'The Mandalorian': Show Crew on How They Made 'Baby Yoda'

The entire internet has fallen in love with the character they have affectionately named "Baby Yoda," despite him being neither a baby nor Yoda, who Star Wars fans know died a few years before the timeline of The Mandalorian.

The character, however, does share key similarities with Yoda as first seen in The Empire Strikes Back. Like that Yoda, "Baby Yoda" in The Mandalorian is also a puppet, operated by a number of puppeteers who control every movement, gesture and blink.

As Mandalorian actor Werner Herzog, who plays The Client on the Disney+ show, told Variety, the puppet is operated by two technicians: "One was for the eyes and the mouth and the other one was for other facial expressions. It's a phenomenal technological achievement but, beyond the technological achievement, it's heartbreaking."

#TheMandalorian spoilers in this clip: Werner Herzog calls the surprise character everyone is freaking out over, "heartbreakingly beautiful" https://t.co/RwX3TVMqtg pic.twitter.com/mSL8Fc6GvB

— Variety (@Variety) November 15, 2019

Episode 3 director Deborah Chow told Vanity Fair: "I had a day with one of the weirdest moments I've ever had directing. I was directing Werner with the puppet, and Werner had just fallen in love with the baby. Werner, I think, had forgotten it wasn't actually a live creature, and started sort of...directing the baby."

"Werner is talking to the baby as if it was a real thing. And I'm trying to direct Werner, and I'm just like, 'How did I get here? How did my life end up like this?'"

Speaking of working with the puppeteers, Chow added: "I would just say, Okay, here's the scene: The door opens and there's a scary thing, so he's going to shrink back. He feels scared right now. He's going to look to Mando for comfort. So we would do it that way."

However, despite everyone having fallen in love with the puppet, "Baby Yoda" (who is officially known in the series as 'The Child') was nearly a purely CGI creation. Director Dave Filoni told The Hollywood Reporter that Herzog, who is also an acclaimed director in his own right, intervened after the team wanted to shoot a "clean plate," a version of the scene with the puppet removed so they would have the option to computer generate the character.

"[Herzog] goes, 'What are you doing? He says, 'You are cowards. Leave it. Leave it,'" Filoni said.

baby yoda puppet mandalorian
The "Baby Yoda" puppet on 'The Mandalorian' was nearly replaced with a CGI version. Disney+

The Yoda puppet in The Empire Strikes Back, meanwhile, was controlled by puppeting legend Frank Oz, who in his career not only controlled and voiced the Star Wars icon but also characters like Miss Piggy, Cookie Monster and some of the many creatures from the film Labyrinth. However, that character too was nearly not a puppet. According to J.W. Rinzler's book The Making of The Empire Strikes Back, the character was nearly portrayed by a trained monkey in a costume.

However, a crew member who had worked on the ape sequences at the start of 2001: A Space Odyssey reportedly warned them about all the trouble a monkey would cause on set, leading them to abandon the idea.

The Mandalorian episodes air on Fridays on Disney+.