Star Wars 10 Particular Points about Yoda

by Todd King, contributing writer

10. Puppet to CGI to Puppet

Yoda's first appearance was in The Empire Strikes Back in 1980 and made a lasting impact on fans and on the movies. Everything about his creation seems like magic, and indeed, it was a lot of movie magic that made him come to life, even if he was just, at his heart, a puppet (albeit, a complicated one).

Yoda finds a flashlight and is either senile, having fun, or just giving Luke a hard time to test his patience. Probably all three. © Lucasfilm.

In 1999, Yoda appeared again, this time as a slightly younger-ish character in The Phantom Menace. Once again, puppeteering magic would bring him back to the big screen. Three years later in Attack of the Clones, after further advancement in computer animation, Yoda appeared as a character rendered by computer-generated imagery. He was still voiced by Frank Oz. After all, he was going to start jumping around and fighting with a lightsaber and those are difficult tasks for a puppet designed to be grounded.

Yoda's original appearance in Episode I, then his edited appearance in subsequent editions of Episode I. © Lucasfilm.

But then later came the new Blu-Ray editions of the films and Yoda's puppet-self in The Phantom Menace was replaced with a CGI version. This look was closer to his subsequent appearances, which lent a bit of consistency. Then again, fast-forward to The Last Jedi in 2017 when Yoda appeared to Luke as a Force ghost, and once again he's a puppet! No one has had quite a journey like this one in filmmaking but whatever the case, it is always good to see and be with Yoda.

9. Puppet Re-created

That puppet in The Last Jedi wasn't just a new Yoda, this was a re-creation of his original build. Yoda in Episode VIII was a replica of the Episode V puppet!

Yet another memed moment is here when Luke yells at the late Yoda for burning the Sacred Jedi Texts! The meme was used to describe a feeling when something of worthless value was destroyed. © Lucasfilm.

This one was made with great care with help from Frank Oz himself. Director Rian Johnson commented:

"Neal Scanlan and his team did a recreation of the Yoda puppet. It's not only a puppet, it's an exact replica of the Empire puppet. They found the original molds for it. They found the woman that painted the original eyes for Yoda. Then Frank came and worked with them for a few weeks to get the puppet right. He did a lot of testing and a lot of adjusting with the puppet creators. It was amazing to watch the process."

8. Speaking of Puppets

You've heard the expression, "phoning it in." If you phone it in, it usually refers to a lackluster performance by an actor who is just not giving their best. With advances in communication technology, even way back in 2002, video conference calls were possible with clear sound. Lucasfilm utilized this technology with Frank Oz who would continue his voice acting of Yoda. Since the Jedi Master was not a puppet this time, Oz could focus on the words of the wise old teacher. You can see this in action in the bonus features and videos of Attack of the Clones and witness him phoning it in which doesn't carry the negativeconnotation anymore.

7. Not Just a Master

There is a bit of hierarchy in the old Jedi order. You start as a youngling being taught with several other students in a school-like setting with a few teachers. Eventually, you move up to become a Padawan, where you are instructed one-on-one with either a Jedi Knight or with a Jedi Master. Jedi Knights are probably the most-numerous and they are the ones doing counseling as well as the fighting. The few, the proud, the Jedi Masters are more the leaders of the Order and were also generals in the Clone Wars. There is also the Jedi Council which is made up only of Jedi Masters. Yoda, however, is a special Jedi Master. He is the oldest and wisest of all the Jedi and trained more beings in the Jedi arts than any other life form. Yoda is the Grand Master of the Jedi and although that is not mentioned in the films, it is in canon material. Besides, this rank is undeniable because of his influence in all Jedi matters.

6. Yoda and the Younglings

Obi-Wan Kenobi once told Luke that Yoda was the Jedi Master who instructed him in the ways of the Force. This is true, from a certain point of view. While Obi-Wan wasn't Yoda's Padawan (he was Qui-Gon Jinn's Padawan), he was Yoda's student. But so were lots of young ones.

Yoda was the Jedi Master who instructed all younglings. © Lucasfilm.

As we see in Attack of the Clones, Yoda takes it upon himself to teach Jedi "younglings" in lightsaber training, critical thinking, and assuredly in more Force abilities. If you were in the Old Republic and identified early as a Force-sensitive life form and taken to the Jedi temple, you would be taught by Yoda. In his lifetime of 900 years, it is estimated that Yoda taught more than 20,000 beings in the Jedi arts.

