November 27, 2019

'The Mandalorian' Star Werner Herzog Was Not a Fan of CG Baby Yoda

We, and the Force, are totally with Werner Herzog on this one.

The Mandalorian is a big deal for Star Wars fans.

The first live-action TV show set in that galaxy far, far away, the Disney+ series combines the scale and spectacle audiences love on the big screen with a story more suited for the small one. Fans also appreciate the series' approach to practical effects work -- a lost art in modern Hollywood filmmaking. 

They also love it for Baby Yoda. Because obvious.

But no one loves the little guy and his on-set puppet more than Werner Herzog.

Baby Yoda, also known as "The Child," is a very convincing and sophisticated live-action puppet -- much like the one Frank Oz used and voiced in the original Star Wars trilogy and in The Phantom Menace. According to Vanity Fair, during a scene with the puppet, Herzog shot down writer and executive producer Jon Favreau and Dav Filoni's plans to replace it with CG. 

When the director and documentarian saw Favreau and Filoni “removing the miniature creature from set during one of his scenes with the being,” he asked them why they were doing that. Favreau and Filoni wanted to shoot a blank slate for the scene, just in case they decided in post that a digital version of Baby Yoda would look more "real" that the, you know, real puppet.

Naturally, Werner "No Filter" Herzog made his disdain for that choice known.

"You are cowards. Leave it!"

One, this story is cool and scary in equal measure. Imagine getting scorned by Herzog. *Shudders.

Two, Herzog is right. Practical effects are where it is at, and who knew that the stone-cold Herzog had such care space in his heart for something so damn cute?

Credit: Lucasfilm

Filoni shared this story at the Los Angeles premiere for The Mandalorian, and it keeps getting funnier. But there's an even better story, this one from Deborah Chow -- the director of the series' third (and very entertaining) episode. 

Speaking with VF, Chow -- who is also directing Disney+'s upcoming Obi-Wan Kenobi show starring Ewan McGregor -- remembered "one of the weirdest moments" she's ever had while on-set with Herzog and the puppet. 

“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. It’s as charming, but no less surreal."

Chow went on to say that "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?'”

We love that Herzog charged himself as this puppet's protector and on-set advocate. The best type of "helicopter parent."

The Mandalorian is streaming now.

What are your thoughts on the series so far? What do you like? What can work better? Sound off below.      

Your Comment

8 Comments

I pulled a pupil rolling my eyes at this stupid comment; "Herzog is right. Practical effects are where it is at." There's plenty of brilliant CG creature work, I give you; Thanos, Smart Hulk, War of the Planet of the Apes, Gollum, Two Face in Dark Knight and the dismembering scene in Looper. And getting better everyday. Yes Baby Yoda is great, an excellent example. Conversely there's the horrific Yoda puppet of the Star Wars prequels. There's plenty of great practical stuff, but cinema is full of shonky practical work that looks like jiggly rubber. Get over it.

November 27, 2019 at 5:20PM

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eric wadsworth
Director, Storyboard artist, VFX artist.
148

There are also some good examples that are not so obvious. For example Gravity was pretty much faces and cgi and it was great. Search for the making of, it is insane what they pulled of.

Yet, I still appreciate practical effects. In conclusion I would say both can be great. Use what's best for the budget and best to tell the story. And in that case I would say that a puppet is great for the actors.

November 28, 2019 at 7:24AM

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Thanos is a /really/ bad example. But your point still stands.

November 28, 2019 at 11:42AM

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Aankhen
256

Wasn't Yoda in the prequels only a puppet in the first one? And even then only in the early releases... in my eyes the prequels always have been an argument pro puppet...

November 30, 2019 at 6:47PM

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You're right, CGI when done well, can be absolutely breathtaking and almost indistinguishable from real life. I was actually scratching my head through most of the first episodes wondering which shots were puppeteering, computer-generated or both.
Sadly, CGI gets a bad wrap. Although I do think that having a puppet on set clearly helped the actors perform better, and I personally think that the slightly stiff and subtle movement of the puppet works perfectly with the Star Wars routes of the show.
I've not read that much about the production of the show, but so far, I am sure there are at least a few CG shots of baby Yoda in particular.

December 5, 2019 at 5:08AM

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They need a Star Wars spin off about the intrepid team of mechanics that created and built R2D2 because of course.

November 27, 2019 at 8:11PM

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Galin McMahon
editor
183

I think the new show is great. Light on fashion and cool characters. It doesn't matter if it's CG or practical. If it suspends disbelief long enough for a shot to work it's the right way.

November 29, 2019 at 8:31PM

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chip brandstetter
Filmmaker, Editor, Animator, Sound Design, Composer
278

Very cute freak invented by the authors of the film. He's got amazingly kind eyes.

December 3, 2019 at 2:31PM

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I like the charm of this fabulous character

December 3, 2019 at 2:48PM

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