Next year we celebrate the twentieth anniversary of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. The first prequel brought many new and existing characters to the screen including Yoda, a younger version created using a new puppet. The puppet failed to resonate as strongly with audiences as the original puppet from the 1980’s had. Nick Maley, a puppeteer on The Empire Strikes Back, recently shared his views on how the character looked in the first prequel.
“They built a puppet for Episode I: The Phantom Menace but made the mistake of trying to update Yoda,” Maley shared at the For the Love of Sci-Fi convention. “They re-sculptured him and made him out of a different material which was heavier. Then, because he was transparent instead of opaque, it meant light didn’t hit him the same way so his color wasn’t the same.”
The artists responsible for crafting a Yoda puppet for The Phantom Menace had a daunting task in front of them, as they not only had to attempt to replicate an iconic character virtually from scratch, but also had to make sure they didn’t replicate Yoda too precisely, as the version we saw in the film is meant to be slightly younger than he was in the original trilogy. Additionally, the advancements in puppet technology resulted in a character that only somewhat resembled the character fans were familiar with, which sufficed for the one film.
“They also needed to put a stronger mechanism in so the result was a Yoda that looked quite different and generated a lot of criticism. Ultimately you can’t redesign grandma: grandma is grandma,” Maley added. “She might be old-fashioned but that’s grandma. You need to save your new stuff for your new characters.”
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