The first bantha to appear on-screen was in the original 1977 Star Wars. Computer-generated imagery was not used to create the creature. Rather, an elephant was dressed in a costume of fur and fake horns. This proved problematic for George Lucas during filming. The elephant was unaccustomed to heat, and during the filming of Tatooine scenes in Death Valley, California, its costume kept coming off.
Lucas retained the original shots of the elephant, rather than replacing them with CGI, for the 1997 Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.
The elephant was a female Asian Elephant from Marine World Africa USA, named Mardji. She appeared both in the movie and in television commercials (for Skippy Peanut Butter). In 1995, aged 44, she was euthanized because of an untreatable and painful bone condition in her front legs.
A song entitled "Oh Bantha", which paid tribute to the gastronomy of these fictional characters, was written and performed by popular actor John O'Hurley and released on "Tusken Raider Tunes, Parody Songs from a Galaxy Far Far Away", a limited edition Star Wars-themed novelty album. The first official Star Wars fan publication, Bantha Tracks, which existed for 35 issues from 1978 to 1987, is named after the bantha.