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How Nintendo's Game Boy inspired a Star Wars character

With the vast creature creation demands of a new Star Wars film, the legion of designers, artists, writers, and visual effects mavens have to go digging for inspiration wherever they can find it — even if that means turning to a 30-year-old hand-held gaming device.

George Lucas always wore his inspirations on his sleeve. Elements from the original Star Wars trilogy like the classic blaster and the desert planet Tatooine were pretty explicitly rooted in classic science fiction properties like Flash Gordon and Frank Herbert's Dune. Now, we're learning that the most recent film, 2019's The Rise of Skywalker, may have pulled at least one visual flourish from a slightly more contemporary bit of nerd culture: the original Nintendo Game Boy. According to concept designer Matthew Savage, the galaxy far, far away's tiniest hacker worked with technology inspired by this old school hand-held (via Cinema Blend).

Babu is both an integral part of The Rise of Skywalker's plot, and the source of the film's requisite goofy alien comic relief. He comes from a race of aliens known as Anzellans, and has the uncanny ability to hack into any droid in the galaxy, no matter the strength of the security measures in place. The heroes make use of his black market skills to get a peek at some hidden data inside the CPU of C-3PO — a choice that isn't without serious consequences for the veteran protocol droid.

Concept art from The Rise of Skywalker reveals the inspiration for Babu Frik's unique tech

Even though he missed out on most of The Rise of Skywalker's epic scenes, Babu Frik was — without a doubt — the show-stopping highlight of the Skywalker Saga's final chapter. Savage recently shared some concept art via his personal Instagram account that shows Babu going to work on C-3P0 amid an array of his patented "hack terminals" (pictured above). Upon close inspection, these hack terminal designs bear a striking resemblance to the first-generation Game Boy, released to the public in 1989.

Actress Shirley Henderson, who voiced Babu in the film, apparently invented a backstory to add a little emotional depth to the Game Boy-wielding droid whizz. She explained that, "Babu has lived a life. Somewhere out there is a lost love. He thinks about her sometimes when he sits down in his workshop and lets his thoughts drift away. That's what I think, anyway."

As for the design of Babu himself? According to creature effects creative supervisor Neal Scanlan, Babu Frik is an eight-inch-tall cross between Ernest Borgnine and Joe Pesci. That's right, and now you can't unsee it, either.

Now go get your shine box, Babu.