As one of the team who worked on the Yoda puppet during the original trilogy, Nick Malley is well placed to have an educated opinion on this particular subject. Stepping back over 20 years to the making of The Phantom Menace, it was decided to do a ‘refresh’ on Yoda, essentially changing his entire look despite being 900 years old and the film being set just 35 years before the next time we would see him in The Empire Strikes Back.
Speaking at a sci-fi convention over the weekend, Malley discussed the resculpted puppet and its shortcomings.
They built a puppet for Episode I: The Phantom Menace but made the mistake of trying to update Yoda. They re-sculptured him and made him out of a different material which was heavier. Then, because he was transparent instead of opaque, it meant light didn’t hit him the same way so his color wasn’t the same.
They also needed to put a stronger mechanism in so the result was a Yoda that looked quite different and generated a lot of criticism. Ultimately you can’t redesign grandma: grandma is grandma. She might be old-fashioned but that’s grandma. You need to save your new stuff for your new characters.