Spoilers for Star Wars: The Last Jedi follow:
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is now in theaters and has most recently entered the top 20 highest-grossing films on a global scale — even before opening in China this weekend. The movie has also proved to be the most divisive film in the franchise among fans ranging from love to hate. However, one thing fans have been united in their pleasure on has been the surprise return of master Yoda.
Head creature designer Neal Scanlan spoke with Nerdist about how the creature shop, director Rian Johnson and legendary puppeteer Frank Oz brought the iconic character back to life using mostly practical effects.
“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.”
According to Scanlan, he and his team set out to make the puppet much more efficient and easier for Oz to use. The goal was to create a new Yoda puppet that truly represented the character that audiences remembered from his first appearance on Dagobah. It’s important to remember here that Yoda in the prequels was all CGI (in Phantom Menace he originally was a puppet, replaced digitally later), so a practical attempt at the character had not been attempted since 1999.
“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.”
During its research, the team was fortunate to discover that Lucasfilm still had the original head mold of one of the Jedi master’s tiny hands. Other information was obtained by searching through old magazines and speaking with the puppet wizard himself, Oz. Scanlan also shared that the team decided to lessen the Force ghost effects on Yoda, because they wanted audiences to enjoy seeing the Jedi “solid and real.”
“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.”
The responsibility for the Force ghost effects fell on the shoulders of VFX supervisor Ben Morris and his team. Morris was enthusiastic about what he and the team pulled off.
“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.”
How did you feel about Yoda’s appearance? Were you surprised? Do you hope he makes another return in Episode IX? As always, feel free to share your thoughts below.
Directed by Rian Johnson, The Last Jedi stars Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern and Benicio Del Toro.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is currently in theaters.
‘Star Wars’: 5 Theories For ‘Episode IX’
Star Wars: Episode IX is now less than two years away from being released. Now that The Last Jedi, the second part of Disney and Lucasfilm’s new Star Wars trilogy, is past us, people have immediately begun speculating onto what the closing chapter will be about.
If there was one thing that The Last Jedi had going for it, it was that it set up a lot. All of the characters were in very different places that they were in at the start of the movie. By the end, there were numerous possibilities for Episode IX to go.
Here are some of the things that could happen in Star Wars: Episode IX!