It’s been almost twenty years since his on-screen debut but the merchandise gods have failed to bless us with a Dexter Jettster plush doll. One devoted Star Wars fan decided to take matters into their own hands, to fill in that very specific void in their life, and spent the last few months researching, designing, and building their very own huggable Besalisk.
I caught up with Dexter Jettster super-fan Abigail James Dillon to learn more about their DIY project and how they went about bringing this beloved fan favourite to life.
Why doesn't a Dexter Jettster plushie exist? I'm suing. https://t.co/32xkpR7HXH—
Abigail (James) Coruscanti Diner Dillon III (@aDillonDev) February 16, 2020
It all began with a simple sketch drawn in 2019 but shared with the world in February 2020, in which Abigail James bemoaned the lack of Dexter Jettster plushies. And as the world began going into lockdown in spring, Abigail James found themselves craving a warm hug from the Besalisk chef and made a declaration of intent on March 24th: “I’m gonna come out of this with some lopsided homemade Dex plushie, aren’t I?”
Work on the plushie began in mid-April. “I was first planning out something small scale, and I was going to try to do it ‘right.’ I even was looking into buying a monster sewing pattern that I could tweak into a Besalisk.” In order to make the DIY project as clean as possible, Abigail James attempted to map out the measurements for Dexter’s t-shirt, torso, and hands. “I was using a ruler and a compass, and then I realized if I tried to do this ‘perfectly’ or ‘right’, I was never going to get it done.”
Then they realised that they could put a couple of old white t-shirts to good use and use them to create Dexter’s body. As Abigail James explains, “All I needed to do was remove the sleeves from one and reattach them [to the other shirt].” This allowed them to embrace the “lopsided plushie” declaration and enjoy greater freedom to “wing it” and pick up new skills in the process.
More importantly, this allowed them to create a bigger Dexter plush than originally planned. “Once I decided to go big, the first thing I did was use some cushion foam pieces, hack them up, and glue them together into a bust of sorts around which I could build the head. That was the part I was most worried about getting right.”
After cutting out and sewing some faux leather into a crest shape for Dexter’s head, Abigail James put the project aside for a few months, only returning to it in October 2020. “Early October, life was coming at me really hard – well, harder than 2020-normal – and I needed something to just be fun, to not be an obligation or something I needed to do ‘right’ (the lopsided declaration to rescue!). So out came Dex.”
This was when their Dexter plushie really started to take shape. “I started just by getting the sleeves off one shirt and onto the other. And that came so easy, I didn’t want to stop. Most things I winged or just looked at the dolls and stuffed animals I had around the apartment for clues on how to proceed; this was how I figured out the feet. But, again, the face was something that I really wanted to make sure I got right. So I googled for some tutorials, and I ended up using this one as the basis for my plan to make his face.”
Works in progress can often have unintended and unintentionally hilarious results. “This tutorial also braced me for knowing that I would have to go through a period where Dex’s face didn’t just look unrecognizable, but actually haunting. I don’t have a picture of it, but before I got the ‘light dots’ on his eyes, it was actually terrifying to have that head in my apartment.”
As Dexter began to take recognisable shape, Abigail James started sharing details of the project on Twitter (you can read the full thread here) and continued researching every little detail in order to recreate the bulky Besalisk as best as they could, from his tattoos and facial hair right down to his belly button.
There is so much left to do, but the face is almost recognizable and I can't believe I'm actually well on my way to… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…—
Abigail (James) Coruscanti Diner Dillon III (@aDillonDev) October 11, 2020
“Getting that face to the point of recognizability was when the joy just took off. When I realized that I could actually make it work. That’s also when I really started talking about the project on Twitter.”
Abigail James was able to overcome many of the challenges of building their own Dexter plushie by rewatching Attack of the Clones and perusing a few reference guides. Some of the tougher challenges were not succumbing to perfectionism and not allowing scope creep to derail the project.
“Dex’s hair – or ‘feathers’ according the the Legends Guide to Alien Species – was one area of scope creep. Dex’s design includes short tassels decorated with gold along the side of his head, with a few long strands coming down a rattail at his back. Part of me just wanted to slap some dark fabric on the sides and just have the only distinct strands be the rattail. But then suddenly I’m sewing on two layers of fabric and snipping the top layer into tassels. Then I’m detailing the bottom layer with gold thread to create the impression of those tassels, and then I’m adding gold to the top tassels. The whole hair situation drew out the project for a whole additional day.”
With Plushie Dexter looking more and more like his on-screen counterpart by the day, there were times when working on him felt a little odd, as Abigail James puts it. “At one point, it straight-up felt like I was doing spinal surgery on the guy.” Now there’s a terrifying mental image!
Throughout the entire process, Abigail James fully embraced the lopsided declaration, adding that this did wonders for them. “Even now, with the project complete, when I look at him and see his throat pouch a little more scrunched then planned, I remember that a lopsided Dex is still a Dex”, pointing out that the animators who had worked on Dexter – seen in the Attack of the Clones documentary “From Puppets to Pixels” – had made a conscious decision to make his throat pouch uneven so that it would appear more natural.
The completed plushie is almost three feet tall from crest to feet and Abigail James celebrated the completion of their project by recreating a well-known meme and sharing some of the finer details of their creation, such as Dexter’s nose ring, forearm and knuckle tattoos, and his lucky washrag.
Do you think a depressed person could make this? https://t.co/qwV6ZvdARq—
Abigail (James) Coruscanti Diner Dillon III (@aDillonDev) October 23, 2020
Abigail James’ final thoughts on their completed project: “This project was both a bit of relief from my depression but also the joy I felt in completing this threw my usual baseline emotions sharply into relief. So, meme aside, it’s actually a really accurate commentary on what this project did for me.”
And, folks, let me just say that Abigail James’ adorable and extremely huggable plushie brought warm feelings to my heart. If there’s one good thing this pandemic has given me, it’s plenty of incredible fan projects to follow and admire. Proof that 2020 is not entirely awful.
I would like to thank Abigail James Dillon for sharing the details of their creative process and for being so open and willing to be interviewed for this site. One of the key missions of All Things Attack of the Clones is to shine a spotlight on the film’s devoted (and often very talented) fanbase and celebrate what we love about this particular chapter of the Skywalker saga.
Abigail James is a writer for Eleven-ThirtyEight and quite easily the world’s biggest Dexter Jettster fan. They have written a number of articles about Dexter Jettster and his impact on their life, including the heart-warming piece, “Memories From the Menu of Dex’s Diner”, in which they talk about following in Dexter’s footsteps, learning some new culinary skills, and gaining a better understanding of their Finnish heritage.
And if you’re a fan of the Star Wars prequels and animated series, check out their 11-part close read of the Star Wars Rebels episode, “Twin Suns”, which is also available as a PDF file.
Looking for even more Attack of the Clones fan art, cosplay photos, opinions, memes, and film facts? Then come find me over on Twitter: @AllThingsAOTC!