By this point if you don’t yet know that Yoda is back in ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi‘, I’m not sure how you’ve managed to avoid it but he does make an appearance. Only, it wasn’t quite as simple as throwing in a CGI’d version of the character and having Frank Oz do voice work by any stretch. As we know Yoda passed away a long time ago in a galaxy far far away, he does happen to be a Force Ghost these days so you would almost have expected a CGI insertion being the way to go.
The head of the creature shop for the film, Neal Scanlan, shared how much work actually went into bringing everyone’s favorite Jedi Master back to life.
According to Scanlan he always knew that they’d be making him a puppet like in ‘Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back‘ as soon as he heard that they’d be putting him in the movie and says:
“To know that we were going to have Yoda, we just said, ‘Look we need to go back and look at Empire Strikes Back, we need to look at how Stuart [Freeborn] created Yoda because that is the most pure puppet moment,’. It’s Frank Oz, who is one of the greatest puppeteers ever, and we knew that Frank was going to redo this. We just felt that it was absolutely right and proper that we create the puppet in the closest likeness to the original and to give Frank exactly what he had the first time around.”
While they tried to make the puppet a little easier to use as things have changed in technology, puppet creation, and the nearly unlimited budget Lucasfilm now has when it comes to creating a puppet, Scanlan stated:
“We were acting it out in a very similar capacity of Frank being beneath the floor, and the puppet being above him and his assistant puppeteers with him to do the eyes and the ears and the extra hand and his little feet all on rods”
Lucasfilm didn’t have the full molds of how Yoda was created from his first outing. However, they did have the original head mold and one of the hands which were used. The rest they were able to figure out as much as possible from reading through old magazine articles where Oz was talking about playing the character.
As to the additions that made him a Force Ghost?
“I remember saying to Rian [Johnson] that if we were going to do it, we couldn’t make him too much of a ghost because it would deny everybody the joy of seeing him solid and real. The guys then came in later and added a really lovely glow, which I think just reminds us of the fact that Yoda is there as a ghost, but is there enough for you to really feel that you’re not being cheated.”
VFX supervisor Ben Morris’s team was in charge of turning Yoda into a Force Ghost and he sounds excited as a kid on Christmas morning when he got to work on this part of the film:
“It was an amazing experience. I mean, having Luke Skywalker and Yoda in front of you, in the middle of a real, practical set on a freezing cold night was one of the best filmmaking experiences I’ve ever had. It was just goosebumps. In terms of what we actually did, we did add the glow around him, and I had asked Rian very early on, ‘Do you want him to be semi-transparent, like some of the characters have been in the past?’ And he said, ‘No, let’s keep him opaque.’ So, the visual effects that were required for that character were actually quite minimal. I think he’s just an incredible piece of work by Frank Oz, and Neal and his team.”
As one fan of both ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ and Yoda’s appearance in the film I fully agree that everyone involved with bringing Yoda back did an amazing job.
Were you thrilled to see Yoda return in ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’? Did you know that this much work went into bringing his character back to the big screen? Share your thoughts below!