It’s strange to think that a Star Wars TV show made a bigger impression on 2019 pop culture than the major motion picture released the same year, but Jon Favreau’s The Mandalorian might well have managed just that, thanks in no small part to the continuing popularity of the character known as Baby Yoda.
From Disney’s perspective, it’s a good thing that the cute little Force-user took off like he did, considering how much money the Mouse House invested in the character. During a recent TCA Winter Press Tour event, actor Adam Pally was reminiscing about his experience playing a stormtrooper who punches Baby Yoda when he mentioned an eyebrow-raising figure for the cost of the puppet:
“I remember the first take that I did when I punched it… They called ‘cut’ and Jon, who was watching on a monitor in his office, came down and said, ‘I just want to let you know that this is the hero [expensive puppet] and it costs, like, $5 million. I want you to hit it, but I want you to know that.’”
Pally went on to remark that he felt so nervous about handling his expensive co-star that he messed up the next three takes.
Showrunner Jon Favreau wasn’t the only one who felt very protective of the meme-spawning Baby Yoda puppet. Werner Herzog, for instance, reportedly called the crew “cowards” when they considered replacing the practical effect with CGI for a scene.
In the end, that little $5 million model worked wonders for The Mandalorian’s online reputation, though Disney’s investment would’ve paid off even better if this weren’t one of the rare cases where the studio underestimated the public’s demand for merchandise.
With The Rise of Skywalker performing worse than expected at the box office, Baby Yoda became the face of the Star Wars franchise in 2019, and you can expect to see even more of him once the second season of The Mandalorian comes to Disney Plus later this year.