One supplied the voice. The other, the body. Together, Muppeteer Frank Oz and ILM animation director Rob Coleman converted Jedi Master Yoda from a lump-on-a-Dagobah-log puppet to a digital badass for ”Attack of the Clones.” Interview we did, these two.
Did you grieve at Yoda’s digital conversion?
FRANK OZ: I had no qualms. Puppeteering is such a f—ing hard thing to do. [Laughs] Do I miss it a little bit? Yeah. But I’m happier it’s gone to another plateau.
What were the main challenges?
ROB COLEMAN: I was confident we could do the acting moments. But I was faced with a sequence where I was not able to rely on what Frank had established: the fight scene. That took me months to wrap my head around.
Was there a ”Eureka!” moment?
RC: When George added the shot of Yoda grabbing that blue lightning and pushing it back. We needed to show how this old warrior could kick Count Dooku’s butt.
FO: It’s the concept of a mother doing superhuman things to save her child. Plus, Dooku was Yoda’s student; he’d be f—ed if he was going to look like some old man to his student. Yoda’s got an ego too.
You totally nailed Yoda — right down to his ear jiggle.
RC: Actually, I remember showing Frank some work, and he said, ”That wasn’t exactly intentional….”
FO: Things like the ear wiggle — those were things we were actually trying to work against.
RC: We could have not put it in. But when we didn’t, he just didn’t look like Yoda.
How many times have you been asked to record answering-machine greetings as Yoda?
FO: People ask me to do Yoda’s voice and I don’t. It only cheapens him.