The Mandalorian creator and showrunner Jon Favreau says the introduction of The Child, a surprise reveal in the final moments of the series premiere, was influenced by the cliffhanger endings of the same classic serials that inspired Star Wars creator George Lucas. In "Chapter 1: The Mandalorian," scripted by Favreau and directed by writer-executive producer Dave Filoni, the shadowy Client (Werner Herzog) hires armored bounty hunter Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) to retrieve a high-value prize also targeted by assassin droid IG-11 (Taika Waititi). It's not until the Mandalorian and IG-11 eliminate a compound of Nikto mercenaries that they discover their bounty is a 50-year-old infant born of the same species as the Force-powerful Yoda.
Keeping the identity of The Child secret until the series premiere released on Disney+ "was hard," Favreau said with a laugh during a virtual red carpet premiere event on Friday. "I love watching this medium — it's chaptered. So it's like a good book where each week you're getting to read another chapter of it. I think that the interplay between unfolding story points and twists and turns are important."
The episode-ending reveal came in a roundabout way from Lucas, who drew from such film serials as Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers.
"George drew from the cliffhanger. That's what he grew up with," Favreau said. "A cliffhanger doesn't always have to be an action cliffhanger. It could be a character cliffhanger, an emotional cliffhanger, and that's what creates that compelling relationship that I, as an audience member, appreciate the most."
But a Baby Yoda-sized surprise "relies on secrecy," and Favreau admits "secrecy is very hard to come by in Star Wars."
"Because the fans are very engaged and they're curious, and because of the internet and social media, everybody's talking to one another," he said. "And so there's this really interesting relationship where you really want to know what you're getting for Christmas, but you don't really want to know."
That present, so to speak, was made better by the many secret-keepers who let audiences unwrap the surprise for themselves.
"A lot of people did know, and nobody said anything about it, and so we're very grateful for that," Favreau said. "But when it all came together, and the episode premiered, and nobody had known... we were all biting our nails for a year on that one. And sure enough, it came out, and it got a reaction. More than we could have ever hoped for."
Disney famously missed out on millions of dollars in early Baby Yoda merchandise because the company withheld the character's design from manufacturers at Favreau's request. The company has since made up for the delayed response with a plethora of toys, collectibles, and other merchandise ahead of the 2020 holiday season.
"I have to thank Disney and Lucasfilm, because the way the cat usually gets out of the bag with that stuff is merchandising and toy catalogs and things like that," Favreau said in a November 2019 interview. "So they really back us up. We really wanted to have it be that you had to watch it yourself, so that every time you watch the show, there are new twists and secrets that come out. That requires a lot of restraint from the people who are footing the bill, saying they're gonna hold back on certain things so that the public doesn't know ahead of time. Part of that was holding back on some of the merchandise and holding back on some of the characters."
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