5. Yoda's Padawans

Although he taught all Younglings, Yoda also had a few direct one-on-one Padawans that we know about. He was Master to an ambitious Jedi named Count Dooku (played by Christopher Lee).

Yoda vs. Dooku from "Attack of the Clones." © Lucasfilm.

Dooku taught Qui-Gon Jinn, who taught Obi-Wan Kenobi, who taught Anakin and Luke. The Count would eventually turn to the Dark Side of the Force and become Darth Tyranus and join forces with Darth Sidious (who would eventually become The Emperor). Anakin would kill Dooku and become Darth Vader, but would later kill the Emperor and return to being Anakin. This lineage of teacher and student are important in Star Wars and is like a set of dominos with one influencing the next. Eventually, Yoda would take on a final Padawan in Luke Skywalker with the sole purpose of destroying Vader and the Emperor. There is evidence that Yoda actually wanted to train Leia since he saw Luke as too reckless, but was convinced otherwise by Obi-Wan. In The Last Jedi, we see that not only is Luke still a student of the Force, Yoda wasn't done teaching him even in the afterlife.

4. Yoda was a Substitute Teacher

One of the original ideas for the first sequel to Star Wars would have had Obi-Wan Kenobi continuing to teach Luke about the Force. However, many changes to the first script of included the death of Kenobi (a collaborative idea between Alec Guinness and George Lucas), sacrificing himself to help Luke and his friends escape the Death Star. His death would enable him to still be with Luke and influence him through the Force. But when it came time to draft a script for The Empire Strikes Back, George Lucas still wanted Luke to go through Jedi training, but without Obi-Wan, there was no teacher. Yoda was created out of this necessity and Lucas surprised us with this character, an unexpected and unseeming creature who Luke (and by extension, we) thought would be this "great warrior" of grand standing and not look like an alien swamp frog. We were tested to see beyond size and appearance--a central message in all of Star Wars.

3. A Droid Taught Him About Building Lightsabers

In The Clone Wars series, we learn that Professor Huyang, about the only thing older than Yoda, taught him and other young Jedi how to build lightsabers.

Professor Huyang from "The Clone Wars" taught Yoda and most all Jedi how to build lightsabers. © Lucasfilm.

We do not learn too much about Huyang but it is makes a little bit of sense that the only thing that could possibly live as long as Yoda would be a machine--and also that a machine would be the one to teach others how to build, essentially, what is a small machine: the lightsaber. As a side note, the droid is voiced by David Tennant, who was once Dr. Who (making the pronunciation of "Huyang" not coincidental).

2.  Only Three There Are, No More, No Less

Most creatures in Star Wars are ones we see many times across various worlds, but we only know of three creatures in all of Star Wars that are, for lack of a better term, Yodas. There is, of course, Yoda himself. Second, there is Yaddle.

Yaddle on the Jedi Council in "The Phantom Menace." © Lucasfilm.

She is the "female-Yoda" shown briefly in the background of the Jedi Council scenes in The Phantom Menace. She's a Jedi Master and probably younger than Yoda and, well, we don't know much more than that. She didn't appear again in the prequel trilogy.

Then there is the Child, affectionately dubbed, "Baby Yoda" by fans, who is integral to the story of The Mandalorian. That's it (for now?).

1. Yoda's Species and Home Planet Remain Unkown

Nearly every species and background character and even vintage Kenner toys that were never on-screen have tomes of information written about them in Star Wars texts and wikis which is why that, even after all this time, Yoda's origins are still basically unkown. But not-knowing has only made fans like me all the more interested in the truth. What is Yoda? Where does he come from? Are all "Yodas" strong in the Force? We may learn a little more about Yoda in the coming books taking place during "The High Republic," but more immediately, we may learn more about his species in The Mandalorian.

Chapter 5. The Child in "The Mandalorian." Byline: Lucasfilm Ltd. Copyright: © 2019 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

The first season ended with the Mandalorian himself being tasked with taking the foundling (who is strong in the Force by the way) back to his people. The Armorer gave this mission to him as fitting with Mandalorian code and also said that the Child was associated with the Jedi, who at one time were labeled enemies of Mandalorians. The writers of The Mandalorian might just be painting themselves in a corner here since these questions about Yoda are exactly what the Mandalorian himself must answer. Who knows what we'll learn but it must come with great pressure to try and discover the mysteries that have remained covered for over forty years. As Han Solo would say, "Good luck… you're gonna need it."