The Last Jedi saw incredible new creatures brought to life, from porgs to vulptices to thala-sirens, with one of the surprise creatures being an appearance from Jedi Master Yoda. Having not appeared in a live-action film since Revenge of the Sith in 2005, head of The Last Jedi's creature shop Neal Scanlan revealed exactly how he revived Yoda for his reunion with Luke Skywalker on Ahch-To.
"To know that we were going to have Yoda, we just said, 'Look we need to go back and look at Empire Strikes Back, we need to look at how Stuart [Freeborn] created Yoda because that is the most pure puppet moment,'" Scanlan shared with Nerdist. "It's Frank Oz, who is one of the greatest puppeteers ever, and we knew that Frank was going to redo this. We just felt that it was absolutely right and proper that we create the puppet in the closest likeness to the original and to give Frank exactly what he had the first time around."
The prequel films relied much more heavily on CGI to breathe life into the character, while Oz once again provided the character with his voice. The production team had to dig deep to make sure the Yoda that appeared in The Last Jedi instantly reminded audiences of his first appearances.
"We were acting it out in a very similar capacity of Frank being beneath the floor, and the puppet being above him and his assistant puppeteers with him to do the eyes and the ears and the extra hand and his little feet all on rods," Scanlan divulged of the filmmaking process. Scanlan's team also intended to use the newest updates in puppetry technology to make the experience as painless as possible for Oz.
With Yoda having died in Return of the Jedi, he could only appear as a Force Ghost, an effect which would needed to have been achieved with at least some CGI. Scanlan pushed to stay as far away from the CGI look as possible for Yoda's scenes.
"I remember saying to [writer/director] Rian [Johnson] that if we were going to do it, we couldn't make him too much of a ghost because it would deny everybody the joy of seeing him solid and real," Scanlan clarified. "The guys then came in later and added a really lovely glow, which I think just reminds us of the fact that Yoda is there as a ghost, but is there enough for you to really feel that you're not being cheated."
Johnson worked with VFX supervisor Ben Morris to get the correct balance between real and CGI.
"In terms of what we actually did, we did add the glow around him, and I had asked Rian very early on, 'Do you want him to be semi-transparent, like some of the characters have been in the past?' And he said, 'No, let's keep him opaque,'" Morris recalled. "So, the visual effects that were required for that character were actually quite minimal. I think he's just an incredible piece of work by Frank Oz, and Neal and his team."0comments
You can see Yoda in The Last Jedi, in theaters now.