For better or worse, Baby Yoda is without a doubt the most popular cast member of Disney’s hit show The Mandalorian. Whether you love him for his cuteness or despise him for the overwhelming attention he’s received online because of it, his influence seemingly knows no bounds. As iconic as the design is, however, VFX artists actually struggled quite a bit to settle on his look.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, The Mandalorian effects supervisor Richard Bluff discussed the development nightmare that was Baby Yoda. As a lead character of the series without a preexisting design, Baby Yoda’s look was pivotal to determining the success of the show overall. Fortunately for Bluff and his team at Industrial Light and Magic, they found an appearance that works.
According to Bluff, the ILM team brainstormed a number of different designs before finally picking a winner. One of the most important aspects of the design was to give actors a reference point, something they could actually interact with in a believable manner whilst shooting on set. In the end, they settled on a puppet whose movements could be accentuated in post-production.
The Mandalorian actor Werner Herzog recently called the puppet a milestone for cinema, and that’s by no means an understatement. As Bluff states himself, the most detailed version of the puppet required up to five puppeteers to commandeer a wide range of movements, gestures and emotions. Aside from this version, another, simpler model was used for shots in which the character resided in the background.
According to Bluff, bringing Baby Yoda to life on the small screen started out with a puppet meant to give actors a reference point while filming. As principal photography went on, though, the team developed a fully animatronic puppet that was used to show the character moving.
The first season of The Mandalorian is currently streaming on Disney+, with the second run expected to arrive this October.