The Last Jedi is a beautiful looking movie, which many will not argue about. A lot of the way it looks is because of Rian Johnson's insistence to use practical effects and puppets while filming the SEQUEL. However, the Thala-Sirens, aka, seacows or milk creatures, needed to be airlifted to the island by helicopter, all so we could witness Luke Skywalker in one of the biggest head scratching moments in Star Wars franchise history. As weird as it is, it's all real and it took 4 men to control the beast, not quite Jabba the Hut status, but he was at least a main villain and Luke didn't try and milk him, and if he did, George Lucas didn't include it in the final cut of Return of the Jedi. There are some SPOILERS ahead for The Last Jedi, so read at your own risk.
Luke Skywalker went out of his way to show Rey what a day in the life of an exiled Jedi was all about. We see Luke take up a giant spear to get an Ahch-To space fish, which he carries on his back. He apparently needed to wash the space fish down with some delicious green milk from the Thala-Siren. The creature that appeared on screen was an actual puppet and not put together in a computer. Those four nipples were real as was the milk that flowed from them, and ended up in Luke's beard.
Creature shop head Neal Scanlan recently sat down with Nerdist to speak about the practical creatures that were created for The Last Jedi and revealed that the Thala-Siren was 18 feet tall and had to be airlifted by helicopter to perch it upon the rocks. The shot looks great and the sea cow looks incredibly real, but good luck scrubbing that one from your memory. The creature team took pictures at the island and then digitally mapped them out to fit the design into the rocks. Scanlan explains.
"At the very beginning of the film, (writer/director) Rian [Johnson] said to me that he wanted to take animatronics and practical effects and put them there on a real location-he didn't want to do certain things in the studio. We went to that location, we photographed that location, and we created a digital map of it so that later back at Pinewood we could recreate the rocks. When we sculpted the Thala-Siren, she's a full-sized animatronic puppet and she's about 18 feet tall, she was sculpted to fit into the rocks so that she actually looked like she was sitting in that environment."
The Thala-Siren may have been designed to sit in one location, yet there were still elements of motion that were required to make the creatures appear real. It required two different puppeteers to control its motion, in addition to creating the illusion of Luke milking the seacow for nourishment. Scanlan went on to say, "One would operate the shoulders and the flippers at the top and the other person would operate the belly and the milking mechanism or the udder mechanism at the bottom." With the remote location of Skellig Michael serving as the filming location for Ahch-To, the production team had to airlift the mighty sea beast on to the rocks, which was a first for Neal Scanlan and his crew. In total, it took 4 puppeteers to control the Thala-Siren.
The now infamous scene has gained some notoriety since The Last Jedi hit theaters and one particularly crafty Star Wars fan created an old school product box for a toy of the Thala-Siren and it's amazing. Obviously, the Luke Skywalker action figure with a bottle is sold separately. Though the scene is quite peculiar, it's cool to know that it was all practical and not constructed through the magic of CGI. You can read more about Neal Scanlan's creatures via Nerdist.