Other than shirtless Kylo Ren, the biggest showstopper in Star Wars: The Last Jedi is probably the return of Yoda. And it turns out director Rian Johnson enlisted legendary puppeteer Frank Oz not only for his Yoda skills but relied on Oz for some help directing and editing, too.
On Tuesday, the digital download of The Last Jedi was released on multiple platforms including iTunes and Amazon Video. And on Johnson’s director’s commentary track, he reveals that the first shot of Yoda’s ghost in the movie was not his idea. It was suggested by Frank Oz.
“This shot by the way, was Frank Oz’s idea. Originally, I forget, I had some more boring way of introducing Yoda. But he came up with the notion of dollying back behind Yoda’s head and seeing the shape of it and knowing instantly, everyone’s heart would jump.”
But Oz’s contributions continued into the editing room, too, as Johnson explains.
“He[Oz] was able to give some incredibly helpful tips. Just in terms of editing. How to cut around with a puppet…he gave some really important insights into how to make this play and to make it feel like the real deal.”
Johnson also confirmed that Yoda in The Last Jedi is 100 percent a puppet and that the only post-production visual effect is the ghostly blue glow on Yoda. The creature effects team even went so far as to track down the woman who painted the eyes of the original Yoda puppet and have her repaint the eyes on the new puppet.
“Neal Scanlan and his team found the original mold for Yoda and recreated the puppet from Empire. There’s no digital Yoda here,” Johnson says proudly, clearly stoked that his Yoda is no poser.
The last time Yoda was a puppet was in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace in 1999, though he was later recreated digitally for the home video releases. Yoda has been computer-generated in all of his Star Wars film appearances since then.
The Last Jedi is out on digital download now and will be released on a physical Blu-ray and DVD on March 27.