There can be no doubt that Baby Yoda is one of the most beloved characters of Disney’s The Mandalorian. Since his debut, the alien child has been praised by internet trolls, Tumblr teenagers and talk show hosts. One person whom you wouldn’t expect to praise this low-brow internet meme though is the acclaimed German filmmaker Werner Herzog, and yet he absolutely adores the baby.
Herzog, who plays The Client on the show, starred opposite the adorable animatronic in a number of scenes. During a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, he expressed his respect for what all Disney was able to accomplish, on-set and off-set, with one little puppet. “I’m not really into the Internet,” the actor, who is 77, said, “so, of course, it took me by surprise.”
Like many independent filmmakers, Herzog felt the need to justify his admiration for a piece of pop culture. “But what’s wrong with saying something good about Baby Yoda,” he said, to that end, calling the puppet a “phenomenal achievement.” He directed his praise not just at the puppet’s social media presence, but its craft as well. “It’s wonderfully sculpted, and a mechanical device that is an achievement for cinema.”
Here, Herzog touches upon what has become a sensitive issue in the age of digital filmmaking. When George Lucas shot the original Star Wars trilogy, he did not have the technology to make characters like R2-D2 and C-P3O fully CGI. Instead, he stuffed actual people inside robot suits to play them.
Compared to the detailed computer-generated models of today, the original renditions of R2 and C-P3O may seem a little hokey, but they had their advantages. For one, the characters got to be present while filming a scene. Nowadays, most CGI characters are added in post. As such, actors have to interact with nonexistent entities while shooting, which can be rather difficult.
Although Baby Yoda was originally going to be a CGI character, too, the creators of The Mandalorian ultimately decided to go the puppet route. And the end result proved not only cuter, but more realistic, too.