Right out of the gate, The Mandalorian's Baby Yoda became an instant cultural icon, quickly upstaging everything else in that galaxy far, far away. But the adorable Child of unknown origin (brought to life by practical puppetry) wasn't created overnight. As the latest episode of Disney Gallery reveals, series creator Jon Favreau looked at countless pieces of concept art until finding the perfect, most adorable one. One of the unused drawings is the, um, eye-catching creation you see above — a creature more in line with the bizarreness of the infantile Rotta the Hutt.
"We all, I think, had a vision for what [the] bad version of it was," Favreau says in Episode 5, which goes into great detail about the show's many practical effects. "We got lots and lots of drawings. Some of them were too cute, some of them were too ugly, some of them were the wrong proportions. But they were all informing, as we gave notes on each drawing, Dave [Filoni] and I started zeroing in on what it was."
Based on his VR work with Gnomes and Goblins, Favreau wanted a creature that would emote through its eyes and ears, rather than through overt facial cues.
In the end, it was Lucasfilm concept design supervisor Christian Alzmann who hit the jackpot with an image (below) "that had [Baby Yoda] wrapped up in what looked like a piece of a flight jacket or something, we didn't know," Favreau explains. "And his eyes were a little weird, he looked a little out of it. There was something a little off with it, but we found it charming and that became the rallying image that we said, 'This is good.' And it developed from there."
With a character design eventually locked down, Legacy Effects then spent three months or so building the puppet that would enthrall audiences all over the world. Bringing the Child to life took a group of three to four puppeteers, each one controlling different body movements. "That's really when it became The Baby," Favreau says.
"Even though there's maybe a person wearing a suit or it's actually a robot covered in silicon, it's still a creature that we all want to relate to and the audience will relate to," adds cinematographer Baz Idoine in the docuseries. "You shoot them like any other actor that's acting in a scene, where they have intent and meaning and a purpose and have their own arc. You want to be able to photograph that in the correct manner. The great thing was these creatures were fantastic."
The episode also gives us a look at the teleplay's initial description for Baby Yoda in the Season 1 premiere. After reading it, Filoni did a quick sketch of the Sistine Chapel-like image — Favreau compares it to E.T. as well — of Mando (Pedro Pascal) and the Child reaching out to touch one another.
Literally everyone involved with the project, in front of and behind the camera, has fond memories of Baby Yoda on set.
"Working with that little puppet was like working with a little baby," says Gina Carano, who plays former shock trooper Cara Dune, in the docuseries. "Everybody, even hair and makeup, would walk up and talk to it. Like, it was, 'Oh, look at the little baby today, how's the baby feeling?' In the back of your head, you're like, 'It's not real, but I'm talking to it, too.' It was just so real. If you're in a scene with that little baby, you're completely gonna lose the scene no matter what."
New episodes of Disney Gallery premiere on Disney+ every Friday (three installments of The Mandalorian breakdown remain). Season 2 of the main series is expected to make its debut on the streaming platform this October.
You can check out plenty of other Baby Yoda concept illustrations in the gallery below...