Touch the Yoda puppet, you will not. Legendary puppeteer Frank Oz, who returned to perform the little green Jedi Master in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, wouldn't let anyone handle Yoda — not even writer-director Rian Johnson.
The Director and the Jedi — a feature-length behind the scenes look into the making of The Last Jedi, included on the home release — shows Johnson "puppeteering" a Yoda puppet crafted for use as a stand-in for lighting purposes, but it "wasn't the [real] puppet, thank God," Oz said during a Facebook Live appearance with Yahoo Entertainment.
Oz admitted he "wouldn't have been happy" if anyone other than himself put a hand into Yoda, explaining it's "like if you’re a golfer, you don’t want other people to use your clubs."
"Inside that character is very special to me," he said. "So it was OK to use the lighting one, but not the real one."
The Last Jedi brought Yoda (back) to life by way of an "archaeological reworking" using the original mold crafted by Stuart Freeborn for The Empire Strikes Back.
All that was left was a weathered but original head as well as one hand, but it was enough — with a recruited Oz's help — to take the first steps towards bringing the sage Jedi back to screens. A new and upgraded puppet was created, its soul once again given to it by Oz.
It took Oz and three assistant puppeteers to work Yoda's body, arms, and animatronic facial expressions, the actor again giving the little green guy his voice.
"It was a joy. It was fantastic. I love the challenge, and I love the character," Oz said. "You know, the challenge is great. It’s four of us doing one character, and we have to rehearse one line of dialogue. It might take us three days. The specificity is incredible."1comments
Luke Skywalker actor Mark Hamill, the only character to interact with Yoda in The Last Jedi, had an emotional reaction upon seeing his old teacher — a moment also captured in the Director and the Jedi documentary.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is now available to own digitally and reaches store shelves as a 4K Ultra HD ultimate collector's edition, Blu-ray and DVD March 27.