It’s hard to believe, but a year ago only a select few people knew what a porg was.
Now the puffin-inspired creatures from The Last Jedi are literally almost everywhere. You can find porg t-shirts, toys, keychains, and even tattoos in a store or on social media without even looking for them.
The creators of The Last Jedi kept a lot of secrets from Star Wars fans in the months before the film premiered in mid-December, but porgs were not one of them. It’s fair to say that some people will always equate the existence of porgs to just a merchandising opportunity for Disney. And yes, I’m sure Disney made a lot of money selling porg merch. But there’s more to porgs than toys.
Rian Johnson revealed in interviews that porgs were inspired by the puffins that were pervasive in Skellig Michael (the island that stood in for Ahch-to). To avoid spending time and money to digitally erase the pesky puffins, the idea of porgs was born. The porgs would also serve to inject some cuteness and humor into a movie that was going to be much darker than The Force Awakens.
Here’s a look at how porgs were introduced to Star Wars fans and how quickly that love developed.
Porgs were nowhere to be found in the teaser trailer for The Last Jedi that released mid-April 2017. The first official porg debut came via a Behind-the-Scenes Reel that was released mid-July at D23.
Just a quick shot of this cute little guy was all fans needed to start their porg love affair. Master Star Wars photoshopper/Zuvio champion Heath Williams came up with his first porg image shortly after this reel was released.
Star Wars didn’t leave fans hanging for long about who these creatures were or where they would be found in the movie. A few days after the Behind-the-Scenes Reel debuted, the official Star Wars site gave fans a whole post about porgs, which included this adorable porg concept art from Jake Lunt Davies.
At San Diego Comic Con in June several The Last Jedi books were announced including Chewie and the Porgs.
As if porgs needed help winning over the hearts of the world, porgs were now directly attached to one of the most beloved Star Wars characters of all-time: Chewbacca. I suppose you could argue this connection was hinted at with the image of Chewie with a white feather in his mouth in an image from the Behind-the-Scenes Reel, but that’s getting ahead of the story.
Around this time, porg memes had borderline taken over social media, so much so that several round-up articles like this one from Nerdist appeared (it’s fantastic, check it out). Everything is indeed a little bit better with a porg involved. Porg memes were also getting a bit fancier as time went on.
Porg mania kicked into overdrive on Oct 9th when the first trailer to The Last Jedi included a shot of Chewie and a porg inside the Millenium Falcon. This time we didn’t just see a porg, we heard it make the cutest squawking noise you can imagine.
If you look back and watch this trailer, the porg moment is the first moment of levity, a chance for Star Wars fans to breathe, just breathe. There was so much fan speculation and build up to The Last Jedi, a movie that Johnson knew was literally not what people were going to be expecting, that some moments of laughter were definitely needed for audiences. How brilliant to spotlight the hard-to-not-fall-in-love-with-on-sight porgs to churn up good feelings in fans who were anxiously watching the trailer on a loop, trying to figure out what Luke, Rey, Snoke, Poe, and Kylo were up to.
The official Star Wars site revealed some of Force Friday II’s merchandise at the end of August. And yes, porgs were all over this post. Soon porg-filled pictures like the one here started popping up all over social media. Clearly some fans were developing a bit of a porg-problem.
For the first dozen or so The Last Jedi TV spots, the same porg clip appeared from the trailer (if they used a porg scene at all). Some of the later TV spots, however, debuted new scenes with porgs. We saw Chewie pushing a porg off the dashboard of the Millennium Falcon.
And a porg that was desperately in need of a seatbelt.
Interestingly, none of the shots of porgs in these TV spots showed them in their natural habitat on Acht-To.
When The Last Jedi debuted I think many fans would agree that the porgs did not disappoint. I’m guessing porg merchandise will sell well for quite some time, even if the cute little critters don’t appear in future Star Wars films. It’s also possible porg love might have an effect on real-world life forms.
This article from Vox mentions a term called “charismatic minifauna,” which basically describes the phenomenon of humans falling in love with cute, small animals. In the article Katie Smith, a PhD candidate in ecology at UC Davis said, “It’s well understood (and obvious from the selective breeding of our pets) that humans are attracted to juvenile characteristics such as large eyes and a disproportionately large head, two characteristics that are especially prominent in the porg.”
We’ve all seen this and experienced these emotions in the movies. Especially the eyes part.
What I found fascinating reading this article (which is definitely worth a click) is the idea that a human falling in love with a fictional creature may potentially have a positive snowball effect for real animals. If humans fall in love with porgs, perhaps they will start caring more about their real-life inspiration, puffins, and will want to help protect them. The puffin-filled island from The Last Jedi, Skellig Michael, is a protected World Heritage site, but not all puffin habitats are so lucky. In fact, puffins were declared globally endangered just last year.
So if you love porgs (and what kind of monster are you if you don’t?) perhaps after you buy (another) porg purse or porg pajamas, you will consider taking a few minutes to send a donation to an organization that is helping to protect puffins, such as the Audubon Project Puffin.
May the porgs (and puffins) be with you. Always.