Admiral Ackbar

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Gial Ackbar
Star Wars character
Admiral Ackbar in Return of the Jedi (1983)
First appearance
Last appearance
Created byGeorge Lucas
Lawrence Kasdan
Portrayed byTim Rose (Episode VI-VIII)
Voiced by
SpeciesMon Calamari
TitleFleet Admiral
OccupationSupreme Commander of the Alliance Fleet
AffiliationRebel Alliance
New Republic

Fleet Admiral Gial Ackbar is a fictional character in the Star Wars franchise. A member of the amphibious Mon Calamari species, Ackbar was the foremost military commander of the Rebel Alliance, leading a small underequipped navy. Ackbar's tactical flexibility and military intelligence aided the Alliance's major combat operations against the Galactic Empire. Ackbar played a supporting role in the 1983 film Return of the Jedi, and later became a prominent character in the novels, comic books and other media of the Star Wars expanded universe.

With his distinctive fish-like skin, high-domed head, and large fish-like eyes, Ackbar was realized in Return of the Jedi through the use of a half-body puppet and slip-on mask, depending on the camera angles used. He was portrayed in the film by puppeteer Timothy D. Rose, who asked to play the part after he was impressed with a sculpt of the puppet. Ackbar was voiced by Erik Bauersfeld, who made up the voice he believed matched the character after looking at a photo of Ackbar.

His famous line "It's a trap!", which he says during a scene in Return of the Jedi, has become a popular Internet meme.[1] Ackbar's first name, Gial, was not established until the April 2012 release of the Star Wars reference book The Essential Guide to Warfare.


Admiral Ackbar was designed for the film Return of the Jedi, the final entry in the original Star Wars trilogy. However, before the May 1983 debut of that film, the character made his first chronological appearance in a series of Star Wars newspaper comic strips by Archie Goodwin and Al Williamson. There he was portrayed as the leader of the alien species Mon Calamari, who were allies of the Rebel Alliance in their conflict with the Galactic Empire.[2] The Mon Calamari are a species of fish-like, amphibious humanoids with salmon-colored skin, webbed hands, high-domed heads, and large fish-like eyes.[3][4] Ackbar's back story was not explained in Return of the Jedi, but has since been established in Star Wars books and other media since the film was released.

Ackbar is from the planet Mon Calamari, a world almost entirely covered by water, where his species built giant floating cities.[5] Ackbar is the leader of his home town, Coral Depths City, when forces from the Galactic Empire invade and almost destroy the planet.[6] Despite the Mon Calamari's attempts to make peace, the Imperial forces destroy several of their cities, steal their technology, and enslave its population.[5] Ackbar is one of the first to be enslaved, and is eventually presented as an interpreter and personal servant to Grand Moff Tarkin.[6] During this time Ackbar learns much about both the Empire and military tactics in general, and also learns of both the Rebel Alliance and the Death Star, a moon-sized superweapon Tarkin is developing.[6][7]

Ackbar is freed from captivity during a failed attempt by Rebel forces to capture Tarkin. Afterward he joins the Rebel Alliance and helps convince his people to support the cause, playing an integral part in persuading them to contribute their massive starships, the Mon Calamari cruisers, to the Rebel Alliance.[6] Starting with the rank of Commander, Ackbar helps design the B-wing, a powerful line of starfighters, which prompt Rebel leader Mon Mothma to promote him to admiral.[8] Following events in the film Star Wars, including the destruction of the Death Star, Ackbar helps the other Rebel leaders establish new bases of operation and manage a Rebel mobile task force in starships spread across the galaxy.[9] He rises up the ranks until Mothma promotes him to commander of the entire Rebel fleet and head of military operations, as well as one of her top advisers.[7]


Return of the Jedi[edit]

