We’re huge Star Wars fans, which means that we have a lot to thank George Lucas for – not least all of the colorful and charismatic Star Wars characters introduced by the best movies in his original trilogy.
Without doubt, diminutive Jedi master Yoda deserves to be considered among the best Star Wars characters. Introduced in the first sequel, Empire Strikes Back, the enigmatic alien teaches Luke Skywalker the ways of the Jedi and prepares him to go head-to-head with Darth Vader.
If you were to watch the Star Wars movies in order now, you’d find that Yoda slots in perfectly, but Lucas confessed to StarWars.com that he thought Yoda had the potential to bring the entire movie crashing down. He was worried what would happen if the puppet wasn’t up to scratch.
Looking back on the production of Empire, Lucas said: “If [the Yoda puppet] hadn’t worked, obviously the movie would have been terrible. It would have never worked … And you don’t really know until you actually show it to an audience and they don’t get up and storm out and say: ‘This is stupid’.”
The filmmaker explained that Yoda was only finalized by puppeteer Frank Oz and make-up artist Stuart Freeborn – who inspired the design of Yoda’s face – in the hours immediately before he had to shuffle his way on to set.
Lucas added: “Everything was always on the run. So I finally got to see the whole thing finished, put together, lit properly, and that’s when I knew it was going to work. Before that I had to rely on Frank Oz. Frank had performed great in rehearsals and Stuart Freeborn was working very diligently on trying to get the puppet to work, but it didn’t convince me until I saw the actual movie.”
It might have taken some time to convince Lucas, but Yoda quickly became a favorite character among Star Wars fans and he remains one of the best Star Wars aliens.
The puppet might have been replaced with glossy CGI during the prequel era, but the cheeky little fella we met decades ago in the swamps of Dagobah stands as the best incarnation of Yoda. Though, saying that, we have Baby Yoda to enjoy on Disney Plus now.
For more from the galaxy far, far away, find out why this guy punched Baby Yoda and experience the nightmare fuel of Baby Yoda’s original design. If you enjoyed Grogu’s latest adventures, you might agree with our take on how The Mandalorian season 3 stuck the landing.