What Yoda was originally supposed to look like
An iconic Star Wars character, Yoda took several artists and a long process to switch his design from a gnome-like creature to his classic look.
Jedi Master Yoda became one of the Star Wars’ most beloved characters, but it was originally very different from its current iconic design. Star wars is known to feature a wide variety of unique aliens, planets and spaceships. However, much of what viewers see on screen is very different from the original concept art of the creators. This includes Yoda, who went through a long process of evolution before reaching his final design.
Introduced in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back in 1980, Yoda is a little green alien of an unknown species. As one of the last remaining Jedi Masters, he taught Luke how to become a Jedi Knight. In Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, he died of old age, eventually becoming one with the Force. Since then Yoda has become a beloved Star wars character, appearing frequently in others Star wars media with various important roles. For example, Yoda was the Grand Master of the Jedi Order in all three Star wars prequel movies. He also fought in the Clone Wars in the animated television series Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Yoda also later appeared as a Force Ghost to advise Luke in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
All along Star wars‘Over several decades, Yoda’s look has changed many times, from a puppet to a CGI character and back to a puppet. However, Yoda’s design changed a lot before he even appeared onscreen for the first time. Many artists have contributed to the design of Yoda before Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back was released, and their concept art shows Yoda evolving from a garden gnome to his iconic look today.
Published in 1980, The Empire Strikes Back Sketchbook shows concept art sketches drawn by Joe Johnston and Nilo Rodis-Jamero that model makers could then use to create aliens, props and sets. Many of their Yoda sketches are similar to his final design, with pointy ears, wrinkles, and a petite stature. In contrast, one sketch depicts Yoda as a dwarf-like creature with a full beard, a pointy hat, and a “magic” staff. Subsequent designs moved away from that fantastic accent towards Yoda’s alien look.
2016 book Star Wars Art: Ralph McQuarrie represented numerous works of art by McQuarrie, which contributed to the design of both Star wars sets and characters. In particular, an illustration for Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back depicts Luke visiting Yoda’s hut on Dagobah. Here Yoda looks a lot more like his final design, but he’s still slightly taller with visible, long, slender legs. Later, Yoda’s design had to change so that the puppeteers could operate it from below the main stage. Because of this, the artists had to extend Yoda’s dresses to the floor to hide the puppets.
Ultimately, the design for Yoda came from Stuart Freeborn, a makeup artist. Based on sketches by all previous artists, Freeborn sculpted a clay model of Yoda’s head. He also incorporated several of his own facial features, mixing them with Yoda’s playful gaze. Considering Yoda’s unique design, it makes sense that its development took several artists and a long process to become the iconic Star wars character he is today.
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