Despite the infamous roles of Frank Oz, Wendy Froud, Kathryn Mullen, and Nick Maley, Yoda is not a muppet. He was the most advanced puppet of his time.
George Lucas originally came to Jim Henson for help in making Yoda, but, (Henson), was busy running the Muppets and getting ready to work on The Dark Crystal. So, instead, Jim recommended Frank Oz, and the rest is magic.
(One of the best facts I found for this is that the sets for Empire Strikes Back were about 15 minutes from where Jim Henson was working! How’s that for an epic commute?!)
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What Species Is Yoda?
We may never know. Yoda is one of, (if not), the biggest mysteries in Star Wars. This is largely due to George Lucas himself.
He didn’t want the writers or anyone to have/create info on his favorite character. (Annoying for fans, it is. But, we’ll have to wait and see if Disney will honor his wishes.)
Perhaps Grogu, (the Child/Foundling of Mandalorian fame), will provide us with some answers. As in canon, there are only three beings of Yoda’s species.
Yoda, Yaddle, (the only female we know of ), and Grogu. Lore has two and a half members. Minch-Yoda, (this could also be a younger version of Yoda as his original name was going to be Minch), Oteg, (who only appears in Star Wars: The Old Republic), and Vandar Tokare, (the only one with a last name).
Is Yoda Considered A Muppet Or A Puppet?
Yoda is a puppet, (though he could be classified as a creature). Many fans confuse this because Frank Oz is the voice actor, (and one of the puppeteers), for Yoda.
But, that same Frank Oz has stated that Yoda is a puppet. And so does Nick Maley, (who has a youtube channel showing behind the scenes of the movies)!
Along with everyone who has worked with Yoda and Star Wars in general. The original prototype was made to look similar to the Muppets.
(But this version was never used except to inspire the final version, and amused others). Yoda was more advanced than the Muppets.
He could move his head, twitch his ears, shift his eyes, and was partly meant to look like Albert Einstein, (his upper lip, it is). There have been four Yoda puppets made for the original trilogy, and a new one was built for the sequel trilogy.
How Was The Character Yoda Created And Performed?
Stuart Freeborn is who we have to thank for designing Yoda. Wendy Froud and a few others on loan from the Henson Company assisted him.
Jim Henson and George Lucas agreed to share information and technology. (This is why we have pictures of the Muppets hanging out with Star Wars characters, and why Kermit almost got to play Yoda. Why a baby Animal did get to be Yoda in the Baby Muppets cartoon, and why a Muppet version of Yoda landed a part in, It’s A Very Muppet Christmas Movie).
Warwick Davis acted as Yoda’s double during filming in 1999, but the puppet was replaced with CGI for the home version of The Phantom Menace and the other two movies after it.
New puppets would be made for the sequel trilogy using the same mold as the original. Yoda’s design underwent many changes, (some were nightmare fuel).
He was almost a Smurf, a monkey wearing a mask, was almost a pink fleshy color, and according to early sketches: evil looking, or not wise. The version of Yoda that we see on screen was called a two-person puppet.
Which means that two people had to operate Yoda at the same time despite his small size, (this was due to all the electronics inside of him.
Other Points Of Interest
Most of Yaddle’s story remains in Legends, but we do know she left the Jedi Council before Revenge of the Sith. Nick Maley built a museum and attempted to raise funds to make a new Yoda puppet.
If he’d been successful, this puppet would have been free for Disney to use for any project in the future, (if you look it up on indiegogo, it’s called Saving Yoda1. Does this mean he might try again)?!
We almost saw a dragon on Dagobah! The original Yoda took about ten months and $92,057 in 1978.
Yoda will forever be one of Star Wars greatest icons. The team that designed him are unsung heroes.
Unless we get more of Yoda as a ghost, or as a flashback, (perhaps an origin movie/series)? Then this may be our last chance to say goodbye to an era.
On behalf of the fans who grew up with Star Wars, (like me), and for those who joined the fun later. Thank You, Special FX people, for helping to shape our lives.
And thank you for reading. May the Force be with you, always.