How annoying is Jar Jar Binks? The comical, animated Gungan is so off-putting that even one of his creators says he found him hard to stomach at first.
The floppy-eared, loose-jointed creature who made his debut in "Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace" was an immediate hit with children, but many adults walked out of theaters loathing the character, who is on screen for 30 minutes.
Now comes word that even within the confines of George Lucas' Industrial Light & Magic, the visual-effects company that created animated characters for the movie, some of the people responsible for bringing the duck-billed alien to life recognized that he would alienate audiences.
At the recent Visual Effects Society seminar, "Phantom's" effects supervisor, Rob Coleman, was asked his reaction to the character. "When I read the script the first time, I had a reaction similar to what many of you had when you saw the movie," he said to laughs from the audience.
He said that Lucas told him, though, that he had designed Jar Jar to appeal to children ages 9 to 15, and the director was confident the target group would find the character appealing.
"I only had one audience member to please and that was George Lucas," Coleman said. "If he was happy with what we were doing with Jar Jar, then I was happy."
Some audience members have also complained that Jar jar, who speaks a Caribbean-flavored pidgin English and belongs to a race that fights with shields and stonelike energy balls, is an offensive racial caricature. His loose-limbed gait has been one target of criticism, with some people calling him an intergalactic Stepin Fetchit, but Coleman said Jar Jar walks the way he does because he is a sea-dwelling creature maneuvering on land.
Animators gave the character five different walks, he said, including one for walking on hot sand and another he termed "the Gungan shuffle."
As he worked on the character, Coleman said, Jar Jar began to grow on him. He's logged onto Internet newsgroups devoted to the character and found that fans who attend multiple viewings find Jar Jar less irritating with exposure. "People are giving him a second chance," he said. "On second viewing people understand him better."