One of the most pleasant surprises of Star Wars: The Last Jedi was the return of Jedi Master Yoda, who had not been seen in live action since 2005’s Revenge of the Sith. Not only did audiences get to see Yoda reuniting with his pupil Luke Skywalker, but he was also restored to his former puppet glory after being portrayed using CGI in the prequels. Back to bring Yoda to life was original voice actor Frank Oz. The master puppeteer has inhabited the role for almost 40 years, and he is very protective of the character, especially the puppet. In fact, he didn’t even want director Rian Johnson to touch it. Speaking about why he was so protective of Yoda and returning to the character, Frank Oz had this to say:
There is a scene in the documentary The Director and the Jedi, a bonus feature found on the home video releases of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which shows director Rian Johnson with his hand in a Yoda puppet during rehearsals. Yahoo Entertainment noted this to Frank Oz, and he was very quick to clarify that that was a stand-in puppet for lighting purposes. Frank Oz is quite determined to clarify that wasn’t the Yoda that he uses, once again highlighting how important the character is to him.
Frank Oz’s analogy to golf clubs is an apt one, because that sort of protectiveness is not easily quantifiable. Sure, there may be a superstitious element to it, but there is also the concern that someone else might damage the physical puppet. And even if you have every confidence that your clubs or your Yoda will come back to you unharmed, there is a personal connection to certain objects that does not allow for other people to touch them. Considering how long Oz’s connection to Yoda has been, it stands to reason that he would feel especially protective.
The actual puppeteering that goes into bringing Yoda to life is fascinating as well. As Frank Oz describes here, it is a challenging collaborative effort, with three assistant puppeteers helping him to control the body, arms and facial expressions of the diminutive Jedi. I may be in the minority in that I actually liked getting to see Yoda fight in the prequels, but his return to puppet form for this new trilogy is a welcome one. There is something far more tangible about this Yoda (which is ironic because he’s a ghost) that is charming and just adds to the old school feel of things.
What the future holds for Yoda remains to be seen. The nice thing about the character is that, as a Force Ghost, he can pop up anywhere in the galaxy to offer up some sage wisdom or to crack a few jokes. It would be really cool to see him and ghosts Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi guiding Rey as she trains the next generation of Jedi knights. Plus there is always the possibility of a Yoda spinoff to consider. I don’t love that idea but I do hope we get to see Yoda once again when Star Wars: Episode IX hits theaters on December 20, 2019.