The Empire Chronicles

As the movie “THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK” came to its 30th anniversary, the behind the scenes of some memorable things come to life in these documentary like article.

By Pete Vilmur

“There is a great disturbance in the Force”

In the spirit of Empire‘s 30th anniversary this week (May 21st), we felt that a visit from one of the film’s most resonant characters — Emperor Palpatine — was in order, given his pivotal role within theStar Wars saga. Turning in a performance that lasted less than a minute, Empire‘s Palpatine gave audiences their first exposure to the deeper mysteries of the Sith, a term that was still vaguely defined at the time (in fact, most fans hadn’t even heard of the Sith until the word appeared on a 1977 Star Wars bubblegum card).

What makes the Emperor’s appearance in Empire noteworthy to those with a scholarly interest in the films is the character’s different voice and appearance in the 1980 original — different, that is, from Ian McDiarmid’s Palpatine performances in Return of the Jedi and the prequels. For the 2004 DVD release of Empire, Ian McDiarmid gave a new performance — with a couple dialog tweaks — for the film’s Emperor, giving the character a uniform look and voice to mesh seamlessly with the rest of the saga.

Since our Empire Chronicles feature strives to document the behind-the-scenes story of the characters, creatures, and spacecraft of The Empire Strikes Back, we’re limiting our discussion of Emperor Palpatine to his original 1980 performance, which consisted of a woman’s face, a Broadway actor’s voice, and — would you believe — a chimpanzee’s eyes.

George Lucas (ghost-written by Alan Dean Foster)
“Aided and abetted by restless, power-hungry individuals within the government, and the massive organs of commerce, the ambitious Senator Palpatine caused himself to be elected President of the Republic. He promised to reunite the disaffected among the people and to restore the remembered glory of the Republic. Once secure in office he declared himself Emperor, shutting himself away from the populace. Soon he was controlled by the very assistants and boot-lickers he had appointed to high office, and the cries of the people for justice did not reach his ears.”
— Prologue, Star Wars: A New Hope novelization (Nov 1976)

 

Early concept sketches for the Emperor by Ralph McQuarrie

Laurent Bouzereau, author
“During meetings George Lucas and [initial screenwriter] Leigh Brackett decided that the Emperor and the Force had to be the two main concerns in the film; the Emperor had barely been dealt with in the first movie, and the intention in the sequel was to deal with him on a more concrete level. Eventually this idea was used later on, in the third film. The Emperor, however, was then envisioned as a bureaucrat, Nixonian in his outlook and sort of a Wizard of Oz-type person.
— Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays (1997)

Mark Hamill, actor, “Luke Skywalker”
“Originally, I saw a lot of sketches [of the Emperor], and I told them how I thought he should be. I thought he should be like the Wizard of Oz. Maybe the images should change so you can’t really get a fix on him. Have it like a beautiful woman’s lips moving, and that fades to a stop-frame animation creature, to an actor in makeup. So you just can’t pin it down.”

“The first time I saw the Emperor I was disappointed. I thought he was too human, too ordinary. You figure if Darth Vader bows and says, ‘Yes, My Lord,’ the guy’s got to be a real horror. But it’s interesting because the Emperor was an actress, dubbed with a male voice, and monkey’s eyes superimposed.”
— Starlog #40 (Nov 1980)

Ken Ralston, Effects Cameraman
“To create the hologram of the Emperor we shot a person in makeup with the eye sockets blacked out. George wanted to put some different, stranger eyes in the Emperor so we wound up shooting a chimpanzee and then match-moving the eyes into the Emperor. That was again rephotographed off of a television screen to get the look of the hologram.”
— Star Wars: The Definitive Collection laserdisc commentary (1993)

Clive Revill, original voice of “Emperor Palpatine” for 1980 release
“I’d done a film for [Empire director] Irvin Kershner called A Fine Madness…I got a call from Kershner, and he said, ‘Listen, I want you to come down and read something.’ I didn’t have anything planned that day, so I went down to the recording studio. He showed me some clips, and he said, ‘Read it and get someoomph in it.’ So I read the stuff through, and gave it the oomph, and they tinkered around with it — and the result is that I get a lot of mail.”
— Star Wars Insider #49 (May/June 2000)

Michael Matessino, author
[Regarding the music in the Emperor scene]: “For this ominous sequence, [composer John] Williams applies very quiet atonal strings and celeste.”
— The Empire Strikes Back: Special Edition Soundtrack liner notes (1997)

By Pete Vilmur

We return to our Empire Chronicles series today with an entry for one of the most sinister-looking droids designed for the Star Wars galaxy, the Imperial probe droid, or “probot.”

The probot, you’ll remember, is the reconnaissance droid sent by the Empire to root out the Rebel’s presence on Hoth.

