Frank Oz Defends Using CGI Yoda In Prequels

One side of the controversy was taken up by simply embracing technology advancement versus the other being a hold on nostalgia, but there was a legitimate debate to moving the previously-used, practical-puppet version of Yoda to CGI for Star Wars: Episode II -- Attack of the Clones.

In a recent appearance on Muppet Guys Talking: Secrets Behind the Show The Whole World Watched at SXSW, Frank Oz was asked about the move from one to the other.

The man famed with his Yoda performance was quick to take the side of necessity.

"As a filmmaker, George (Lucas) needed to tell a particular story. And this story that he needed to tell was a big fight with Yoda," Oz said. "He could not do that with a puppet. It was impossible. So he had the choice to either dump the story or stay with the story -- which he felt strongly about -- or change Yoda. So he did what any storyteller would do."

The battle in question involved an epic flurry of aerobatics as well as lightsaber wielding. Had the puppet been the only option, the fight would not be conceivable.

Also on the panel was Dave Goelz -- the performer most famed for being Gonzo the Great -- added that there needs to be some understanding across both sides of the aisle. CGI makes it easier to do a lot of things but that the appreciation for previous mediums should not be lost on those advancing the industry.

“They’re all just valid forms," he said. "There all just ways to get something onscreen that doesn’t exist in real life. And they have their pros and cons. CG can mean total freedom of the camera, total freedom of the subject, the lighting, everything can be manipulated anyway you want. And that’s a great strength. It’s hard to animate characters with realistic movement. You’ve probably noticed that. That’s why motion-capture came along. It helps to improve on what you can do as an animator to get realistic motion.

"But then on the other side of the coin, what we do is very crude and primitive. What the Muppets are very simple figures; they’re not sophisticated. They’re not complex, but they’re really there. It really happens. You can touch ’em. You can interview them. And you can talk to them. You can shake hands, and it’s really happening, whereas anything that’s done digitally with animation never happened. It’s not that one is better than the other. They’re equal. For a given project, you might choose one medium over another… I don’t see them as competitive. They’re just tools, different tools to do the same kind of thing.”

Perhaps an even more interesting takeaway was that Oz also pleaded the fifth when pressed on whether or not he would reprise his role in any future Star Wars opportunities.

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