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Yoda

Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog visit with Yoda and Mark Hamill on the set of The Empire Strikes Back.

Empire-oz&henson

Freeborn, Oz, and Henson consult over the creation of Yoda.

George_Lucas_Leonard_Maltin_1995

George Lucas Leonard Maltin 1995

George Lucas on recruiting Frank Oz.

Yoda is a character from the Star Wars franchise, performed by Frank Oz. The character debuted as a puppet in the 1980 film The Empire Strikes Back, with Oz as voice and lead puppeteer, and Kathryn Mullen assisting.

In an interview with Leonard Maltin, George Lucas discussed the creation of Yoda:

I went to Jim [Henson] and said, 'Do you want to do this?' And he said, 'Well, I'm busy, I'm doing this, and doing that, I'm making a movie and all that -- I really can't, but... how about Frank? You know, Frank's the other half of me.' And I said, 'Well, that'd be fantastic.'[1]

Background[]

A popular misconception is that Yoda is a Muppet, based on the involvement of Oz, the character's existence as a puppet, vocal similarity to Oz' portrayal of the Muppet Grover, and a false assumption that The Jim Henson Company (or even Jim Henson himself) built the character. However, had he been built by Henson, the more realistic Yoda would technically qualify as a creature rather than a Muppet. The Yoda puppet was originally designed and built by Stuart Freeborn for Lucasfilm and Industrial Light & Magic. Henson merely consulted on the building of Yoda. A few other Henson veterans contributed to the character, such as Wendy Froud who assisted on construction, but their work on Yoda was under Lucasfilm's employ.

The creation of Yoda arose entirely independent of Henson, the only real connections being the loan of Oz and one or two other designers/assistants, and a slightly similar technology. Oz explained the character's creation in detail, during a 2000 interview with IGN FilmForce:[2]

...Jim [Henson] came to me and said Gary Kurtz, who was co-producer of The Empire Strikes Back, had a character and I think they asked Jim first – but with running a company and everything he couldn't do it, so he recommended me....

From then on, I was the one who kind of put all the elements of Yoda together, and although Jim didn't make Yoda, George [Lucas] and he had an understanding that they would exchange technology information. George would give to Jim and Jim would give some of his people to George to help. Wendy Froud helped out a little bit with the character and two other people from Jim's company worked the cables for me.

Filming[]

Yoda's scenes were filmed at Elstree Studios over two six-day spans during the summer of 1979.[3]

Amid the challenges of filming on a sound stage rife with miasma created by the mineral oil used for Yoda's swamp home on Dagobah, and coordinating with director Irvin Kershner via radio, Oz and his fellow performers found opportunities to keep the tone on set light with ad-libbing.

One day of filming included a visit from Miss Piggy as described in a 1980 article for People magazine:[3]

One difficult day, when Hamill solemnly told Yoda, “I followed my feelings,” Oz suddenly and incongruously popped Miss Piggy into the scene decked out in lavender gown and gloves. “Feelings? Ya wanna know about feelings? Get behind this couch and I’ll show ya feelings, ya little runt,” squealed Miss Piggy. “Where the hell is this? Get my agent on the phone. I’ve been booked in dumps before, but nothin’ like this.” As the crew howled with laughter, Hamill and Piggy went into a duet of the tune “Feelings,” and Kershner cringed. “I could joke about everything else but not about Yoda,” says the director. “I had to keep him a living thing with feelings and imagination.”

According to the 2010 book The Making of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back by J.W. Rinzler, a filmed blooper exists of Piggy and Hamill's interaction on set. "When Mark Hamill first met Frank Oz, he asked him to do a brief Miss Piggy cameo during rehearsals on set, as a practical joke — but when the time came much later, it caught even Hamill off-guard."[4]

Later films[]

Warwick Davis stood in as a double for the character in scenes where Yoda was walking in 1999's The Phantom Menace. Frank Oz returned to perform the character on set, but the puppet was replaced with CGI in later home video releases. The puppet was not used at all for Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, with Oz serving in a voice-over capacity only. Oz returned again in 2015 for The Last Jedi (released in 2017), where Yoda was rebuilt using the original puppet molds from The Empire Strikes Back.

