Last week, after Baby Yoda did that but before Baby Yoda did this, a fellow Uproxx editor sent me the following message: “For those of us who are not Star Wars nerds, I think some sort of ‘what is this fuss about Baby Yoda all about?’ post could [be useful]. Personally, I have no idea what the fuck is going on and would love for someone to explain it to me.” First off, I can’t believe this person asked me, the guy who owned multiple Phantom Menace Pepsi cans, a question about Star Wars nerds. Also, I will not out the identify of the staffer (monster???), because Baby Yoda’s popularity should be self-evident. Jon Favreau, who developed the Disney+ series The Mandalorian, thinks it’s because, like the actual Yoda, “we don’t know a lot of details about where he comes from or his species,” but with all due respect to the guy who’s involved with the three highest-grossing movies of 2019, you’re wrong. It’s because he cute. I mean, come on.
But there is someone out there who might not like Baby Yoda. It’s not Elisabeth Moss, it’s not Werner Herzog, and it’s certainly not Laura Dern. It’s Star Wars creator George Lucas, who visited The Mandalorian set, but otherwise has been quiet on the show. Maybe that’s for the best, after he compared Disney to “white slavers.” But based on previous comments he’s made, it’s safe to assume Lucas is not Baby Yoda’s biggest fan.
Yoda made his Star Wars debut in 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back, where he stole Luke’s dinner and taught him that while he’s not afraid now, he will be… he… will… be. Designed by the late Stuart Freeborn, the puppet, originally named Buffy then Minch Yoda, was partially modeled after Albert Einstein and voiced and performed by Frank Oz. He quickly became one of the most popular characters in the Star Wars universe, up there with wookiee Chewbacca and droids R2-D2 and C-3PO, but unlike those three, Yoda doesn’t have a classification. He’s simply Yoda through the original trilogy, the prequels, and The Last Jedi. In fact, if you go to his (and, uh, Yaddle’s) Wookieepedia page, you’ll be directed to “Yoda’s species,” which reads, “The species to which the legendary Jedi Master Yoda belonged was ancient and shrouded in mystery.” With countless tie-novels, comic books, video games, theme park rides, and TV series, how can Yoda not have an official categorization? This is by design from George Lucas.
Lucas is strangely reluctant to discuss Yoda’s lineage or even what species he is. “I created Yoda who was two feet tall large with green ears, but to be really honest with you, I never really figured out where he came from, what his species is called. It doesn’t even have a name and maybe it’s somewhere but I don’t know what it is,” he told MovieFone in 2005. “So, he’s a mystery character. He’s a magical character. He has no background, he comes and he goes. He’s the subversive secret mysterious stranger that enters the film and then exits.” Yoda has been called an “elf,” a “little swamp frog,” and, my personal favorite, the “illegitimate child of Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy,” but none of those are canon; the rumors that he’s a “Whill” or “Tridactyl” (he has three toes) have also gone nowhere. Lucasfilm even blocked the release of a trading card depicting a Yoda-like being worshiping an idol (it’s weird and wonderful), because “depictions of Yoda in unfamiliar settings are strictly off limits as far as Lucasfilm is concerned.”
That brings us back to Baby Yoda. Lucas reportedly “contributed story elements” to the sixth episode of The Mandalorian season one (that would be this week’s episode), with Making Star Wars‘ Jason Ward adding that his sources “infer that the species will finally be named in the episode,” but that would go against decades of Lucas denying to reveal too much about Yoda. Of course, The Mandalorian isn’t Lucas’ show — it’s Disney’s, and a decision like “it turns out Yoda is what happens when a frog and an old man step into a telepod from The Fly at the same time” is out of his creative control. Lucas is “fine” with The Mandalorian, according to Disney CEO Bob Iger, but he might not be fine with The Mandalorian exploring Baby Yoda’s species. And honestly? It shouldn’t. Fans don’t need another “I don’t have people. I’m alone” moment. A mystery, Baby Yoda and Yoda should remain. Besides, The Mandalorian has more important things to focus on, like visiting the planet where everyone speaks like Space Werner Herzog. Do that first.
For more on The Mandalorian, click here.