Star Wars: The Phantom Menace debuted many new characters in the Star Wars saga, while also offering audiences glimpses at younger versions of familiar characters, including Yoda. A new puppet had to be constructed for the film, depicting a slightly younger Jedi master, which failed to resonate as strongly with audiences as the original puppet did. Nick Maley, a puppeteer on the original Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, recently shared his disappointment in how the character ultimately looked in the prequel film.
"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."
Last year's Star Wars: The Last Jedi faced a similar challenge when it came to bringing the character to life, with most fans being much more receptive to that film's interpretation of the character, which also brought back Frank Oz to perform the character. The actor confirmed that, were a Yoda spinoff to ever be developed, Lucasfilm would likely have to resort to CGI to depict the character.
"It would have to be [CGI], yeah. It would have to be," Oz confessed to IGN about a potential Yoda standalone film. "It's far, far too difficult because I'm doing it with three other people. So it's four people and you can't just wing it. You've got to study every single word with four people."
What do you think about the Yoda puppet used in The Phantom Menace? Let us know in the comments below or hit up @TheWolfman on Twitter to talk all things Star Wars and horror!
[H/T We Got This Covered]