star wars: the last jedi

Fair warning, here there be spoilers. So if you still haven’t seen ‘The Last Jedi’, bookmark this and come back later.

So let’s not bury the lede anymore than we already have, shall we? From its specific plot twists to the ways in which it turns the ‘Star Wars’ formula on its ear, ‘The Last Jedi’ is nothing if not full of surprises. Of those surprises, though, one of the most unexpected (and the most pleasant) was the brief return of Yoda. Who better, after all, to give Luke Skywalker a much needed kick in the pants?

But the surprises didn’t end with the mere presence of Skywalker’s spectral mentor. Not only did Yoda return, but he did so in his full puppet-y glory. On the one hand, this may not seem that surprising. After all, the current run of ‘Star Wars’ films has tended to favor practical effects over CGI whenever it’s, well, practical to do so. Nonetheless, fans could be forgiven for expecting “Puppet Yoda” to be a thing of the past. After all, the last time he appeared in puppet form was in 1999’s ‘The Phantom Menace’. And that puppet was not exactly up to the standard of the one used in the original trilogy (in fact, as of the 2011 Blu-ray release, that puppet has been replaced with the same computer model used in the remainder of the prequel trilogy – one of the few CGI changes that even the most ardent detractors are hard pressed to argue with).

With both the surprise for fans and the need to make sure the puppet was up to snuff, Rian Johnson and his team went to great lengths to get the Jedi Master’s cameo just right. As the director explains:

“That felt really important to me. And, actually, I cut some of that out and Frank Oz said to me I had to put it back in. Because when I first pitched him the scene, it’s like the Yoda from ‘Empire’ is back because that’s the one Luke had the emotional connection with. And that’s why we did the puppet and recreated the ‘Empire’ puppet. Neal Scanlan and his team did a recreation of the Yoda puppet. It’s not only a puppet, it’s an exact replica of the ‘Empire’ puppet. They found the original molds for it. They found the woman that painted the original eyes for Yoda. Then Frank came and worked with them for a few weeks to get the puppet right. He did a lot of testing and a lot of adjusting with the puppet creators. It was amazing to watch the process. The idea that the last time Luke saw Yoda was in ‘Return of the Jedi’ and the notion of getting back to that version of Yoda to form the emotional connection with Luke – including a glimpse of the impishness, as part of their relationship. It made a lot of sense.”

Be sure to check back with for more news on ‘The Last Jedi’ and future ‘Star Wars’ films as it becomes available!

Directed by Rian Johnson, ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ is now playing in theaters. The film stars Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Anthony Daniels, Domhnall Gleeson, and Gwendoline Christie.