There aren’t many Star Wars aliens as immediately recognizable as Yoda. If you show anybody of any generation, from your son to your nan, a picture of the wizened little Jedi, the chances are they’ll be able to identify him. But this iconic design didn’t just arrive fully formed: they messed with some weird and not-so-wonderful ideas first.
In fact, early Star Wars designs depicted Yoda as looking much less alien and a lot like a trendy hipster. This design, which you can see below, imagined one of our favorite Star Wars characters as more like a dwarf from Lord of the Rings than a Jedi master. This version of the character had a hipster mustache as well as a bushy beard, pointy hat, and staff.
We hope that nobody gets any ideas from this. The last thing we want is to settle down to watch the new Star Wars movies and find that Yoda is drinking fancy coffee and listening to Arcade Fire. That’s not the right way to honor some of the best movies ever made.
Right, are you ready? From the pages of The Empire Strikes Back Sketchbook (via StarWars.com), here we go…
It’s a nightmare, right? We don’t think any of the Star Wars villains would’ve felt threatened by a cross between Santa Claus and the guy you avoid in the corner of a nightclub because he’s weirdly obsessed with vintage knitwear.
Thankfully, everyone went back to the drawing board to conjure one of the best Star Wars aliens and a character more immediately memorable than any from the branches of the Skywalker family tree. You can put a couple of green ears on a dog and everyone will know it’s supposed to be Yoda. That’s the true definition of iconic.
Of course, we know that make-up artist Stuart Freeborn was a big inspiration for Yoda’s famous face, so he had a big part to play. The resemblance is uncanny, to say the least. We’re thankful Freeborn didn’t have a handlebar mustache, to be honest.
The rest is history, with Yoda brought to the screen via the innovative puppetry and unforgettable voice of Frank Oz. From that point forward, the look was firmly part of pop culture forever, giving every teenage boy a route-one impression to get cheap laughs in the classroom. We have a lot to thank Star Wars for.
If all of that makes you want to delve back into the world of the Star Wars cast, we’ve explained how to watch the Star Wars movies in order. You can also learn about some of the upcoming Star Wars series with our guide to the Andor season 2 release date.
Elsewhere, find out about the hidden Yoda reference you missed in Ahsoka and learn why Yoda’s most mysterious line actually referred to Luke Skywalker’s other sister.