Jar Jar Binks is back! Well, sort of.
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One of the most reviled characters in the history of “Star Wars” is returning to the sci-fi universe, or at least the actor who played him is, in a new Disney+ series “Star Wars: Jedi Temple Challenge.” In the new game show for kids, Ahmed Best will serve as host/Jedi Master/mentor to the young contestants. Best will also have a sidekick of sorts, a still-to-be-named droid companion.
"Star Wars: Jedi Temple Challenge brings together the best of Star Wars - competitive spirit, harrowing obstacles and a hero's triumph over challenges - in a totally new format for the franchise," said Dan Silver, vice president, originals-unscripted content for Disney+ in making the announcement for the series. "A game show set in the Star Wars galaxy is a perfect fit for Disney+."
Best took to Twitter to express his thanks for the chance to return to the “Star Wars” universe.
Referring to his “most challenging times” was the fallout from his Jar Jar Binks character, which made its debut in the first prequel, “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace,” in 1999. A Gungan from the planet of Naboo, he was a bit of a bumbler who was often in the wrong place at the wrong times. Best provided the voice and motion capture for the CGI alien, but the reaction was one of the most negative in movie history. It was so fierce and difficult, last year, Best said that it almost drove him to suicide.
Some critics thought Best's character was a throwback to Hollywood’s racist stereotype of black people. In The Guardian, Peter Bradshaw labeled Jar Jar as “an old-fashioned token black, a real eye-rolling yessuh-massa character to boot, with everything but the actual pigment.”
Internet commentary was toxic, though some defenders came to the character’s aid and still do today.
“Jar Jar was the whole essence of Star Wars. He was awkward but trying his best in a complex galaxy, pitted against vast forces of evil,” Ed Cumming wrote last year in The Telegraph. “He made mistakes but was capable of surprising feats under duress. He was funny and warm and slightly hapless. Meesa Jar Jar. We allsa Jar Jar.”
Despite the Jar Jar controversy, the George Lucas film in its original 1999 release, a 2012 3-D release and a 2014 “marathon” release has made more $1 billion. Earlier this year, Lucas, in toasting the 20th anniversary of the release of the film, made a video and declared “Jar Jar is my favorite character.”