The Joy of Baby Yoda: Puppet or CGI?

If you thought that the age of puppets was over, you are mistaken. In the tradition of old school special effects as done in the muppets, Baby yoda is, in fact, a puppet! Or at least for the most part. 

In this article, we take a look at the cherished tiny baby Yoda, secrets behind his special effects and some Mandalorian facts. 

This post has nothing to do with silver, unless by chance we can tie in that strange metal currency the Mandalorian’s receive for fulfilling bounties and melt down for their armor.

Millions of people have tuned into Disney+ to see the Mandalorian. A considerable portion of viewers also canceled Disney+ right after its first season ended. No doubt, the show instantly became the streaming channel’s major flagship program, after launch.    

This has come as no surprise to star wars fans and critics alike. 

Always a favorite from the beginning, Boba Fett embodied a freelance amorality (also displayed, at times, by Han Solo). This has lent the series a bit of moral complexity and ambiguity. When offered a choice, Han wound up choosing the high road. Until we saw The Mandalorian unfold, it remained to be seen whether Fett would do the same. As it turns out, baby yoda was so cute that not even Fett could turn him in for a bounty. 

Aside from which, he owed the baby one. What do we speak of? Specifically, the scene when baby yoda saves Fett from the giant lizard creature. The force is apparently strong with this one from birth, which must be precisely why the Empire has taken such an interest in him. 

But, this also brings us to a behind-the-scenes fact. The moment when yoda used his special powers was precisely when the special effects team had to make a tough decision. Now, it would have been quite difficult to convey tiny baby yoda’s sense of focus while using his force powers just through puppetry. In this scene, he needed to have a unique sense of focus in his facial expression, combined with finger and hand movements that were more complicated than regular. So, the final decision was to use CGI. 

But, this decision was not without risk. 

Would the CGI baby Yoda’s newfound manifestation go too far beyond what had been expressed previously in the puppet version? If so, the special effects could risk lacking continuity. Such mistakes generally draw attention to the special effects and away from the story, which is seldom a good thing. 

For pretty much the whole rest of the show, baby yoda makes very minimal movement. He turns his head from time to time, makes little noises, and tries to grab at things. So, one thing you certainly couldn’t do with CGI in this case would be something akin to the Yoda battling Count Duku scene, not that everyone would not love this, irrespective (I happened to be watching this in a movie theater when it happened, and all the little kids in the audience went insane).   

So, there you have it. The one time they used CGI for baby Yoda was when he used the force to save Fett from the big lizard demon. After which, Fett somehow killed it by stabbing it in the side with a tiny knife. Yes, that was a bit ridiculous. But, that isn’t going to stop the glory of baby Yoda.  

Disney certainly has plans to continue The Mandalorian, and that is no surprise, based on its popularity. Of course, one of the advantages of having a bounty hunter as a main character in such a vast universe is that the writers could potentially conjure up endless adventures for him. Although, it would not surprise me either if they had a more impactful narrative arc in mind, which will have more far-reaching consequences for the star wars universe. At the very least, they will probably be looking to fill in gaps, wherever possible. 

After all, who the hell knew that Boba Fett played such a role in Yoda’s upbringing? Also, I realize that Disney bought the rights to star wars, but are they just making things up as they go along? I’m not sure whether George Lucas had any of this in mind! 

In any case, Disney may have been able to tap into baby yoda’s cuteness as a result of the company’s extensive experience with dealing in ‘cute.’ Let’s not also forget that meme culture is among us, and anything that has exceptionally puppy-like quality is likely to be shared and wind up going viral. So, it’s probably not an accident that baby Yoda ended up this way! 

Here’s to hoping that baby Yoda gets some more intense, though tasteful CGI action in the future. Aside from props for using oldschool puppeteering methods to pull off a new, great show! 

So, it’s no secret that baby Yoda stole the show. 

23 Comments

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