Lucasfilm's The Mandalorian creators considered using CGI Baby Yoda if the practical effects puppet didn't work, but Werner Herzog put a stop to it. The first ever live-action Star Wars TV show released on Disney+ when it launched Nov. 12. Prior to its premiere, there were reports that The Mandalorian included a major Star Wars spoiler that would have an impact on the larger universe. That spoiler turned out to be the as-yet-unnamed character dubbed the Child, more popularly known as Baby Yoda since the character is a young version of Yoda's species, a name for which is also as-yet-unknown. The Mandalorian's ensuing episodes have followed Pedro Pascal's titular character as he protects the Child, most recently stealing the youngling back from the Client (Herzog).
Outside the series itself, Baby Yoda has become wildly popular among The Mandalorian fans, with all sorts of fan art hitting the internet. There's also been clamor for Baby Yoda toys and merchandise in time for the holiday season. As Mandalorian showrunner Jon Favreau explained, the reason there aren't Baby Yoda toys already is so the production could avoid the spoiler from leaking before the episode premiered. Still, considering the love for Baby Yoda hasn't yet wavered, it's likely to continue until Lucasfilm and toy manufacturers can release more tie-in merchandise. But it turns out, there was a point when the creators considered not using the Baby Yoda puppet that's helped propel the character to such popularity.
A recent Vanity Fair article includes a story recounted by The Mandalorian executive producer Dave Filoni at the series' Hollywood premiere in which he reveals there was a time when he and Favreau were worried the Baby Yoda puppet wouldn't look good on screen. To prepare for that possibility, they would shoot scenes without the puppet in case they needed to create Baby Yoda with CGI. Then on one instance, Herzog, who's a self-proclaimed Baby Yoda fan, saw them setting up for a shot without the puppet and said to them, "You are cowards. Leave it."
We'll never know if The Mandalorian's Baby Yoda would have been as popular among viewers if Lucasfilm had instead opted to create the character using CGI. That said, many would argue one of the main reasons Baby Yoda works so well is that the character is brought to life using practical effects rather than CGI. The puppet is excellently crafted so that it gives the Child more texture, while the puppeteers bring a depth of emotion to the character. Not to mention that having a puppet on set gives actors like Herzog and Pascal something real to work with. Deborah Chow, director of The Mandalorian episode 3, recalled Herzog speaking to the puppet as if it were a real child:
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.
There may have been benefits of creating Baby Yoda with CGI, and it's understandable that The Mandalorian creators wanted to have the option just in case. After all, there was a lot riding on the show as the first live-action Star Wars series and Disney+'s highest profile flagship original. But Herzog was right to tell the filmmakers to have faith in their Baby Yoda puppet. As the popularity of Baby Yoda among The Mandalorian viewers proves, the puppet makes the character. Thankfully, Herzog stepped in and fans can look forward to more Baby Yoda as The Mandalorian season 1 continues.
The Mandalorian season 1, episode 4 releases Friday, November 29th on Disney+.
Source: Vanity Fair