If you’re a Star Wars fan in the least, you’ve already seen everything about Porgs. Even if you haven’t gotten to see the movie yet because of your crazy schedule, you’ve seen them online! It’s a spoiler (sort of) that you just can’t seem to escape. Because most people find these new creatures in the Star Wars universe absolutely adorable.
With the knowledge that they’re CGI’d puffins, you’re really being told nothing new. That story came out a few days ago now with every tech, sci-fi, and Hollywood blog or news source talking about it. So why is FemSTEM hoping on the bandwagon of talking about how the Porgs in Star Wars: The Last Jedi are really just puffins?
Because it gives us an excuse to talk about puffins. And that’s good enough for us.
A dilemma came to the team working on Star Wars: The Last Jedi when they just couldn’t seem to shoo away the puffins that were inevitably on their filming location of Skellig Michael, an island off the coast of Ireland. Atlantic Puffins — one of the three sub-species of puffin, and the most commonly known of the three — is native to this area. In fact, it’s the only kind of puffin that resides in the Atlantic area at all. Their range goes from the very north of the United States of America, Canada, to Iceland, all the way to the British Isles and even further, and that includes Skelling Michael.
“[Skelling Michael is] a wildlife preserve and everywhere you look there are hundreds of birds dotted around the landscape,” Said Lunt Davies, a concept artist for the series, as he spoke to the folks over at collider.com. “From what I gathered, Rian [Johnson] (the director of the film), in a positive spin on this, was looking at how can he work with this. You can’t remove them. You physically can’t get rid of them. And digitally removing them is an issue and a lot of work, so let’s just roll with it, play with it. And so I think he thought, ‘Well, that’s great, let’s have our own indigenous species’ We’d already started work on the Caretakers, which again was a brief from Rian. We’d just been told ‘puffin people.’ Yeah, there was going to be this race of people and puffins again were a source of inspiration for Rian.”
But it wasn’t only the fact that puffins happen to be native to the island. Puffins are very social birds, and they breed in large colonies. While Iceland is 60% of the world’s Atlantic Puffins are, the fact that their colonies of families are so large is what presented some of the issues the filmmakers had.
Not to mention, they’re decently large birds. Their wingspan can be more than 2 feet in length, and it stands 8 inches high when it’s on the land.
It’s really no wonder that the filmmakers had to CGI the birds into something, rather than trying to digitally remove them. It could have been possible, but the resulting Porg creature that the filmmakers came up with instead will certainly help boost toy sales.
These Porgs May Be Something Good For Puffins, Too
Atlantic puffins themselves are vulnerable according to the Red List. Which could actually put the creation of the Porg in an interesting position. The popularity that has sparked since the premiere of Star Wars: The Last Jedi could have a positive spin as far as the conservation of these animals go.
The Atlantic puffins were of Least Concern until 2015, when the Red List put them under the category of Vulnerable. They haven’t changed categories since then, which is a good thing in a way, because at least the situation hasn’t become much worse for the Atlantic Puffin.
It’s entirely possible, though, that the filmmakers could have unintentionally brought awareness to the Atlantic Puffin via this creature that they whipped up pretty much on the spot.
People tend to show more awareness to nature when it’s brought into their face in the form of something that they can get excited about. And Porgs have quickly taken the sci-fi world and internet by storm. If these creatures can bring more awareness to the Puffin, we may be able seeing the Atlantic Puffin go from ‘vulnerable’ to ‘least concern’ in the upcoming years as a result. More awareness means that more people will care about their well-being.
Is a sci-fi flick the best way to bring about positive change for a species? That is debatable, but the fact of the matter is, it could at the very least, get people talking about these vulnerable birds, which it already has.