Tuesday, May 04, 2010
30 Years of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK - part 4
Happy STAR WARS day! Since today is May The Fourth (Be With You) it seemed only appropriate that this day be dedicated to Yoda, the diminutive, hermit, Jedi Master. Yoda was without a doubt the most significant new character to be introduced in THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. While STAR WARS introduced us to the Force, except for convincing some stormtoopers that "These aren't the droids you're looking for," distracting a couple more stormtroopers with a ventriloquism trick on the Death Star, and a couple other minor bits, we don't really see the Force in all its glory. But beginning with Luke's telekinetic grab of his lightsaber in the Wampa cave, this movie is all about learning how to use different aspects of the Force. Our guide, and Luke's, is Yoda.
What made Yoda impressive aside from his wonky syntax and his gently mad, playful persona, was the fact that he was a puppet, a puppet with an amazing amount of screen time, with the camera lingering over him and never once looking phony, like anything less than a living breathing creature. Part of the credit goes to creature maker Stuart Freeborn, who sculpted and manufactured the puppet, as seen below.
Most of the credit though belongs to performer Frank Oz, who not only physically manipulated Yoda, guiding his physical performance, but lent him his voice. Oz was a veteran puppeteer for the muppets of "Sesame Street" (Bert, Grover, Cookie Monster) and the "Muppet Show" (Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy, Sam the Eagle, Animal), and Yoda's voice is somewhat remiscent of Grover and Fozzie Bear. Oz made Yoda breathe.
For some do it yourself Yoda fun, try some Yoda Origami. If the instructions baffle you, there are a number of video tutorials on You tube.