CUTE AS A BABY, I WAS
By Angela Garrity, Guest Blogger
There are some babies that are just downright ugly. This screams loudly in the original concepts of The Child (AKA Baby Yoda) before Disney finally put their magic touches on such an adorable creature that won our hearts over, likely forever.
“The look of Baby Yoda, obviously, was derived from Yoda himself, as he was conceived by George Lucas and Frank Oz in the original Star Wars trilogy. In settling on how a member of Yoda’s race would be realized for The Mandalorian, Favreau drew inspiration from Gnomes & Goblins, a short virtual-reality film he has been working on for the last four years. “I had already been preoccupied with the look of big eyes and ears for motion,” Favreau says in the episode. “The idea of the face not being that expressive, but everything being about the eyes looking at you and the ears moving, was something that I had wanted to try.” Favreau and Mandalorian executive producer Dave Filoni looked at hundreds of concept drawings — all either too cute or too ugly — until they settled on the right look.”
Oh Baby! They were just getting started in making The Child come to life.
“Once they’d determined how Baby Yoda should look, they needed to bring it to life, and the initial attempts at building models lacked the cuteness that had made the concept shine. So they brought in Legacy Effects, an SFX studio known for their prosthetic and animatronic work, to pull it off. “That’s when it really became the baby,” Favreau says. The team at Legacy spent the next three months building an extraordinarily sophisticated puppet, handcrafting every hair follicle and inch of its body and putting it together with meticulous care. Based on what’s shown in the episode, Baby Yoda’s hands, eyes, ears, and facial features are operated by a team of a half-dozen puppeteers working in tandem: One controls the movement of the ears by remote control, another guides the torso with more traditional rods, like a marionette. Each puppeteer has to anticipate the movements of the other and respond in time, as the filmmakers “direct” the puppet as one cohesive whole, almost as if it were an actor. As the puppeteer controlling the eyes sees the puppeteer controlling the head start a pivot, he has to nimbly follow along, so that the movements look and feel smooth and organic. It’s an amazingly difficult effort of coordination and timing. One of the puppeteers describes the process as “like a band jamming out.”
Rock on, Baby Yoda. You’re the effigy of what Disney magic is all about – stealing hearts and minds in this galaxy and others that are far, far away.