The Origins of Yoda
VOICE OVER: Dan
This iconic “Star Wars” character is arguably the oldest and wisest Jedi master in the franchise, and he made his on-screen debut in 1980's “The Empire Strikes Back.” Though the idea for this memorable character came from George Lucas himself, his look was imagined and developed by legendary film make-up artist Stuart Freeborn, going on to become a mainstay of popular culture. Join http://www.WatchMojo.com as we explore the origins of Yoda.
The Origins of Yoda
Strong is he with the force. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’ll be taking a look at the origins of Yoda.
This iconic “Star Wars” character is arguably the oldest and wisest Jedi master in the franchise, and he made his on-screen debut in 1980’s “The Empire Strikes Back.”
At the insistence of his mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Luke Skywalker seeks out the old and reclusive Yoda at his home in the swamps of Dagobah. It is there that Yoda immediately begins using his small stature and whimsical demeanor to teach the young Skywalker about making assumptions, that size isn’t everything, and about purging himself of anger and hatred. Eventually, Yoda succeeds in training Luke to become a Jedi. But soon, he passes away and becomes one with the force.
Though the idea for this memorable character came from George Lucas himself, his look was imagined and developed by legendary film make-up artist Stuart Freeborn. After a long creation process marked by countless redesigns, Yoda slowly but surely became the two-foot tall creature we know and love today, complete with his green skin, long elfin ears, claws, reptilian tridactyl feet, and foam rubber skin. Interestingly, Freeborn’s final design merged aspects of his own face with elements of Albert Einstein’s.
Just as important as his look is Yoda’s distinctive voice and personality: these were developed and portrayed by puppeteer Frank Oz, a prominent talent from the Jim Henson Company known for Muppet characters like Miss Piggy, Cookie Monster and Grover.
Yoda may be a centerpiece of the “Star Wars” saga, but he is unique to the franchise because his origin story is a guarded mystery: George Lucas opted to keep his species and home world unnamed and unexplored. Despite this, the prequel film trilogy expands upon elements of Yoda’s legacy by establishing that, for over eight hundred years, Yoda trained countless students in the ways of the force.
As early as “Episode I: The Phantom Menace,” Yoda is shown as the prominent figure within the twelve member Jedi council on the city planet of Coruscant. He is even joined by a member of his own species, a female Jedi Master named Yaddle, the design of which incorporated elements of the original, unused Yoda concept sketches.
During this trilogy, Yoda is shown to have taught the Jedi children, advised his order during the Clone Wars crisis, and unwittingly sealed the Republic’s fate by allowing Anakin Skywalker’s training.
Interestingly, 1999’s “The Phantom Menace” features a younger-looking puppet as this version of Yoda. But, that puppet is replaced by CGI in episodes 2 and 3, and again by a computer model for the Blu-ray re-release.
Even though he’s younger, this depiction of Yoda still requires the use of his walking cane. But he’s shown to have the energy to personally lead a clone army and confront both his former pupil Count Dooku and Darth Sidious in armed combat. Remarkably, these duels allow him to showcase his mastery of the force, surprising agility, speed, and expertise with a light saber.
Unfortunately it is Yoda’s ultimate failure in detecting the workings of the dark side that leads to a galaxy-wide purge of the Jedi. Because of his loss to the newly self-anointed Emperor, Yoda instructs Obi-Wan to send Anakin’s twins into hiding. He chooses exile on the remote planet of Dagobah for himself, and it is there that he is given the chance to commune with Qui-Gon Jinn, who has learned the secret of immortality.
A fixture in the “Star Wars” universe, Yoda remains one of the most famous sci-fi characters ever. Beloved for his personality, wisdom, and unforgettable backward method of speech, his popularity continues to grow as he appears in countless media, spin-offs, and cartoon series. Yoda’s story will continue to reach new generations, as he is expected to eventually receive his own film adventure that will finally shed light on his life.
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