Gallery[]

References[]

Visual references[]

Character

The Yoda Muppet built in 2002 for It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie.

StarSmores-Groda

Grover dressed as "Groda" in a promotional image.

  • From the Balcony episode 7 includes a segment in which Bobo the Bear auditions for several roles in Revenge of the Sith, including Yoda. Referring to him as "Yodi," he reads the dialogue and asks if the character is dyslexic.
  • In the January 17, 2014 issue of Süddeutsche Zeitung magazine, Kermit imitated Yoda for a silent interview photo when asked if it was true that he rejected the alien role back in the day.

Verbal references[]

  • John Crichton refers to Yoda in the "I, E.T." episode of Farscape. He says the planet that the crew lands on reminds him of Dagobah, Yoda's home planet in The Empire Strikes Back.
  • In the Farscape episode "Crackers Don't Matter," when Pilot asks Crichton if he trusts T'raltixx, Crichton replies, "Barring the Yoda factor, if he gives us any trouble we lock him up," comparing T'raltixx's large head and ears to Yoda.
  • When asked which classic cinema character he'd like to play in an interview hosted on Amazon.com, Kermit answers that he's suited to play Yoda since he's already small and green.
  • In a November 2011 appearance on George Stroumboulopoulos, Kermit says he regrets not getting the role of Yoda. "I didn't have the ears for it."
  • At the London press conference for The Muppets, Kermit is asked if he minds getting typecast playing himself in movies all the time. He reveals having been looked over for some roles in the past, including Yoda. "Right body type, wrong ears."
  • After Mark Hamill tweeted a photo of himself on the set of The Empire Strikes Back with Miss Piggy, Kermit, and Yoda, Kermit responded, "Does this mean the Force is with me? Thanks, Mark! Has Yoda been cast in the new movies? I know a little green guy." [3]
  • While responding to #AskKermit tweets on November 5, 2015, Kermit is asked what his favorite Star Wars movie is. He responds partially in Yoda's backwards-speech, "I really like The Empire Strikes Back. Sometimes I feel like cut from the same cloth Yoda and I are." [4]
  • On October 19, 2016, Kermit tweeted, "Robin can’t decide what to be for #Halloween, especially since frog costumes only come in three styles: The Hulk, Yoda and me." [5]
  • A reader asked Kermit in a December 2022 interview for The Guardian if he ever auditioned for the role of Yoda or The Incredible Hulk. Kermit replied, "Yoda and Hulk are both good friends, and I am frequently mistaken for them, despite my lack of ears and pectorals. I think that they are both perfectly cast."

Muppet Mentions[]

  • Beginning in 2002 with Attack of the Clones, Yoda became a CGI character, the concepts of which Oz was consulted on. The documentary From Puppets to Pixels features behind-the-scenes footage of George Lucas providing direction to his team of animators regarding how Yoda should move in a fight scene. Having already referred to Yoda as frog-like, Lucas remarks that Yoda is "actually the illegitimate child of Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy."
  • In the Empire of Dreams documentary, George Lucas had this to say about the creation of the Yoda puppet: "That was like, a real leap. Because if that puppet had not worked, the whole film would have been down the tubes. It just would have been a disaster if it had been this silly little Muppet... if it had been Kermit running around in that movie, the whole movie would have collapsed under the weight of it."

Sources[]

  1. "Casting a Legend" @ StarWars.com
  2. IGN interview
  3. 3.0 3.1 People magazine, "Yoda Mania" by Karen S. Peterson and Fred Hauptfuhrer, June 9, 1980
  4. Wired review of Rinzler's book

External Links[]

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