There are two Banthas down there but I don’t see any … wait a second, they’re Sandpeople all right. I can see one of them now.
– Luke, A New Hope
Today is the World Elephant Day so let us remember Mardji, the elephant who played the banthas in A New Hope.
Mardji was a trained Asian elephant born 1951 and died in November 1995 at the Marine World Africa USA, in California (now Six Flags Discovery Kingdom). Mardji played the banthas in A New Hope and stod model for how the AT-AT in The Empire Strikes Backs should move. Despite that Mardji was a trained elephant, she was not comfortable underneath the bantha disguise, and often tried to remove the wardrobe as cameras rolled.
Banthas is shaggy-furred creature with long, spiralling horn. On the desert world of Tatooine are banthas used as pack animals by Tusken Raiders.
The banthas in The Phantom Menace and the ones added in Special Edition was all computer-generated.
Although Tunisia served as the planet Tatooine for majority of the film, several second unit “pick-up” shots were done in Death Valley, California. The Bantha Canyon is supposed to be found 3.7 miles south of the 190 Highway on the road to Badwater in Death Valley, California.
AT-AT walker (All Terrain Armored Transport) is a four-legged transport and combat vehicle used by the Imperial ground forces.