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There are die-hard fans of the Star Wars movie universe and then there’s Christina Smith.
The 27-year-old Hampshire woman spent two weeks late last year building a life-size replica of a tauntaun, the fictional non-sentient lizard creature featured in The Empire Strikes Back, which was released in 1980 and now it's up for sale.
Nicknamed Won Tauntaun, this creation measures eight feet in height and 10 feet in length.
In the movie, the tauntauns were used by members of the Rebel Alliance after they domesticated some of them when they built their new headquarters on the planet Hoth.
“When I was little, I was so in love with everything that had to do with the original Star Wars (movies)," Smith said, referring to the original Skywalker trilogy that also included 1977’s Star Wars: A New Hope and 1983’s Return of the Jedi.
What are tauntauns?
Tauntauns are a species of snow lizard found roaming the windswept snow plains of Hoth. The Rebel Alliance domesticated the swift creature during their stay on the ice planet, and used the animals for patrol duties outside Echo Base. The animals came in useful as the Rebel technicians had difficulty adapting their repulsorlift speeders to the subzero temperatures. Though tauntauns are sure-footed and well equipped to handle Hoth's daytime temperature, the chilling extremes of a Hoth night will prove deadly.
Smith was fascinated by the costumes the characters wore then and remains enthralled with the universe to this day.
She and her boyfriend, Evan Currie, are members of the 501st Legion, an international fan-based organization dedicated to the construction and wearing of screen-accurate replicas of Imperial Stormtroopers armour, Sith Lords, Clone Troopers, bounty hunters and other villains from the Star Wars universe.
Smith said she didn’t just want to build a life-size tauntaun but she wanted it to be sturdy enough that she could actually sit on it.
She describes the process of how it came together.
“I used to do cake decorating so I’d imagine it ahead of time and just build it and sculpt it because I’ve got a sculpting hand."
Following is information about the 501st Legion:
- Since 1997, the costuming organization has spread the magic of the Star Wars genre worldwide through its authentic-looking costumes and has become the leading force in fan-based charity events.
- It is also known as Vader’s Fist (after the movie’s villain Darth Vader) and is dedicated to brightening the lives of the less-fortunate.
- The name was chosen to represent a fictional unit of Imperial Stormtroopers. With the approval of Lucasfilm, the 501st Legion was incorporated into a Star Wars novel.
- There are local chapters. Go atlanticgarrison.com.
One of Smith’s friends helped weld a steel frame for her and she took care of the rest.
To fill out the inside of the creature, she used 200 pounds of poly-fil and foam.
To recreate the fur on the outside, Smith’s father got his hands on some dense packing foam.
She and Currie then went to work on the head, meticulously creating the eyes and a 3D image that would stand for the face.
They used ram horns to complete the look.
Currie said Smith did almost all of the work and it didn’t take her long.
“In actual work, it probably took us a couple of weeks because she procrastinates," Currie laughed.
“Prepping the materials and just gathering everything you need takes a while."
Smith plans to sell it to another legion member and use the money to build another tauntaun replica — but the new one will be a major upgrade.
“I want to make the next one fully animatronic so it will snort on people; it will move and react to people. That’s what I want."
Smith realizes people simply won’t get why she did this.
“My dad was like, ‘Why is this in my garage? Why are you building this?’ I said, ‘Because I love it, I want to do it and I know I can do it’."
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