Baby Yoda, as the Interwebs have taken to calling him, is the latest uncontroversial obsession that won’t piss off your boss, get you fired from your job, or result in an expose being written about you by Ronan Farrow. He’s the central character and the driving force (a.k.a. MacGuffin) of Disney Plus’ most high profile new series, The Mandalorian, which may or may not be about Boba Fett, and may or may not actually be good; depending on who you’re talking to.
Baby Yoda doesn’t speak. He often presses physical buttons on space ships, uses The Force to protect his captor and guardian, and is not the god awful CGI that sucked all the air out of Yoda’s personality in the final two Star Wars movies that were released while George Lucas still had some ownership over them.
All this means that Baby Yoda is a “practical puppet” that has a puppeteer’s hand up his butt, forcing a performance while the cameras are rolling. He’s not unlike the characters from Netflix’s The Dark Crystal 2: Electric Boogaloo, or The Muppets; who are also owned by The Walt Disney Company in a not-so-ironic twist of fate since, well, The Walt Disney Company owns everything, including you. You just don’t know it yet.
All that goes to say, not all puppeteers are nice people. Some of them are assholes.
The stories are numerous if you’ve ever worked on either coast. Stories of famous felt-enhanced puppets whose invisible pilots ended up turning into ego-fueled a-holes more concerned with the perks and the dollars tied to their performances rather than the smiles and joy they were bringing to the children of the world. There were some who were brought to justice, Law & Order-style, yet there were others still who continued to wreak havoc behind the scenes, demanding the kind of rider-like necessities that drug-fueled rock bands of the 70’s were most infamous for.
Per diem, luxury rental cars, in-room massages, manicures and pedicures. These were just some of the necessities that our puppet-piloting friends required when traveling coast to coast. They would, at times, when arguing with the underpaid assistants who tried to make their lives palatable, scream at them in their character’s voice, count like The Count while they waited for their town car to arrive, and fake carpal tunnel syndrome when they weren’t feeling script pages were living up to their character’s long-term strategic goals.
Performers are performers, one would learn, no matter if they are in front of the camera, jammed into the steel canister of an interstellar robot, or crouched under the stage floor, arm extended up into the air, in the fuzzy column of a puppet’s manufactured rectum.
One can only wonder if things are the same with Baby Yoda. One can only wonder if the joy he’s bringing to the Internet this week will continue to be the joy he’s bringing to the Internet next week. Folks who have been privy to the behind-the-scenes drama of the underground puppet world are wondering if Baby Yoda is an a-hole.
Only time will tell.
In the meantime, enjoy your latest non-political obsession with the knowledge that next week all that you hold dear in the Star Wars Universe may come crashing down when someone, somewhere finally reveals the fact that Baby Yoda is nothing more than a mouthpiece for the latest a-hole in the practical puppetverse.