Baby Yoda toddled into the hearts of viewers everywhere when The Mandalorian premiered on Disney+ in late 2019, and the first live-action Star Wars series impressively brought the little green alien to the small screen with a pricy puppet rather than CGI. Baby Yoda -- or The Child, as he is officially known -- is so animated and expressive that it's almost hard to believe he's a practical puppet, and it turns out that there actually was one big scene where the puppet couldn't be used, and it was a memorable one.
According to The Mandalorian animation supervisor Hal Hickel in comments to Variety, Baby Yoda was brought to life with CGI for an action-packed scene early in the first season:
We had a handful of shots of the Child where it wasn’t the puppet. Of course, the puppet does the heavy lifting in the show — the puppet is the baseline — but at that moment in time we were still figuring out what the puppet could do and how to get the best out of it. That particular shot of the baby using the Force to pick up the Mudhorn was the hardest from a CG perspective because it was such a big performance moment — its face was so concentrated. We were trying to make sure we didn’t do more than the puppet could do, and that we didn’t break what’s awesome and charming and perfect about the puppet.
Baby Yoda showed off his Force abilities in the second episode of The Mandalorian, when he intervened in the nick of time to save Mando from a rampaging Mudhorn. It wasn't easy on the little guy, and it was early enough in the series that the puppet's expressiveness didn't seem like it could work for his concentration. Personally, I couldn't tell that Baby Yoda looked any different in that scene than he did in his other scenes in the series, so kudos to Hal Hickel and the team who put the sequence together!
If anything, I would have thought that The Mandalorian would use something other than the puppet for the more dangerous scenes, such as when poor little Baby Yoda was repeatedly punched by scout troopers. In fact, Baby Yoda was so expensive and valuable that Adam Pally, who played one of the troopers, was nervous about punching him. Maybe Pally would appreciate the upcoming version of Baby Yoda that can be manhandled, and for much less than $5 million!
Fortunately, Baby Yoda will be back with Season 2 of The Mandalorian, which is scheduled to debut in October 2020 despite production shutdowns that are preventing many other series from completing or even starting production. Familiar faces ranging from Boba Fett to Ahsoka Tano to Bo-Katan Kryze (whose knowledge of the Darksaber could be key) are rumored to appear in the second season.
For now, you can rewatch the full first season of The Mandalorian streaming on Disney+ now, along with plenty of other Star Wars options from the galaxy far, far away. For some new viewing options, check out our 2020 summer TV premiere schedule.