When Rebel spies discover plans for a partially constructed second Death Star, Ackbar and Mon Mothma plan a surprise assault on the battle station as it orbits the forest moon of Endor. The attack, known as the Battle of Endor, involves General Han Solo leading a strike team on the moon's surface to destroy the Death Star's energy shield generator, while Ackbar and General Lando Calrissian lead a space battle against the station itself.[10] Ackbar personally leads the assault from his flagship, the Mon Calamari cruiser Home One.[11] The attack does not go as planned, however, because Emperor Palpatine was expecting the assault and had in fact allowed the Death Star plans to fall into Rebel hands to lead them into a trap. On Palpatine's order, Imperial forces launch a massive counterattack against the Rebel fleet with TIE starfighters and Star Destroyer capital ships.[12] Ackbar initially calls for a tactical retreat, but Calrissian convinces him to move forward with the attack. The Rebel forces suffer heavy casualties, but ultimately succeed in destroying the Death Star and defeating the Empire.[8]

The Force Awakens[edit]

Admiral Ackbar appears in Star Wars: The Force Awakens at the headquarters of the Resistance and helps Rey find Luke Skywalker. He helps construct the plan to destroy the First Order's new superweapon, Starkiller Base.[13]

The Last Jedi[edit]

Rose reprised his role as Admiral Ackbar in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the second installment of the sequel trilogy while his voice was provided by Tom Kane.[14] In the film, Ackbar aids the rest of the Resistance in evacuating their base on D'Qar. He orders the ships to jump to hyperspace to escape the First Order. The First Order fleet pursues the Resistance, who then send out Kylo Ren and two other pilots out to stop the resistance. Ren begins to fire, but hesitates, the two other Tie fighters fire on the main bridge, causing all occupants, including Ackbar, to be blown out into space and killed, leaving General Leia Organa as the sole survivor.


The Clone Wars[edit]

In the fourth season of the 2008 animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Ackbar is captain of the royal army of Mon Calamari. After the planet's king is assassinated, the Mon Calamari and the Quarren, another of the planet's races, argue about who should be the next king. Ackbar is meant to protect the prince of Mon Calamari, Lee Char, as a battle for the planet begins, led by the Separatist commander Riff Tamson. The battle is lost, however, even with the assistance of the Jedi Ahsoka Tano, Anakin Skywalker, and Kit Fisto. Ackbar is captured, leaving Ahsoka and Char to fend for themselves. However, after learning that Tamson plans to forcibly make himself the new king, the Quarren betray the Separatists at Char's public execution. Afterwards, Ackbar is freed and a battle ensues to retake the planet. Tamson is killed by Lee Char, who is crowned as the new king.

Expanded Universe[edit]

Although his role in Return of the Jedi was relatively brief, Admiral Ackbar became a prominent character in the Star Wars expanded universe, which encompasses all licensed stories in the Star Wars universe outside of the nine main feature films, such as novels, comic books, video games and television shows.[4]

Star Wars: Battlefront[edit]

Admiral Ackbar appears in the "Battle of Jakku" DLC in Star Wars: Battlefront, set after Return of the Jedi.


With the 2012 acquisition of Lucasfilm by The Walt Disney Company, most of the licensed Star Wars novels and comics produced since the originating 1977 film Star Wars were rebranded as Star Wars Legends and declared non-canon to the franchise in April 2014.[15][16][17]

In the Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game by West End Games, Ackbar was once a slave/servant to Grand Moff Tarkin. Since Tarkin frequently discussed his plans openly, Ackbar gained a deep knowledge of Imperial tactics. While Ackbar was piloting Tarkin to the Death Star, their shuttle came under attack by Rebels. An Imperial Star Destroyer arrived and rescued Tarkin, while Ackbar was left behind and joined the Rebel Alliance. Ackbar then led a rebellion against Imperial rule on his home planet Dac, introduced the Mon Calamari Star Cruisers to the Alliance fleet, and developed the B-wing heavy assault starfighter to counter the Empire's Nebulon-B frigates.[18]

