On May 20th, Candace Payne became an overnight sensation when she used Facebook’s new streaming video feature Live to show her excitement at buying herself a birthday present that brought her so much joy… a Chewbacca mask. The electronic toy sounds like the famous Wookiee from the Star Wars films; it growls and snarls when the wearer opens their own mouth. The most-watched video on Facebook Live has garnered a lot of interest from collectors, fans, and people amused by Candace’s video.
Take a look at the team from Tech Insider as they try the mask out for themselves:
— Alyson Shontell (@ajs) May 20, 2016
The Chewbacca mask is not some new toy to snatch up for the holiday season. It wasn’t even a popular toy until this viral video. The mask has been available since Fall 2015, prior to the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Apparently they’ve been sitting collecting dust on some store shelves as it was over 6 months after the mask debuted that Candace made the video which brought this creation to the mainstream.
Tech Insider met with Hasbro product design manager Bill Rawley at the company’s headquarters in Pawtucket, Rhode Island to learn about the creation of this famous mask. Rawley oversees all of Hasbro’s Star Wars products. He has worked on numerous film-related items, such as lightsabers, action figures, helmets, and obviously masks.
The creative teams for this project, each made up of dozens of designers, engineers and sculptors, worked directly with LucasFilm to maintain accuracy and authenticity. They did, however, run into a couple of obstacles. Rawley explained that the sculpting of the Chewbacca’s mask frame was a challenge, and getting the right color to use in order to achieve a true likeness of the character.
“Capturing the sculpt was a little challenging because we work with our vendors over in China that don’t necessarily know or aren’t as familiar with Chewbacca,” stated Rawley. “But we thankfully have an expert sculpting team here in Rhode Island that was able to take our first pass at sculpts from our China vendors and our partners out there and they were able to tweak it.”
Rawley says the airbrushing method they used for the paint job did pose some slight problems.
“When you manufacture and you’re making multiple masks, you want each one to match and be exactly the same,” he explained. “So we had a little bit of a back and forth with our vendors out in China to make sure that we can get a consistent, good paint job on the mask, something that looked very close to what Chewie actually is in the movie. It’s difficult trying to make a hard plastic version of a soft, furry guy, but it worked out well.”
What really makes this mask so spectacular is the authentic roars instantly recognizable as those of Peter Mayhew, who played Chewie in several films. Rawley explains the extensive process of bringing Chewbacca’s sounds to life:
“We actually get the files from Lucasfilm,” said Rawley. “So they’re the actual roars that Chewie uses in the movie and that they use for all their entertainment. We have a fantastic in-house sound engineering group that is able to take those professional sounds and then tweak them so that they still sound right coming out of toy production speakers that we put in our manufactured product,” Rawley adds. “If it’s not just right, even though it’s the correct sound, it just won’t sound right, and they’re able to tweak that to make sure it sounds fantastic.”
The viral video of their Star Wars creation validated the work they do at Hasbro and gave everyone a real sense of price in their work.
“It’s about time because I’ve known how amazing this mask is for awhile now,” Rawley said jokingly. “No, no. It’s fantastic … It makes you feel good as a designer because that’s what you’re really working for. We’re all here because we were inspired by toys we played with when we were kids and here you are making an impact on somebody else’s life. That’s a payment in itself right there. Yeah, we get paid, but when you see that genuine love of a product that you’re working on, it makes you come back the next day. Not that it’s hard anyway.”
Hasbro confirmed in a statement that the video “sparked significant interest” in the product and that the company is now working overtime in order to meet demand from retailers who want to stock it on their shelves. It is currently one of the best selling Star Wars toys at Toys ‘R Us, Amazon sellers have prices on them jacked up, and Wal-Mart’s website states they are Out of Stock.
Rawley is currently working on the next line of toys for the next Star Wars film movie “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” which hits theaters this December. Expect for the toys to be released this coming fall. Rawley has also been tapped to produce toys for “Star Wars: Episode VIII” which will be in theaters December 2017.
Credit: Tech Insider