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In The Last Jedi, Yoda looked very puppet-like and you could tell they took great care to make him look like what we all remember from ESB/ROTJ rather than the CGI version from the prequels. But with the CGI aura and transparency done after-the-fact, I wasn't sure if the body itself was done with a physical prop.

Did they actually use a puppet or did they digitally recreate Yoda to look like the old puppet?

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    Why would the question title be changed to remove "spoilers" only to leave the Yoda tag in place? Both are visible on HNQ. Is knowing that Yoda is in the movie in some capacity or that he's a puppet instead of CGI really a spoiler for the movie? – coblr Dec 19 '17 at 23:36
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    I like the spoiler omission in title. I use the phone app and the random-hnq widget, where only the title is shown and not the tags or anything else. I once got a spoiler of Game of Thrones in there... Therefore thanks for not saying Yoda in the title. Perhaps you saved someone of a spoiler :) – Pedro A Dec 20 '17 at 1:00
  • @coblr star-wars is the only one that appears in the title for me, and no tags appear in the HNQ for desktop. – wizzwizz4 Dec 20 '17 at 10:53
  • There are several places where all of the tags appear on desktop sites. The main Stack Exchange page being one. – Herohtar Dec 20 '17 at 16:33
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Not only was it a puppet, but they even got the original voice-actor/puppeteer Frank Oz to provide the voice and operate the puppet.

And if you were wondering, yes, it is Frank Oz puppeteering the whole scene, reuniting the cinema veteran with Mark Hamill decades after they first appeared onscreen together.

“Frank came back, and Frank puppeteered and performed the entire thing,” Johnson said. “The whole thing is a practical performance by Frank.

“And seeing him and Mark work together…I’ve got pictures I’ve been sitting on for the past two years that I can’t wait to put out, of Frank Oz down there with the Yoda puppet. It was extraordinary.”

...

Neal Scanlan and his team did a recreation of the Yoda puppet. It’s not only a puppet, it’s an exact replica of the Empire puppet. They found the original molds for it. They found the woman that painted the original eyes for Yoda. Then Frank came and worked with them for a few weeks to get the puppet right. He did a lot of testing and a lot of adjusting with the puppet creators. It was amazing to watch the process. The idea that the last time Luke saw Yoda was in Return of the Jedi and the notion of getting back to that version of Yoda to form the emotional connection with Luke – including a glimpse of the impishness, as part of their relationship. It made a lot of sense.”

How Star Wars: The Last Jedi brought back THAT surprise character

and

He was 100 percent puppet,” writer/director Rian Johnson told Wired. “We actually recreated the puppet from The Empire Strikes Back. They found original molds, and Frank Oz came out and puppeteered him. It was exactly the way they would’ve done it when they shot Empire.”

How Star Wars: The Last Jedi Recreated [SPOILER]

and

ILM sent a giant crate filled with nearly 40 years of material, a time capsule that doubled as a treasure chest for Scanlan.

"As we opened the boxes, it was cleary evident that each model we took out was from a more recent model," he recalled. "Then we got to the very bottom, and there was this wooden box and I could tell instantly that that was an original Yoda mold that Stuart Freeborn made.

"As we undid it, there was the original head of Yoda," Scanlan added. "That and one hand were the only two things that we had to go on."

enter image description here

Scanlan and his team supplemented those building blocks and schematics with second-hand research that included conversations with old ILM employees and puppeteers, as well as studying video they found on the internet. They also had the luxury of conferring with Oz himself. One of Scanlan's first big professional jobs was on the Oz-directed big screen adaptation of The Little Shop of Horrors, and they knew each other from the Henson Creature Workshop, where Scanlan was a founding member.

"He was one of my idols and to have worked with him then, he couldn't walk away from it," Scanlan said, laughing. "There was too much enthusiasm from our department. I think he would have never been able to live with himself."

As much as they wanted to recreate Oz's original Yoda puppet, the creature team didn't shy away from utilizing small advancements to assist in the performance.

"We wanted to make the technology a little more reliable and a little bit more user-friendly," he said, "but knowing that Frank was going to perform it, we just wanted him to feel that he was engaging with this puppet in a way that was completely and utterly intimate to him. That's what puppetry is all about: the ability to portray and convey the emotions of the puppeteer behind it, you know? No greater puppet than Yoda and Frank Oz."

EXCLUSIVE: HOW A BELOVED STAR WARS PUPPET WAS REBUILT FOR A LAST JEDI CAMEO

  • Did Oz puppeteer the original puppet? I have basically no experience with how puppeteering is normally done but for some reason I assumed one guy operated the puppet, and another provided the voice. – TheIronCheek Dec 19 '17 at 19:03
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    @TheIronCheek - He operated the original puppet as well. – Valorum Dec 19 '17 at 19:07
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    For those of us who grew up with Sesame Street and the The Muppet Show, there's no mistaking Oz's voice. If they'd used an imitator, the scene wouldn't have had near the impact it did. – T.E.D. Dec 19 '17 at 22:57

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