In the Star Wars novels written between 1991 and 1998, Ackbar is a signatory on the formal declaration of the New Republic, the government which replaces the Empire, and is one of nine individuals to join the New Republic Provisional Council, the governing body of this new form of government.[19] Ackbar retired before the beginning of The New Jedi Order series, but comes out of retirement to help fight the Yuuzhan Vong.[2] It is revealed in The Unifying Force, the final novel of the series, that Ackbar dies of old age shortly before the war ends. His death does not take place within the prose of the book, but rather the characters are notified that it has occurred.[20]

Concept and creation[edit]


For Admiral Ackbar's appearance in Return of the Jedi, a combination of a half-body puppet and slip-on mask was used, depending on the camera angle required for the shot. In close-up scenes of Ackbar that required dialogue, puppeteer Timothy M. Rose sat inside the chest of the character and operated the head like a hand puppet from below. Rose moved the mouth using his hand, while Mike Quinn operated the eyes via cables. For wider shots that showed Ackbar's full body, Rose wore the mask and costume while Quinn operated the mouth via remote.[21] Although the character was created with the best available puppetry technology at the time, Star Wars creator George Lucas was not entirely pleased with the final result and felt it was a compromise.[22]

During filming of the 2005 film Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, Lucas was so impressed with the animatron mask used on the Mon Calamari character Meena Tills, that he briefly considered reediting Return of the Jedi and replacing footage of Admiral Ackbar with an improved mask. He never did, however.[22]

Ackbar's first name, Gial, was not established until the April 2012 release of the Star Wars reference book The Essential Guide to Warfare. Co-author Paul R. Urquhart told the website said the name was taken from Gial Gahan, a Mon Calamari Senator character who played a minor role in the Star Wars: Legacy comic book series.[23]


Rose was not originally hired to portray Admiral Ackbar, but instead to help build and operate the Sy Snootles puppet for the Max Rebo Band, which performs at the palace of the alien crime lord Jabba the Hutt. While backstage at the workshop where several alien puppets were stored, Rose saw Ackbar's sculpt on a display stand and asked Phil Tippett, who designed most of the creatures, if he could play the part. He did not know that Ackbar played a major supporting role in the film and only asked to portray him because he liked the look of the character. Rose had believed it would be a background character whose role had not yet even been determined in the film, and said he was "thinking he was going to be in the third row in a new cantina sequence or something".[4]

The voice of Admiral Ackbar in Return of the Jedi was performed by Erik Bauersfeld, a radio dramatist who also voiced Bib Fortuna in the film. He was cast after Star Wars sound designer Ben Burtt approached him while Bauersfeld was producing a radio drama with Lucasfilm sound designer Randy Thom. The recording session took one hour, and Bauersfeld made up the voice he believed matched the character after looking at a photo of Ackbar.[24] Bauersfeld reprised the role in the 1993 LucasArts computer game Star Wars: X-Wing[25] and Star Wars: The Force Awakens; the latter was Bauersfield's final role before his death in April 2016. He was replaced by Tom Kane in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Cultural impact[edit]

Critical reception[edit]

Admiral Ackbar ranked number 16 in 1998 list of the "Top 20 Star Wars Characters" featured in the magazine Star Wars Insider. Scott Chernoff, a writer for that magazine, called the character "one of the most visually striking and memorable characters introduced in the final installment of the saga".[4] Scott Chitwood of criticized the fact that Ackbar's death in The Unifying Force was so abrupt and only mentioned in passing by the characters: "He deserved a little more attention. I would have liked to see him killed in action in the final battle, but I guess that's asking a lot of a sickly old Admiral."[20]

"It's a trap!"[edit]

Admiral Ackbar's line, "It's a trap!", which he says during the Battle of Endor in Return of the Jedi, became one of the most famous and beloved lines from the original Star Wars trilogy.[1][26] More than 1,000 fan videos have been created on the video-sharing website YouTube featuring or parodying Ackbar and that line of dialogue.[26] Admiral Ackbar can be played as a hidden character in the Nintendo Wii version of the 2008 video game Star Wars: The Force Unleashed if the player enters the cheat code "ITSATWAP".[27] Footage of Ackbar reciting the line was featured on both Comedy Central comedy shows The Daily Show and The Colbert Report on February 11, 2010. On both shows, it was intercut with footage of various Republican leaders describing an invitation to President Barack Obama's health care summit as a trap.[26][28] "It's a Trap!", the 2011 episode of the animated comedy series Family Guy spoofing Return of the Jedi, took its name from Ackbar's famous line; Ackbar himself makes an appearance in the episode, portrayed by the character Klaus Heissler - a talking goldfish - from the animated series American Dad!.[29]

