as the franchise continue to expand, experiment, and diversify. That said, there are still a few things that seem to unite fans from all corners of the fandom, and one of them is the sho of dread that the name “Jar Jar Binks” brings to fans' hearts.
The goofy Gungan was originally intended to provide comic relief with his slapstick antics, but instead quickly became one of the most hated characters in the entire franchise. J.J. Abrams even revealed that he’d seriously considered adding a shot of Jar Jar’s bones in a desert in The Force Awakens. Despite all the negative press—or perhaps because of it—Jar Jar’s become a staple of pop culture himself, even inspiring a viral fan theory that he’s secretly a Sith Lord. As with most other Star Wars characters, Jar Jar’s got an extensive background full of secrets to uncover, whether fans like it or not.
The list below contains spoilers not just for the prequel trilogy, but also for other Star Wars media like The Clone Wars TV series. It also includes canonical in-universe material as well as behind-the-scenes snippets from the making of the prequels. This Gungan has one strange body.
Here are 20 Strange Details About Jar Jar Binks’ Anatomy.
20 He Originally Had Short Ears
Say what you will about Jar Jar Binks, but you’ve got to admit that the design team did a good job solidifying a highly recognizable and unique look for the Gungan. In addition to features that recall the amphibians in our own galaxy, he’s got lanky humanoid limbs that are perfect for wacky slapstick comedy.
However, according to Doug Chiang, Jar Jar originally had short ears which were later elongated per George Lucas’ request. Lucas thought that having long flappy ears that would flop around whenever Jar Jar turned his head added to the character’s comedic elements. The decision led to other changes, like giving Jar Jar giant eyes on stalks that could pop out for comedic effect.
19 He Initially Looked Like A Duck And A Dog
Artist Terryl Whitlach knew from the get-go that Jar Jar would be lanky with long limbs, but still took quite a while to perfect the Gungan’s face and neck. It was a year and a half before the team settled on a look, but they cycled through various animals for inspiration.
In one of the earliest versions of the character, Jar Jar looked like a duck. He later began to resemble a “droopy-looking dog” in an effort to make him look more approachable. Sure, Jar Jar might not have ended up the most dashing of creatures in the galaxy far, far away, but compared to early drafts—some of which look downright creepy—it’s almost a relief that the team chose this final design.
18 He's Actually Considered Attractive
Let’s be honest here: Jar Jar's not exactly the easiest on the eyes, at least not according to conventional human standards. However, beauty standards vary from culture to culture in the Star Wars universe, just as they do on Earth. The result? Jar Jar has a love interest in The Clone Wars TV show.
His love isn’t just any old alien from a rock in the Outer Rim. She is Queen Julia of the planet Bardotta and member of the Dagoyan Order. When her homeworld is under threat, she specifically requests that Jar Jar come help her alone, although Mace Windu ends up joining the mission. When Julia and Jar Jar have a moment to themselves, she kisses him.
17 Charlie Chaplin combined with Goofy
Lucas decided from the very beginning that Jar Jar would provide comic relief as loyalties were betrayed, hearts were broken, and the Jedi Order descended into disarray. Many of Jar Jar’s attempts at comedy lie in his physicality. He’s got lanky limbs that flail about and he walks with a slightly off-kilter gait. His eyes pop out to help him express his emotions and voice matches his exaggerated movements.
As it turns out, his silly mannerisms are based on icons like Charlie Chaplin, Danny Kaye, and Goofy. Jar Jar doesn’t quite enjoy the same critical acclaim or popularity as these entertainment legends, but he’s definitely gained notoriety of his own-- albeit for all the wrong reasons.
16 His actor was skilled in acrobatics and martial arts
Even though Jar Jar is now known for his clumsiness amongst fans and casual Star Wars viewers alike, actor Ahmed Best originally envisioned a character with much better control over his physicality. Best left his audition thinking he’d bombed it. He went in performing a bunch of martial arts and acrobatic moves, displaying his impressive athleticism and artistry. However, Lucas tried to get Best to rein in the athleticism, instead preferring a sillier performance with more slapstick elements.
The final version of Jar Jar has him bumbling around like a clown, but he does display some pretty amazing physical feats. In the scene where he leads Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon to Otoh Gunga, Jar Jar does a somersault before leaping into the water.
15 His Tongue Is More Than Half His Height
Another distinctive trait of the Gungans is their long, agile tongues that seem to have minds of their own. Given that Gungans have an insatiable appetite for everything from shellfish and slimy bugs to a dessert that takes four people to eat, it’s a good thing that they have one-meter-long tongues (over 3 feet) to help grab any and all food in their vicinity.
It’s made all the more impressive when you consider how the official Star Wars Databank lists Jar Jar’s height as 1.96 meters, or almost 6 and a half feet. That means Jar Jar’s tongue is more than half his height. It looks like Venom's tongue has got some unlikely competition.
