How the Mother of Yoda Conquered Hollywood and Quietly Disappeared

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Wendy Froud was primed to create some of cinema’s most magical creatures, including Yoda, renowned in film and television as a pioneer in puppetry, yet she remains an obscure name rarely credited accurately. spoke to Froud and he is an extract from their interview.

The same year that Froud was hired to sculpt The Dark Crystal’s puppet leads, Kira and Jen, she was loaned out to Frank Oz’s puppeteer team to meld muppet know-how into the fabrication of a two-foot-two-inches tall Jedi Master. British artist Stuart Freeborn had already done a few sculpts at that stage, but they weren’t quite right.

In Laurent Bouzereu’s book Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays, George Lucas says he wanted Yoda to be the traditional kind of character you find in fairy tales and mythology. Froud recalls that Jim Henson said to Frank Oz, “Why don’t you let Wendy come in as she can sculpt and make puppets?”

“We had no idea Yoda would be so iconic,” she adds.

Part of Froud’s job was ensuring the final puppet followed principles acceptable to Oz in collaboration with Freeborn and special effects expert Nick Maley.

“What I first did was make a hand puppet out of soft foam, cutting with scissors and razor blades,” she says, “which is how we did Miss Piggy, to begin with.”

Maley, an Emmy-winning VFX artist and the senior tech in the Creature Shop, has written extensively on his blog ThoseYodaGuys about the 10-month process of creating Yoda and Froud’s role in that process:

“She single-handedly formed the body out of 1-inch sheet foam. If I remember correctly, she also modeled Yoda’s hands and feet and single-handedly fabricated the ‘stand-in Yoda,’ made entirely from cut foam, which was used to line up shots during camera setup. I do remember her spending some time working on the clay model of Yoda’s head too.”

It was Wendy who came up with the technique to operate Yoda’s ears, which she fitted using methods Oz was accustomed to. Freeborn spent five months on the modeling stage alone, where Froud could produce up to five heads or faces in a day before a final prototype was approved. Originally, Yoda was young, almost gnome-like.

The Empire Strikes Back premiered in 1980. The following year, Brian and Wendy married in Devon, England. Cheryl recalls the Hensons all attended the wedding.

“It was glorious,” she says, “with medieval influence and music.”

Read the full fascinating article and interview here.

Image: The Jim Henson Company

The post How the Mother of Yoda Conquered Hollywood and Quietly Disappeared appeared first on Jedi News.

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