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Up until this moment, Star Wars: The Last Jedi has been pushing itself on three important factors: kick-ass action, tense drama involving the Jedi Order and the adorable nature of Porgs. But, being that this is the Star Wars galaxy, there's no shortage of other creatures that could be the next belle of the ball. And we've just been given more information on one such creature, the one you see pictured at the top of this very story. Meet the Fatheirs, who are described as follows by creature workshop member Neal Scanlan:
Fathiers have the power and majestic quality that one might find in a male lion and also beauty in their equine aspects. They're racing creatures, with bets placed upon them, and are subjected to slightly cruel treatment. We knew any version of those in a wide shot would be CG but we produced a real-scale practical version for the first encounter with a Fathier, so it was able to look over the stable door and Finn could touch and act with it. They're amazing creatures.
Breaking down what we've just read, it sounds like there'd be no better place for Star Wars: The Last Jedi to introduce the Fathiers than on Canto Bight. A planet known for its casinos and affluent clientele, such an athletic creature would obviously be used for all sorts of games of sport. Though there's also been whispers of these lion/horse creatures providing returning hero Finn and his new partner in The Resistance, Rose, a means of escaping danger on the planet's surface. With both purposes in mind, it's easy to see why a blend of CG and practical models would be required.
Though besides the story-driven reasons that Fathiers would occupy both sides of the special effects spectrum, there's another reason why this is so important to Star Wars: The Last Jedi: tradition. Ever since J.J. Abrams resurrected the series with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, there's been a push for more integration of practical effects, as well as practical film-making. With actual film being used once again in the Star Wars franchise, memories of the classic trilogy's more model-driven spectacle aren't hard to come by. Not to mention, having physical effects just looks cooler.
With Neal Scanlan's remarks to Empire Online suggesting that the practical half of the Fathiers is more utilized in the introduction of the creatures, that first impression is going to make all of the difference when it comes to selling the audience on this new animal of action. All it takes is the right iconic debut, and the Fathiers could make the Porgs look like Ewoks. Though, as we've seen in the past, the same approach has been used on the internet's new favorite Star Wars: The Last Jedi creation, so the race is still on to see who has the best plushie sales by the end of the year.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi rides into theaters on the backs of Fathiers and Porgs alike on December 15.