star wars episode VII trailer chewbacca star wars episode VII trailer chewbacca Han Solo lets Chewbacca go, well, solo for his viral performances. (Lucasfilm)

4 times Chewbacca went viral in 2016

Everyone's favorite 'Star Wars' character has a knack for making people smile.

If your Facebook feed is full of mentions of "Chewbacca Mom" lately, you have 37-year-old Texan Candace Payne to thank for it. The mother of two made history last week by simply donning a "Star Wars" mask and making the whole world smile. And while her sheer joy and broad laugh are certainly infectious, some of the credit has to go to the towering and shaggy Chewbacca. The speechless but nevertheless poignant 234-year-old Wookie has been beloved by fans since the franchise's first installment.

Below, we take a closer look at Chewbacca Mom and a few other times Han Solo's loyal friend has gone viral.

The school visit

"Star Wars: Episode 8" is in production now, and From The Grapevine readers have been constantly hitting refresh on our story about everything we know about the latest installment, which is being shepherded by prolific Israeli producer Ram Bergman and American producer Kathleen Kennedy. As adroit "Star Wars" fans know, the film is currently on location in Malin Head, Ireland. Two students from the nearby village of Ballyferriter had been stalking the set, hoping to catch a glimpse of the action. But what they got instead was beyond their wildest imagination.

Chewbacca himself took a break from filming and headed over to their school for a surprise visit. One of the adults in the room told a local newspaper: "We taught him a few words of Irish. We tried to get him to say 'Ta fórsa an fheirtéaraigh leat,' which means 'Ballyferriter force is with you.'"


The Chewbacca Mom


When Candace Payne purchased a Chewbacca mask from Kohl's department store, she figured she would share the news with her friends on social media. Her endearing, smile-inducing video became the most viewed Facebook Live video ever, with more than 143 million views and counting. In an article for CNN about Chewbacca and the power of viral joy, a psychology professor at UC Berkeley wrote: "When a joy signal is perceived by others – in this case, millions of others – something remarkable happens. It triggers contagious, and often unconscious, joy in observers."

In the week since it went viral, Payne has been showered with gifts from Kohl's, taped a skit with late night host James Corden and "Star Wars" director J.J. Abrams, and was even invited to Facebook's Silicon Valley headquarters.



The insect doppelgänger

The insect is significantly smaller and much less hairy than everyone's favorite "walking carpet."The insect is significantly smaller and much less hairy than everyone's favorite "walking carpet." (Photo: Alexander Riedel)

Earlier this year, biologists scouring the wilds of Papua New Guinea discovered a new species of weevil beetle. Because of the thick fur-like skin around its head and legs, the scientists decided to name the insect after the world's most famous Wookiee. Its official name is Trigonopterus chewbacca. Unlike the 8-foot-tall Chewbacca, this animal is smaller than an inch.

According to LiveScience, this is not the first time a bug's moniker has been Star Wars-inspired. "A fuzzy Mexican moth was described as Wockia chewbacca in the journal Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington in 2009, and a wasp described as Polemistus chewbacca appeared in the journal Zoological Record in 1983."


Chewbacca and the two princes

Britain's Prince Harry (right) doesn't seem daunted by the heigh difference with Chewbacca.Britain's Prince Harry (right) doesn't seem daunted by the height difference with Chewbacca. (Photo: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images)

Prince William and Prince Harry, both self-proclaimed Star Wars geeks, recently visited the set of Episode 8 while it was filming at the iconic Pinewood Studios in England. While there, the brothers duked it out with lightsabers, checked out costumes from the upcoming film and posed for photos with the cast and crew.

The British Press is reporting that the two princes actually filmed a cameo while on set, dressing up in storm trooper outfits complete with helmets to obscure their faces. If this is true, they will be following in the footsteps of James Bond actor Daniel Craig, who performed a similar face-masking cameo in "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."

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