14 He's Been Made Into A Glow-In-The-Dark Sticky Tongue Toy
In retrospect, the '90s were a wild time to be a kid. The Macarena dominated school dances, butterfly clips reigned supreme, and Furbies were somehow considered cute. Then, of course, The Phantom Menace was released in 1999. It shouldn’t come as a surprise then that Jar Jar appeared in the UK as a glow-in-the-dark sticky tongue toy.
It’s a Star Wars spin on the sticky hand toys that collect dust and grime like crazy. The idea is to help Jar Jar eat some food. You’d lay out Jar Jar’s favorite snacks (“succulent skewered frogs”), hold his glowing disembodied head, and flick his tongue out so he can eat them. Like many vintage collectibles, it’s still available on secondary markets.
13 He's Also An Elaborate Pez Dispenser
Jar Jar’s usually devouring food left and right, but since 1999 is pretty much synonymous with anarchy, he actually gives out candy as an elaborate Pez dispenser rather than keeping it all for himself.
The Pez dispenser is a recreation of a scene from The Phantom Menace in Mos Espa on Tatooine. Jar Jar tries to steal some food from Gragra, a food vendor. He then causes a scene by slinging the snack at Sebulba, leading to his, Padmé’s and Qui-Gon’s fateful meeting with a young Anakin. If you press the button on the base of the dispenser, Jar Jar will reach for a Pez candy from Gragra’s oven. He then serves it to you on his tongue.
12 He Had Elastic Bones
Jar Jar’s body can seem to defy all the laws of physics at times, even by Star Wars standards. However, early drafts from Star Wars Storyboards show that the creative team had intended to channel the laws of gravity to maximize Jar Jar’s comedic elements.
Concept artist Iain McCaig reveals that the Gungan’s bones were originally made of elastic. Because of how malleable his bones would be, Jar Jar’s body would literally change shape depending on his surroundings. Heavy gravity or high pressure would cause him to turn into a blob. By that logic, he would’ve also been compressed into a blob when he dove into water to lead Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon to Otoh Gunga.
11 He's Born As A Tadpole
Gungans are an amphibious humanoid species native to Naboo, and are known for rarely ever leaving their homeworld. In fact, Jar Jar’s journey to Tatooine is his first trip to a foreign planet. Considering amphibians normally live close to water, it’s a wonder that Jar Jar’s able to survive the harsh climate of the desert planet.
According to Nexus of Power, a sourcebook for the Force and Destiny roleplaying game, Gungans are born as tadpoles, much like frogs in our own universe. It takes months for Gungan babies to grow limbs. There aren’t any official images of baby Gungans, but since Gungans are a mix of real-life animals, it’s safe to say that Gungan tadpoles would also look like a hybrid of creatures from Earth.
10 He's Part Of The Otolla Race Of Gungans
While Gungans are known as a singular species, there are actually two major races of them: the Ankura and the Otolla. The Ankura have stout bodies, hooded eyes and shorter bills, like Boss Nass. On the other hand, the Otolla are tall and lanky with long ears (known in-universe as “haillu”) and eyes on stalks. Jar Jar is obviously part of the Otolla.
The reason why the Gungan Grand Army is mostly comprised of the Otolla is because there aren’t many Ankura Gungans left. The Ankura are a much older species and have been perishing, making the Otolla the more dominant race. Despite their physical differences, the two races seem to share similar values and cultures.
9 He Can't Breathe Underwater
Most of the amphibians found on Earth breathe with their lungs and their skin, while some others have gills that allow them to breathe underwater like fish. Gungans, however, seem to breathe exclusively with their lungs.
The Star Wars Databank page for Gungans states that they have hardy lungs that let them hold their breath underwater for long periods of time. Jar Jar can’t breathe underwater, but is able to hold his breath long enough to swim through Lake Paonga to reach Otoh Gunga where the buildings contain breathable air. In comparison, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan both rely on devices to stay alive for the journey despite being Jedi highly trained in the ways of the Force.
8 He's Not Force-Sensitive, But Convincingly Impersonates A Jedi
Gungans have low rates of Force sensitivity. In the non-canonical Legends, there’s only one known Gungan Jedi: Kin-Ya Dosun, and one Sith: Kosa-Yin Hadu. Although the existence of a Gungan Sith makes the Darth Jar Jar conspiracy all the more enticing, there’s no evidence of him actually being Force-sensitive.
Still, he’s able to convincingly impersonate a Jedi in The Clone Wars TV show. Jar Jar rescues Padmé when she’s abducted on their diplomatic trip to Rodia by pretending to be a Jedi. Granted, Separatist battle droids aren’t exactly the brightest, but even Gunray is fooled by Jar Jar’s accidental disguise. Gunray even believes that Jar Jar summons a monster to help take down his forces.