Cultural references[edit]

Admiral Ackbar's full-sized costume from Return of the Jedi was featured in a 200-piece exhibition of Star Wars costumes, props and other memorabilia featured at the Smithsonian Institution called "Star Wars: The Magic of Myth". The exhibit opened at the Washington, D.C. museum complex in 1997 and later went on a national tour which lasted until 2002 and visited various museums, including the San Diego Museum of Art, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Toledo Museum of Art and the Brooklyn Museum.[30][31] Ackbar was prominently featured in a sketch during Robot Chicken: Star Wars, a 2007 episode of the stop motion animated television series Robot Chicken dedicated entirely to Star Wars parodies. The sketch is a commercial for "Admiral Ackbar Cereal", with Ackbar presenting the breakfast cereal to two children and declaring, "Your tongues can't repel flavor of that magnitude!", a spoof of his line from Return of the Jedi.[32] The character was also featured in a 2009 CollegeHumor video called "Ackbar! The Star Wars Talk Show", where he played the host of a talk show similar to The Jerry Springer Show.[26][33] Morgan Phillips, an independent hip hop musician and disc jockey, included a song about the character called "Admiral Ackbar Please" on his album Star Wars Breakbeats.[34] Admiral Ackbar is also referenced as an easter egg in the programmer search tool ack using the command ack --bar[35].

When the University of Mississippi began a process to find a new mascot in 2010, students Matthew Henry, Tyler Craft, Joseph Katool, and Ben McMurtray started a campaign to have Admiral Ackbar selected. Although their efforts started out as a joke, some students began to seriously push for the idea,[36][37] while others strongly opposed it and felt it was an embarrassment for the university.[38] The campaign quickly went viral and received national news media attention,[32][38] and Lucasfilm issued a tongue-in-cheek statement about the matter which read, "The last time we checked in with Admiral Ackbar he was leading the Rebel Alliance Fleet on a critical mission so it will be difficult for him to show up for the games!"[32]


  1. ^ a b Truitt, Brian (September 10, 2011). "Admiral Ackbar stars in animated 'Star Wars'". USA Today. McLean, Virginia: Gannett Company. Retrieved May 6, 2018.
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  21. ^ Chernoff, p. 63
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  29. ^ Manco, Emanuele (December 24, 2010). "Family Guy: It's a Trap". Fantasy Magazine (in Italian). Retrieved August 29, 2011.
  30. ^ Mannweiler, David (July 9, 2000). "Imperial cruisin' – George Lucas shares his 'Star Wars' collection". The Indianapolis Star. Indianapolis, Indiana: Gannett Company. section Travel, p. 01K.
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  32. ^ a b c Itzkoff, Dave (February 26, 2010). "College campaign for 'Star Wars' mascot is fully operational". The New York Times. New York City: New York Times Company. Retrieved August 29, 2011.
  33. ^ "Ackbar! The Star Wars Talk Show". CollegeHumor. January 21, 2009. Retrieved August 29, 2011.
  34. ^ Gaslin, Glenn (May 5, 1999). "The Fandom Menace". SF Weekly. San Francisco, California: San Francisco Newspaper Company. Retrieved August 29, 2011.
  35. ^ Lester, Andy. "ack documentation". Retrieved 2018-11-19.
  36. ^ Greer, Jeff (August 29, 2011). "Star Wars Figure Gains Steam as Ole Miss Mascot". U.S. News & World Report. Washington, DC: U.S. News & World Report, L.P. Retrieved August 29, 2011.
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