Say “Yoda” to anyone in the world – regardless of their Star Wars knowledge – and they’ll likely picture a little old green guy with pointy ears, a robe and infinite wisdom. Since his introduction to the world in 1980, Yoda has gone on to become an international icon, synonymous with not only the Star Wars franchise, but with LucasFilm and all of Sci-Fi, and he’s now one of the most recognized movie characters of all time.
While the plot of the upcoming Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens remains tightly under-wraps by director J.J. Abrams and Disney – we still don’t know how or even if Yoda will make an appearance – we do know is that even if Yoda’s down, you can never really count him out. Yoda has surprised us in the past, and hopefully by the time December 18th rolls around there will be more surprises in store for those who can’t get enough of everyone’s favorite Jedi Master.
Whether you’re a casual Star Wars fan, a die-hard Star Wars obsessive, or simply a card-carrying member of the Yoda Fan Club, we’ve compiled some facts about the creation and history of the centuries old Jedi that are mostly unknown throughout the galaxy. If you didn’t love Yoda before – or even if you did – get ready to use The Force in order to contain your new found feelings and knowledge because here’s 12 Facts You Didn’t Know About Yoda.
12. He’s One of Star Wars’ Greatest Mysteries
When one of the most integral heroes of your cinematic universe is a two foot tall green guy, the best way to avoid questions is to not give any answers. While everyone knows what Yoda drives, what weapon Yoda uses, and what side Yoda fights for, that’s pretty much all the Yoda stats there are to know. If you were to buy a Yoda Trading Card, much else about him would be left blank; and that’s just the way George Lucas intended it.
Lucas has said in the past that he himself doesn’t know much about Yoda, and he intentionally doesn’t want to find out – or, you know, write it down and make it official – because that would take away from the mystery. No one even knows what species he belongs to or what planet he originally came from. We do know, however, that Yaddle – who is basically female Yoda with longer hair – is also a member of the same species, and why the two never hooked up with each other is a mystery for another day.
11. George Lucas Couldn’t Decide On His Name
Could you imagine if this article was called 12 Things You Need To Know About Buffy? That would be confusing, considering that we’re not talking about the famous high-school vampire slayer, but rather the Jedi Master, who was originally set to be called… Buffy?
Yes, it seems blasphemous and silly now, and no doubt Weird Al’s song “Yoda” would have made less sense, but George Lucas originally went with Buffy. That is, until The Empire Strikes Back screenwriter Leigh Brackett changed the name to Minch Yoda in her first draft, which was thankfully (again) changed, this time dropping the “Minch,” which seems more like the nickname of the loser friend in every high school movie ever than that of a centuries old Jedi of mysterious origin.
10. He’s Part Make-Up Artist, Part Theoretical Physicist
When Stuart Freeborn, the the make-up artist who was tasked with creating Yoda, looked into a mirror, he saw Yoda. No, it wasn’t a Disney magic mirror, but rather it was Freeborn’s own reflection that inspired Yoda’s final look.
When Freeborn modeled himself and started sculpting Yoda, he emphasized his bald scalp, wrinkles, and pointed chin in order to bring Yoda into the world. According to Freeborn, the only part of Yoda that wasn’t based on himself was the upper lip, in which he removed the famous mustache of Albert Einstein and ported it onto Yoda’s face. This move was meant by Freeborn to trigger a subconscious association in the audience with Einstein’s intelligence and wisdom, thus making Yoda appear intelligent before he even spoke a word of advice in his lovable, fractured English.
9. The Yodas That Kind Of, Almost Were
Although everyone knows that Frank Oz of The Muppets–fame was the voice and puppeteer of Yoda in all the films he appeared in, what many don’t know is which other actors performed or voiced Yoda over the years, and who was almost Yoda instead of Frank Oz.
Yoda’s history doesn’t begin and end with the Star Wars Saga, but rather it detours into books, comics, video games, cartoons, CGI movies, and even radio plays (or at least it did before Disney retconned all of those materials and turned them into Star Wars Legends). In the Star Wars radio dramatizations Yoda is actually voiced by none other than John Lithgow, which is all at once strange, upsetting, and oddly enchanting.
Other Yodas that weren’t quite Yoda included Jim Henson, who was offered the role but was too busy with The Great Muppet Caper and recommended Oz, as well as Warwick Davis (who played the Ewok Wicket in Episode VI) and Deep Roy, who both subbed in for Yoda in full-body walking shots, since, although he may be a Jedi Master, even Yoda can’t make his puppet body move itself.
8. Earthly Equivalent Yoda’s Speech Has
Just in case you thought Yoda spent too many centuries drinking ale in the cantina – which might explain why he looks like a career alcoholic – apparently being constantly drunk isn’t the only reason one would talk the way he does. Though it would be easy to dismiss Yoda’s speech as a unique sounding way for a fictional 900 year old Jedi in a galaxy far, far away to talk, scientists have actually found that Yoda’s speech is based on a very Earthly concept.
Object Subject Verb languages – such as the one that Yoda employs – are actually believed by researchers to be what all human languages evolved from some 50,000 years ago. According to researches, Object Subject Verb order is the way that kids learn to talk, and is actually prevalent in more than half of the 2,000 modern languages of Earth. So as it turns out, Yoda is on to something, and why English and other languages ever ended up switching the orders of objects and subjects and verbs is a mystery for Yoda – and maybe some smart Earth-bound scientists – to solve.
