|sent from: London, UK. destination: Columbia, Maryland, USA|
I was lucky enough to work on Yoda’s digital costume in Star Wars Episode II. We didn’t know how we were going to get his multilayered outfit working, and I was starting from scratch. The guidance from George and Rob was to use Empire as a reference, except a more cleaned-up version. We didn’t want to refer to the awful Episode I puppet, which looked less like Yoda and more like his bug-eyed cousin who had fallen off the wagon. Indeed, for Rob Coleman (the animation supervisor) and for Star Wars lore, the biggest challenge for Ep II was making a believable digital Yoda. We scoured every piece of reference – there are a couple Yodas in display cases and we examined them from every angle, we had the archives put together a tape of every unreleased behind-the-scenes bit of documentary footage. We also wrangled an excuse to visit the photo archives at the Ranch and spent a happy afternoon looking at rare ESB slides and on-set photos. I pinched myself every day – I was watching Star Wars and talking about Yoda FOR WORK, it counted as legitimate business conversation. Every childhood afternoon spent watching worn out video tapes of the films was vindicated. Still, some vexing questions remained – how many toes does Yoda have? What do his trousers look like? Does he wear trousers?? He had some in the outfit but you had never needed to see them, as the demands of shooting the puppet meant that he was crouching in most shots, or framed waist-up. His toes were a mystery. We modelled 5 toes on these quite large feet, but when he was sitting in chairs they stuck out and were ugly – Rob always asked me to cover them with his robe as much poss. In the end, when it came to working on Yoda again for Episode III, we simplified our life and removed one of his toes and prayed no one would notice – so there’s a little known fact for you fans – Yoda has one less toe in Episode III than in Episode II.