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Film Studies 101
Feature
The Story Behind The Empire Strikes Back
The six important decisions that created a classic

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The Story Behind The Empire Strikes Back | 4. Putting A 20” Puppet At The Centre Of The Film
4. Putting A 20” Puppet At The Centre Of The Film

With hindsight, it now seems like the most obvious thing in the world to have Luke be schooled in the Force by a diminutive 800 year-old green wizard. Yoda went through numerous iterations, from a miniature Santa Claus to a Big Bird style creature to a leprechaun-troll-gnome hybrid that formed the basis of the finished creation. The production briefly considered a monkey in a suit — "He was the right height,” says Rinzler. “But monkeys don’t like wearing costumes and it wasn’t going to work.” — as well as stop motion and a marionette. Yet it was Lucas’ conversation with muppet master Jim Henson that led to the magic interface of a Stuart Freeborn hand puppet and Frank Oz’s performance. “Big films today are usually based on tried and true technology,” says Rinzler. “There was no technology that existed for Yoda. It was pretty nuts to let this little puppet be the spiritual centre of your film. Nobody makes those decisions anymore.”

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