How that secret cameo in Star Wars: The Last Jedi came to be

If you don't want to know about the super secret Jar Jar Binks cameo in STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI, then click away, for here be MAJOR SPOILERS.

Obviously I'm messing with you. Jar Jar Binks does not appear in the film, but another classic STAR WARS character does make an appearance. STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI certainly had plenty of surprises in store, although it's probably safe to say that not all of them have been embraced by fans, with some even starting up a petition to have Disney strike the film from STAR WARS canon. Good luck with that. One surprise which everyone at my screening did seem to enjoy was when a key STAR WARS character made a welcome return. More on that after these messages.

If you're still with me, you already know, or don't care, that Yoda returns as a Force ghost in STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI, and not only that, but he's back in puppet form, baby! After Rey (Daisy Ridley) departs Ahch-To in the Millennium Falcon, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) ignites a torch and heads off intending to destroy the ancient tree which contains the sacred Jedi texts. It's at this moment that Yoda appears and offers some sage advise, as well as summoning a lightning bolt which destroys the tree, and, as far as Luke knows, the Jedi texts. STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI writer/director Rian Johnson told Uproxx that he knew that if he was going to bring Yoda back, it would have to be as a puppet, particuarly the "ornery" version from THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.

That felt really important to me. And, actually, I cut some of that out and Frank Oz said to me I had to put it back. Because when I first pitched him the scene, it’s like the Yoda from Empire is back because that’s the one Luke had the emotional connection with. And that’s why we did the puppet and recreated the Empire puppet: Neal Scanlan and his team did a recreation of the Yoda puppet. It’s not only a puppet, it’s an exact replica of the Empire puppet. They found the original molds for it. They found the woman that painted the original eyes for Yoda. Then Frank came and worked with them for a few weeks to get the puppet right. He did a lot of testing and a lot of adjusting with the puppet creators. It was amazing to watch the process. The idea that the last time Luke saw Yoda was in Return of the Jedi and the notion of getting back to that version of Yoda to form the emotional connection with Luke – including a glimpse of the impishness, as part of their relationship. It made a lot of sense.

Creature effects supervisor Neal Scanlan told SyFy that he asked ILM for "everything in their archives related to the design and construction of the various Yoda puppets over the years. The idea was to create an "archaeological reworking" of the character, integrating nuances from past iterations to produce a historically accurate version that fans would immediately recognize on a deeper level." What Scanlan got was a giant crate filled with nearly 40 years of material, and at the bottom of it, locked away in a box, was an original mold of Yoda's head made by original trilogy makeup and special creature designer Stuart Freeborn. Since quite a number of years had passed since the original Yoda puppet was created, the creature team did make a few small advancements to ease Frank Oz's performance.

We wanted to make the technology a little more reliable and a little bit more user-friendly, but knowing that Frank was going to perform it, we just wanted him to feel that he was engaging with this puppet in a way that was completely and utterly intimate to him. That's what puppetry is all about: the ability to portray and convey the emotions of the puppeteer behind it, you know? No greater puppet than Yoda and Frank Oz.

Keeping all of this secret was quite the undertaking, as THE LAST JEDI producer Ram Bergman told Entertainment Weekly that he worked for a year to hide Frank Oz's involvement in the project. "I had to convince Frank to basically make sure we don’t put his name on the poster, and not to do any press about it," Bergman said. "I made sure he ate in the office and not publicly in the restaurant when he came to Pinewood [Studios.]" Even Mark Hamill had to be careful not to be seen with Oz. "We were emailing each other: ‘Meet me in the parking lot and I’ll sneak you up to my hotel room,'" Hamill said with a laugh. "You’re reading these things later and thinking, ‘Eww, that’s kind of creepy. People could take this the wrong way.'"

How did you feel about Yoda's scene in THE LAST JEDI?

STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI is now playing in theaters, so check out reviews from our own Eric Walkuski and Chris Bumbray. Also, be sure to let us know what YOU thought of the film as well!



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