The final season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars takes us to several new worlds and re-visits a few familiar ones. All have something unique to offer in terms of wildlife, but the unfinished “Crystal Crisis on Utapau” story arc provides us with the largest menagerie of fantastic creatures that are new to the series. Are you ready for one last monster safari?
When the climate changed drastically, Kamino’s ice caps melted and flooded the planet. The Kaminoans used their cloning technology to adapt both themselves and other creatures to the new environmental conditions. They transversed their watery world with the aid of one of these biological curiosities: flying aquatic creatures called aiwhas. In “Fugitive” (S603), we see teams flying atop aiwhas as they search for the rogue clone trooper, Fives.
These large “air whales” have tried to fly their way into the saga since The Empire Strikes Back. Originally, they were designed by artist Ralph McQuarrie for flight on Bespin, but were put off due to budget limitations, and again when they were considered for Return of the Jedi. Artist Terryl Whitlatch reimagined them for The Phantom Menace as Gungan mounts on Naboo, but they were eventually cut when the Gungan battle was rooted firmly on the ground instead of the skies. Aiwhas finally found their way into Attack of the Clones.
Pikobis are flightless reptavians (creatures with both reptile and bird characteristics) found on a variety of worlds, including Naboo, Onderon, Coruscant, Oba Diah, and Dagobah. These social animals have webbed feet that make them excellent swimmers, and they move quickly on both land and water as they peck for food with long, beak-like mouths (baby nunas are a favorite meal). Their long tails help them to keep balance as they run, though they can cast off tails to distract Tookas and other predators.
In “The Lost One” (S610), we find pikobis feeding on chubby little worms in the Pyke Syndicate’s prison on Oba Diah. Later Yoda encounters them on Dagobah in “Voices” (S611).
Like much of Naboo’s amazing wildlife, pikobis were designed by Terryl Whitlatch. Lucasfilm Animation artist Darren Marshall adapted the scaled-down pikobis seen on Coruscant in “The Jedi Who Knew Too Much” (S508), and variations found in later episodes.
In the canopies of Dagobah, reptavian bogwings fly above the swamps, hunting rodents and other small creatures. Their screeches can be heard across the bogs, as they join each other in flights and then congregate on the ground in large numbers. They are excellent fliers from the moment they are born. (Their mothers give birth to them while they are still in mid-flight!) There are several species of bogwings. The largest are the dominant predators in Dagobah’s skies and can be quite dangerous. Similar species have been seen on Nal Hutta, Aleen, Zygerria, and Kadavo. Yoda startles a group of bogwings on his first arrival to Dagobah in “Voices” (S611).
Bogwings were first created as practical puppets and seen in flight on Dagobah in The Empire Strikes Back. A bogwing has been released in toy form via Kenner’s 1998 “Complete Galaxy” line. It was part of a mini Dagobah diorama that was included with a Yoda figure.
Trusty varactyls are raised by the residents of Utapau and used for transportation in their sinkhole cities. The adhesive pads on their feet allow these reptavians to cling to the walls of caverns and passageways. Varactyls are an exciting ride, moving as fast as 330km/hr (205 miles/hr)!
We first meet these intelligent vegetarians in Revenge of the Sith, when Obi-Wan rides a varactyl named Boga while chasing General Grievous towards their fateful duel. We come across varactlys again (though earlier in the historical timeline) in “Crystal Crisis.” This time it is Grievous chasing Obi-Wan and Anakin, as they come upon a breeding colony of varactyls in the lower tunnels of Utapau.
The original varactyl was created at the request of George Lucas, and inspired by a 1993 Topps trading card (#136) drawn by the late Al Williamson. The card depicts a sandtrooper seated upon a large green reptile, which resembles a cross between a dewback and a varactyl. The creature went through numerous macquette and sketch revisions before evolving into the film version we see in Revenge of the Sith. Boga has inspired rare Hasbro and LEGO versions — both highly sought-after by collectors.
Once fierce predators that fed upon the indigenous Pau’ans and Utai (and varactyl eggs), the flying dactillions were eventually tamed and used as a primary form of transport on Utapau. Obi-Wan and Anakin use them extensively to travel around the planet during their investigation of the “Crystal Crisis.” Dactillions also became important players in the eventual battle with the Separatist droid armies. Though they lack any sort of protective armor, their powerful claws and horned beak easily dispatch flimsy battle droids.
Dactillions were originally designed as a mount for Jedi Ki-Adi-Mundi in Revenge of the Sith by Lucasfilm artists that included Michael Patrick Murnane. Eventually, the creatures were relegated to the background in the movie. Amy Beth Christenson adapted dactillions for The Clone Wars, where they became an important element in the episodes “A Death on Utapau,” “In Search of the Crystal,” and “Crystal Crisis.”
The nos monster is a fearsome eight-meter (26ft) tall beast that dwells in the lakes and rivers of Utapau’s sinkhole caverns. Their four, paddle-like limbs and tail are ideally suited to their aquatic lifestyle. Their large green eyes help them see in dark, murky waters, and their transparent eyelids protect them when they dive especially deep.
As Anakin and Obi-Wan make their way through Utapau’s karsts in “A Death on Utapau,” they are ambushed by one of these voracious predators. The Jedi only survive the attack thanks to Anakin’s lightsaber, thrust through the monster’s tentacled head.
The nos monster was developed by a team of Lucasfilm artists including Michael Patrick Murnane and Iain McCaig, for a deleted Revenge of the Sith scene on Utapau. In the novelization, Obi-Wan encounters a mother nos with its young in a cave. The creature was adapted for a similar context in The Clone Wars by artist David Le Merrer.
“Large Utapau Beasts”
When Anakin and Obi-Wan look for transport outside an Amani village in “Crystal Crisis,” they encounter a heard of giant gray, grass-eating beasts. These simple-minded brutes are plated in armor on their dorsal side to protect themselves from predator attacks from above. They appear to be relatively docile creatures and are likely raised by the Amani for food and their skins, which may be used to make village tents.
These beasts were designed by Lucasfilm Animation artist Andre Kirk and based on sketches by Dave Filoni. They are the only on-screen creatures in The Clone Wars that have yet to receive an official species name.
The jamel was designed by Lucasfilm artist Pat Presley. With tall, spindly legs, a large hump and a drawn-out face, it isn’t hard to figure out the inspiration behind the jamel. These friendly animals are used by the Amani of Utapau as beasts of burden. Obi-Wan and Anakin encounter the awkward creature outside an Amani camp, and eventually use it to tow a giant Kyber crystal in “Crystal Crisis.”
Which monsters of The Clone Wars were your favorites? Which one would you choose to ride across an alien landscape? Which beast terrifies you the most? Which would you like to have as a pet….or a steak sizzling on your weekend BBQ? Share your answers in the comments below!
Author of DK’s Star Wars: What Makes a Monster? and co-author of Ultimate Star Wars and the upcoming Star Wars: Absolutely Everything You Need to Know, follow Adam Bray on Twitter at @authoradambray.