ANAHEIM - After years of criticism of "Star Wars" character Jar Jar Binks, the space saga's creator George Lucas surprised fans at a Disney convention Friday with a major reveal - he was inspired by Goofy.
Lucas made the comment as he was welcomed into the club of "Disney Legends" along with "Pirates of the Caribbean" star Johnny Depp.
"Not very many people realize that Goofy was the inspiration for Jar Jar Binks," Lucas said, sparking laughter in the crowd at the convention center in Anaheim, California, where the D23 Expo is taking place.
"I know you'll look at him differently now." Jar Jar Binks - a computer-generated character that first appears in "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace" - is roundly loathed by most fans, who accused Lucas and others of pandering to younger viewers with a comic sidekick.
"I love Goofy and I love Jar Jar Binks," said Lucas, who is also the brains behind the "Indiana Jones" franchise, and who sold his Lucasfilm studio to Disney for $4 billion.
"A lot of what I do" is inspired by Disney, Lucas told the crowd.
Disney has revived the "Star Wars" franchise, with four films already in the works. "The Force Awakens" - Episode VII in the saga - opens on December 18. A "Star Wars" panel is set to take place Saturday at the D23 Expo.
Depp - who is donning the costume and thick black eyeliner of Captain Jack Sparrow for the fifth "Pirates of the Caribbean" film due out in 2017 - delighted fans with his surprise appearance at the event.
"I really don't know why I'm here," joked Depp, clad in a retro beige jacket.
He explained that he does not like the word 'fan' because it implies that "someone is over someone else," adding: "I would say that you are actually my employer." "Thank you for giving me an opportunity to do stupid things for a living," Depp said.