The above is an image of George Lucas and his beloved Alaskan malamute Indiana, circa 1974. There are countless lists online pointing toward the most celebrated dogs in pop-culture history, from Snoopy to Benji to Lassie to Beethoven. But none of these lists mention Indiana, a dog whose impact was probably felt more than any of these other pooches over the years. That's because Indiana not only inspired the name Indiana Jones, but also Han Solo's sidekick Chewbacca in the Star Wars movies.
Indiana was always the nickname for Henry "Indiana" Jones Jr., who originally went by the name Indiana Smith. Steven Spielberg wasn't crazy about the last name Smith because it was too close to the 1966 Western Nevada Smith, and so the creative duo went looking for another generic last name, eventually settling on Jones. In the third Indiana Jones movie, The Last Crusade, they had a little fun with this bit of trivia by including a hilarious anecdote between Indy and his dad, played by Sean Connery.
As for Chewbacca, Lucas got the germ of an idea for Chewbacca after seeing his dog Indiana sitting up in the passenger seat of his car. Lucas has said that his wife at the time, Marcia Griffin (who, funnily enough, was actually the dog's owner, not George), was upset he didn't give their dog Indiana a cameo in his 1973 film American Graffiti. There was a part for a dog, but Lucas wanted a white dog instead of a dog with black-and-white fur. To make up for the Graffiti snub, he promised his wife he'd honor the spirit of the dog in Star Wars, which is how the Wookiee came to be.
Naturally the look and role of Chewbacca continually evolved during the creative process. Here's some Ralph McQuarrie conceptual art that shows what early versions of Han Solo's copilot (and best friend) looked like.
After Indiana Jones and Chewbacca, Lucas may have been done honoring his old dog, but he wasn't finished naming characters after the animal. In fact, the character Short Round, who plays Indiana Jones' sidekick in Temple of Doom, was named after the dog of the film's screenwriter, Willard Huyck.
So move over Lassie, it's time we start honoring Indiana for the role he played in creating two of our all-time favorite movie characters.
[hat tip to @mccrabb_will]
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