7 He's Unusually Clumsy For A Gungan
Despite his stunning somersault that surely would have wowed the harshest judges, Jar Jar is incredibly clumsy when compared to his fellow Gungans. We first meet Jar Jar in The Phantom Menace as he’s scavenging for food in the Lianorm Swamp. As it turns out, he was actually banished from Otoh Gunga, home of the Gungans, because he’d crashed Boss Rugor Nass’s heyblibber submarine. It’s such a major offense that the “Nocombackie law” was put into effect, meaning Jar Jar would perish if he ever returned to Otoh Gunga.
While Jar Jar’s status as the most notorious Gungan might make you believe that all Gungans are as awkward as he is, it’s actually quite the opposite.
6 He had to work as a street performer after the prequel trilogy
After the intense backlash from fans and critics, Jar Jar’s roles in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith were greatly reduced, despite his being a major character in The Phantom Menace. His ultimate fate isn’t revealed until early 2017, when Aftermath: Empire’s End by Chuck Wendig was published.
After the events of the prequels, he becomes exiled once again and ends up performing on the streets of Theed. He’s largely unpopular, as the residents of Naboo think he knowingly helped the Empire. However, children adore him thanks to his performances. He’s clumsy, but still has enough dexterity to perform acts like juggling glombo shells, spitting out and catching fish, and even swallowing water before flushing it out through his ears.
5 He Has Cartilage Instead Of Hard Bone
The creative team ultimately scrapped the idea of elastic bones, for better or for worse. That being said, Jar Jar does retain the extreme flexibility that puts even the best human contortionists to shame. According to the official Star Wars Databank entry for Gungans, the amphibious species are able to bend their bodies at extraordinary angles because their bones are made of a cartilaginous material rather than normal, hard bones. Even their bills are flexible despite being hard enough to burrow for food.
Of course, while having cartilage all over grants them superior flexibility, it’s not the same as straight-up having elastic in lieu of hard bones. That's why we don’t see any Gungans changing shape entirely in any of the movies.
4 Michael Jackson Wanted The Role
We weren’t kidding when we said the '90s were a time and a half. According to Best, Michael Jackson apparently wanted to play Jar Jar Binks. Best says that Lucas revealed the information to him after they’d been to one of Jackson’s concerts, where Lucas had introduced Best to Jackson as “Jar Jar.” The singer wanted to do the role in prosthetics and makeup, much like his music video for “Thriller”. Lucas, on the other hand, was adamant about using CGI for the character.
Best adds that Lucas also might have preferred him over Jackson because of the singer’s immense fame. He’d already had a long and successful career as a musician, and his reputation could have eclipsed the movie itself.
3 Best Wore A Headpiece Throughout Filming
The use of CGI in the prequels has been widely criticized as tacky and poorly synced with the real-life actors. Yet kudos to Lucasfilm are still in order, since they opened the door for CGI-heavy movies like Avatar that would come years after.
Although Lucas insisted on Jar Jar being a completely computer-generated character, he did need extra help on set during the shoots. Best had to wear some costume pieces, including a headpiece with just the top of Jar Jar’s head sans ears, staring blankly into the middle distance. Best’s arms and torso were also covered up to simulate Gungan skin texture, and his eyes are covered up with darkened glasses that look like they came straight out of a '80s sci-fi movie.
2 He Also Impersonates Boss Lyonie
Jar Jar is apparently such a good actor that not only can he play a Jedi, he can also successfully impersonate a prominent Gungan. Boss Lyonie becomes the leader of the Gungans after Boss Nass, and is manipulated by the Separatists when Minister Rish Loo gives him a mind-control device.
Jar Jar's hidden talent is discovered by accident when he puts on Lyonie’s crown, and Padmé and Anakin realize that Jar Jar bears an uncanny resemblance to the Gungan ruler. As a result, Jar Jar goes undercover because the real Lyonie is injured, and disrupts Rish Loo’s plans to get a Gungan army to attack Theed with the Separatists. Grievous does eventually realize Jar Jar’s an imposter, but the Gungans soon thwart the Separatist plot.
1 He's Bilingual
By now you probably have Jar Jar’s voice stuck in your brain; a grating voice that spouts near nonsense and juvenile jokes. As it turns out, though, Jar Jar, like most Gungans, is actually bilingual. The Gungans have their own native language, but most choose to speak a dialect that mixes Gunganese with Galactic Basic. It allows them to communicate with other species much more easily.
Although it’s now part of the Star Wars Legends, there’s a real-life book called Galactic Phrase Book & Travel Guide that list several Gunganese words and phrases, if you’re interested in learning the language. There’s also a Gungan, Aro N’Cookkaala, who speaks fluent Basic in Last Shot by Daniel José Older.
Do you have any other trivia to share about Jar Jar Binks' anatomy in Star Wars? Let us know in the comments!