A Jedi-alogue with Yoda's Frank Oz and Rob Coleman
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.