When critics of ”Episode II — Attack of the Clones” say it lacks characters worth caring about, they’re forgetting about the most beloved ”Star Wars” hero of all. Here’s a hint: He’s small, he’s green, and like this he talks. The moment at the end of ”Clones” when Yoda ignites his lightsaber and begins kung-fu fighting like a Jedi Miss Piggy gets the loudest applause of anything in the movie.
In ”Clones,” Yoda was a CG creation instead of a puppet for the first time. But his heart and soul remain with Frank Oz, the Muppeteer-turned-director (”Bowfinger,” ”Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”) who’s brought Yoda to life since 1980’s ”The Empire Strikes Back.” Oz (who’s also the voice of Miss Piggy) had endless Yoda-related wisdom to share with EW.com.
How involved were you in bringing the digital version of Yoda to life?
I had a meeting with [special effects supervisor Rob Coleman] and George and a couple other guys a year or so ago. I gave them some thoughts about Yoda’s character: the physicality of him, his walk, his age, how he struggles because of his joints, and how his robe falls on him.
And what was most important to maintain the essence of what you did?
I think age — it’s still a struggle for Yoda. When he died, he was 900 years old, and he could barely walk. And now he’s 800-something and he’s not close to death yet, but he still struggles. The important thing with Yoda is the struggle of walking and the struggle of thinking hard and using the Force. As an older Jedi, it doesn’t come as easy as when he was a younger Jedi — even though he’s more powerful now.
Given that, what did you make of the insane burst of action Yoda leaps into at the end?
I loved it. [His action] is like a mother who sees her child trapped underneath a car and will goddamn lift that car — something she could never normally do. Adrenaline does that to human beings, and I think that’s what happened to Yoda. He did what he had to do, and then he was exhausted and went back to himself.
What made the digital Yoda work for you?
They did a fantastic job because they could have really gone overboard, and they didn’t. What they did is very clever. In the beginning of the movie, Yoda was very much the Yoda I performed, as far as movements and mannerisms, because they had to mimic that. But as time went on, especially at the point he was fighting Count Dooku, then he turned into a Yoda that had much more potential than I could ever do. The first scenes of Yoda just being Yoda were very helpful for the audience accepting what came later on.