7. George Lucas Really Didn’t Want Frank Oz as Yoda
Though Frank Oz was the puppeteer for Yoda from day one – performing his lines on set and controlling his movements – George Lucas never actually intended to use Oz’s voice in the final film. When Oz sent Lucas a tape of his planned voice for Yoda, Lucas rejected it, going so far as to reportedly audition other actors for the voice.
Eventually, George Lucas came around and let Oz perform the voice that everyone around the world tries – and usually fails – to impersonate. Once Oz’s voice was locked, Lucas did a complete 180, eventually thinking that Oz’s performance was so good that it deserved an Oscar. Despite spending thousands of dollars on an Oscar campaign to get Oz nominated for Best Supporting Actor, the Academy never ended up nominating Oz, as they felt that a puppeteer is not an actor.
6. Yoda Was Only Meant to Appear in The Empire Strikes Back
Originally meant to be a one hit wonder, George Lucas intended Yoda to appear only in The Empire Strikes Back, and then disappear into oblivion, his job of training Luke complete, never to be seen again. However, those plans changed during pre-production of Return of the Jedi when a child psychologist advised Lucas that it needed to be clearer that Darth Vader was Luke’s father; otherwise audience members under the age of 12 would think it was a lie.
Faced with the challenge, Lucas added Yoda, as he felt that Yoda was the best character to clarify one of the biggest – and most famous – twists in movie history. Once Yoda helped clear everything up and confirm that yes, Luke, he is your father, he ended up appearing in all three prequel films, as well as Star Wars Rebels and Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
5. Yoda Was Exactly 900 Years Old When He Died
Maybe you’d think George Lucas would want to make Yoda’s age a less even number, just because there are 899 other ages between 0 and 900? Or maybe this was on purpose, a sign of a Jedi Master’s life well lived? Or maybe someone at LucasFilm asked Lucas how old Yoda should be and Lucas shouted out “I don’t know, like 900?” and then they wrote that in the script, to be forever held in canon.
4. Yoda Was Almost A Smurf, Basically
Original concept art of Yoda shows him as a smiling blue man with pointy feet, a white beard, and a silly hat. So, yeah, kind of like a Smurf.
Though thankfully Yoda never turned out like this in the films (which is a good thing for Neil Patrick Harris and The Smurfs movie), in The Empire Strikes Back novelization, as well as the Marvel Comics adaptation of the movie, Yoda is depicted as being blue. Whether the authors of these tie-ins never got the memo that he was being changed to green, or whether they just ran out of green ink as well as the ability to type “green” remains unclear, but the one thing we do know; blue Yoda is weird and we don’t like him.
3. Yoda Was Almost A Monkey, Basically
Speaking of things Yoda almost was, prepare to break out your memory wipe kit, because this one will give you nightmares. Before Yoda was a charming puppet and a creepily augmented CGI puppet, George Lucas intended Yoda to be played by an adorable monkey with an adorable cane. But the problem is, Lucas also wanted that monkey to wear a Yoda mask, and the results at that point were something that’s about as far from adorable as possible.
Going so far as to bring the monkey and the trainer onto set to start working on the film, monkey Yoda basically would have been Star Wars’ Jar Jar Binks, assuming we’re all ignoring Jar Jar Binks and pretending he was part of some other franchise somewhere in the depths of hell. Thankfully, those involved in the film realized that monkey Yoda was a bad and creepy idea, and Frank Oz and Muppet Yoda were brought in to preemptively ensure that no nightmares would be had at the sight of Yoda.
2. Yoda: Trainer to the Jedi Stars
We all know that Luke Skywalker became the Jedi he was meant to be after Yoda trained him, but what many don’t know is that Luke didn’t have an exclusive deal on Yoda, and as a result he’s trained a multitude of other famous Jedi throughout the galaxy.
While fans are still arguing about who trained Obi – in Episode I it’s clear that Qui-Gon Jinn trained him, but in Episode V Obi claims that Yoda did – there are other Yoda trainees that are more clear. Kit Fisto, Mace Windu, Ki-Adi Mundi and many other Jedi were trained by Yoda, and thus his legacy lives on even beyond Luke, and maybe Obi.
1. Yoda Delayed the Original Trilogy
Endless debate about how CGI did or didn’t destroy Star Wars aside, George Lucas has claimed that Yoda is one of the reasons why he originally put off making the first trilogy. According to Lucas, he didn’t think that there was any way he could make Yoda adequately fight without the use of CGI. Although that problem was ultimately solved by an animatronic Muppet version of Yoda and some clever camera work, who knows how much longer the world had to wait to see Star Wars, and all because of Yoda.
When talking about The Empire Strikes Back, Lucas has said that making Yoda believable was the most difficult thing about the making of the film. And while Star Wars forever revolutionized cinema as well as special effects, Lucas has always maintained that Yoda caused some serious problems that almost weren’t solved.
So it’s safe to say that without the Yoda we all know and love, there could conceivable be no Star Wars Saga, and without the Star Wars Saga, we’d all be waiting in line to see Alvin and The Chipmunks: The Road Chip come December 18th.
Are you as smart as Yoda? How many of these facts did you know? Are there any facts that you know that we don’t? Let us know in the comments, and help all of us fill out our Yoda Trading Cards with facts about the little green guy – who is thankfully not a monkey in a mask.