FAIRVIEW – There are “Star Wars” fans and then there is David Snodgrass.
The 46-year-old from Fairview recently finished building an 8-and-a-half-foot long model of Jabba the Hutt’s sail barge from the movie “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.”
In the 1983 film, the Khetanna was a luxury, 30-meter sail barge owned by one of the galaxy’s most powerful gangsters, Jabba the Hutt. Complete with three decks, it carried a massive transport of up to 500 passengers and 26 crewmembers.
It took Snodgrass three years to build his version of the ship using wood, screws, nails and adhesive. He studied scenes from the movie, as well as pictures and blueprints he found online, and relied on carpentry skills learned from his father and grandfather to bring it all to life.
But it wasn’t easy, Snodgrass said. Throughout the build, he made many trips to hardware and craft stores to find the right materials and experimented with many different adhesives. He also had to get creative in bending the wood to make the ship’s unique shape.
“Some days I wanted to pull my hair out and drink a bunch of beer because of the stress,” he said.
The hardest part, Snodgrass said, was making shutters for the ship’s 88 exterior windows. Each shutter is attached to the ship by a hinge, which allows it to open and close. He also filed down the slats on each of the shutters by hand in order to make them look as close to the ship in the movie as possible.
Aside from the overall size, one of the coolest features of Snodgrass’ model is the exhaust on the back, which glows red from the Christmas lights he installed inside. He also tricked out the ship’s interior with rooms, hallways, stairs, an elevator and a cockpit.
It may seem like a lot of work, but for Snodgrass, building Jabba’s sail barge was a passion project. He grew up with the “Star Wars” franchise and remembers collecting all the toys. Snodgrass said he loved the costumes, the characters, the ships and just the overall world in which “Star Wars” takes place.
“In the 80s, like a million other kids, ‘Star Wars’ was it,” Snodgrass said. “It was just fascinating. At the time, it was the best movie I had ever seen and they had the toys and you could bring them home and it just brought it to life. If it wasn’t for the toys, I don’t think I would have liked it as much.”
The Kenner toy company produced a line of “Star Wars” action figures based on characters in the original “Star Wars” movie trilogy. Over 100 unique action figures and accessories were produced and sold from 1978 to 1985, but never Jabba’s sail barge, which Snodgrass said bothered collectors and diehard fans.
When Hasbro bought Kenner in 1991, fans thought maybe they’d finally get their hands on the ship Jabba used to cruise across the Dune Sea on the desert planet Tatooine, but no.
“It’s too detailed, too big and would be too expensive to sell in stores,” Snodgrass said. “I thought, if I want this, I’m going to have to do it myself.”
Roughly two years into the project, Hasbro launched HasLab, a crowdfunding platform to bring dream products into the hands of fans. Of course, one of the first campaigns was for Hasbro to finally build Jabba’s sail barge. The company needed at least 5,000 people to pre-order the $499.99, 4-foot-long model in order to put it into production. The campaign surpassed that goal and the model was shipped to pledged backers in February, making it the largest Hasbro “Star Wars” product ever created.
Still, Snodgrass said it’s not as big as his.
“Mine blows theirs out of the water,” he said.
In addition to Jabba’s sail barge, Snodgrass also made two Tatooine skiffs from “Return of the Jedi.” He’s currently making paintings of the Jedi council chamber floor and plans to build a sandcrawler next. Sandcrawlers are huge treaded fortresses used by Jawas as transportation and shelter on Tatooine. The vehicle makes appearances in the movies “A New Hope,” “Attack of the Clones” and “The Phantom Menace.”
So far, Snodgrass has cut out a prototype of his sandcrawler from foam board. It measures 75 inches long, 35 inches high and 24 inches wide. He said he plans to make five finished models, four of which he’s going to sell.
Most of his models are from earlier movies in the “Star Wars” collection, but that doesn’t mean he’s stuck in the past. He’s a fan of the newer movies, too, like “Rogue One” and “Solo,” which were both spinoffs of the franchise. He also enjoyed “The Force Awakens” and is excited to see “The Rise of Skywalker,” which hits theaters Dec. 20.
“I’m glad they have a girl lead role because now you have all these little girls dressed up for Halloween as Rey,” Snodgrass said. “I think it’s good to have a strong female role.”