The actor put so much life into that hairy wookie and said so much with a simple growl. He was the epitome of cool and goofy and fun and the antithesis of digitally rendered characters like Jar Jar Binks that would come later. No matter how many times they tell me Jar Jar Binks is wonderful or that George Lucas tells us its his favorite character, well, all I can say is, something is wrong.
Chewbacca, as portrayed by Peter Mayhew, was the embodiment of all of our child like innocence and wonder in those original three films. He was our imagination covered in fur walking through worlds of spectacle with a cool weapon to boot.
I recall role playing Star Wars in backyard events and I always picked Chewbacca (there I am with my Chewbacca shirt, my brother and my dog, Tink the blink) and gave it my heartiest growl among the neighborhood friends. I even hand built a cheesy wood made cross bow. Good times!
The English actor even played the Minoton in another favorite childhood film Sinbad And The Eye Of The Tiger (1977). I saw both of these 1977 films in cinemas. He portrayed Chewbacca in the prequel Revenge Of The Sith (2005), before later sharing the role and consulting for the new Disney era films. He even made a fun appearance on Kevin Smith's Comic Book Men.
It's always sad to see one of our beloved childhood character actors leave us. It's like a piece of us dying. And we're getting older too. All I can say is well done Peter. The character won't be quite the same without you.
I hope wherever you are your personality inspires others upstairs to say "laugh it up fuzzball."