Star Wars: The Mandalorian director and executive producer Dave Filoni says star Werner Herzog was "all-in, all the time" on the lifelike puppet used to create The Child, the cuddly creature informally known as Baby Yoda. In The Mandalorian, Herzog's shady criminal character known only as "The Client" — under orders from Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) — hires armored bounty hunter Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) to retrieve a 50-year-old infant later revealed as a Force-sensitive foundling belonging to the same species as Jedi Master Yoda. While the ruthless Client sought to obtain The Child dead or alive, Filoni recalls how Herzog treated the puppet like a co-star:
"Once you get that character in his little pram and light him, it just takes on this magic thing," Filoni, who revealed Baby Yoda in the closing minutes of The Mandalorian's series premiere, said during a pre-recorded panel aired during a live stream of the virtual ATX Festival. "It reminds you of stories I used to read about how they filmed Yoda … when they filmed it, it was rather terrifying because here they have a very large role in a major movie followup that's gonna be played by a puppet, and I can't even imagine pitching that idea. And yet George [Lucas] did it."
Acting opposite Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, Luke Skywalker actor Mark Hamill "treated him as a real character, and he believed in him."
"I felt we all saw that happening with The Child as we would film him and he became a very living part of the crew," Filoni said. "Nobody bought into that more than Werner Herzog. He was all-in, all the time, on the child and how real it was. He treated it like another actor on set."
The puppet used to bring Baby Yoda to life reportedly cost Disney and Lucasfilm $5 million to create and wasn't revealed to audiences until Djarin and assassin droid IG-11 (Taika Waititi) unveiled the creature in the first episode of the series launched alongside Disney+. Series creator Jon Favreau said during the panel it was a "miracle" filmmakers managed to keep The Child's existence secret through release day.
"It reminded me of when I grew up, I didn't really know what was coming in a movie. You'd go see a movie and experience it through the story as you were meant to, and Jon and I very much wanted the audience to have that feeling when they watched The Mandalorian," Filoni said, adding The Child's reveal had to be "authentic" so audiences "found the child with Mando. That was really important."
Filoni added, "I also felt, just reading Jon's script, that it was really key to show ... [Djarin] doesn't really care, he's heartless, he's a gunslinger, 'I've got a job to do, it's nothing personal.' That's such a strong archetype from those movies and the first part of that story is very much that, and it all builds and builds and builds to this critical decision where the child sparks something in him. And I felt it could spark something in the audience as well, and it seems like it really did."