Newer fans of the prequels and even The Clone Wars will recognize several familiar visual cues found on Empire‘s probe droid, such as the black metallic finish and large globe-like eyes found on Revenge of the Sith‘s buzz droids and Clone Warsrecon droid and spider-like assassin droid. Even Darth Maul’s Sith probe droids from The Phantom Menace and thedwarf spider droids from Attack of the Clones seem to have been informed by Empire‘s distinctive probe droid aesthetic.

Designed primarily by concept artist Ralph McQuarrie, the tarantula/jellyfish-like probe droid was built in both miniature for special effects shooting at Industrial Light & Magic and in full scale for on-location shooting with the actors in Norway. We’ve gathered passages from several sources documenting the design and filming of Empire‘s probot, which amazingly changed very little from concept to screen:

Mark Cotta Vaz and Shinji Hata
“The floating probot, built by model maker Paul Huston and duplicated in England as a full-scale replica, was inspired by an image created by visionary graphic artist Jean ‘Moebius’ Giraud (who gave permission to develop the strange contraption for Empire). The eighteen-to-twenty-inch-tall probot model was designed with all the hammered steel and rivets of the model shop’s ‘boiler plate’ approach to model making.”
— From Star Wars to Indiana Jones — The Best of the Lucasfilm Archives (1994)

Ralph McQuarrie (Design Consultant And Conceptual Artist)
“This one was developed because George said he wanted a machine, a robot, designed for the purpose of exploring on and under the very surface of a planet to seek out enemy activity…I envisioned the pod as floating along like some kind of anti-gravity unit. I thought it might touch down every once in a while and push itself along on its legs like an astronaut does on the moon.”
— Mediascene Prevue (July-Aug 1980)

Ralph McQuarrie
“The color in my painting came from some exceptionally good ice landsape reference that I had in my art files. I found a photo of the ice bowl in Alaska with the surface all frozen over and huge chunks of ice jutting upward. There was a powdered mist of ice almost glowing in the light, sometime close to sundown. I liked that look because it gave the picture and the probot a weird appearance. The actual footage in the film, of course, looks quite different from the art — it was never intended to be matched color-wise.”
— Mediascene Prevue (July-Aug 1980)

Concept painting by Ralph McQuarrie

Tom St. Amand (Stop Motion Technician)
“It was actually the first miniature to be completed by the model shop. The probot was shot bluescreen. It was difficult to keep track of all the legs of the spider-like contraption. Some of them had to move forward, some backward. I believe the armature for that was built by Lorne Peterson, Charlie Bailey and Paul Huston. They also built the final puppet with Steve Gawley, Tom Ruddock and Ease Ouyeung.”
— Cinefex #3 (Dec 1980)

Lorne Peterson (Chief Model Maker)
“The miniature probot appeared in two shots, one as a live-action puppet and the other as a stop-motion puppet. In the first, a close-up reveals the droid emerging from its smoking meteor crater. Dennis Muren had shot it ‘live,’ capturing its movement as it hovered into view. Mounted on a teeterboard, it slowly raised up by pushing the board down. The second shot, animated by Tom St. Amand, used stop-motion animation against bluescreen to show the probe droid as it flew away from the impact site.”
— Sculpting a Galaxy (2006)

Joe Johnston (Art Director-Visual Effects)
“There were about ten people doing that shot…One guy was stationed in front of a fan and threw handfuls of baking soda at the right moment. Phil [Tippett] was down there, Dennis [Muren] was behind camera, Mike Pangrazio was doing the smoke, and Tom [St. Amand] was in there, too. So you had an animator, a cameraman, a machinist, a model builder or two, a matte painter, one of the girls from the front office — in fact, anyone who wasn’t doing something in the building was called in for that shot.”
— Cinefex #3 (Dec 1980)

Ralph McQuarrie
The actual size of the probe droid [prop used on location in Norway] is about seven feet high. Its size is not immediately apparent in the film because the device isn’t seen next to any humans for a while, though its appearance comes fairly early in the story. The probot in the movie is very close to the one in the painting; it’s remarkable how accurate the techninicans can be.
— Mediascene Prevue (July-Aug 1980)

J.W. Rinzler (Author of The Sounds of Star Wars)
“…[F]or the moment when the probe droid levitates from its pod that has smashed into the surface of the ice planet Hoth, [Sound Designer Ben] Burtt recycled the same source material created on the ARP keyboard he’d used for the torture droid in Episode IV.”
— The Sounds of Star Wars (2010)

Ben Burtt (Sound Designer)
“The unintelligible alarm signal from the probot in Empire was the voice of a well-known Shakespearean actor totally changed electronically. I generally don’t use sounds from other sources, but on occasion I like to throw fun things in. I don’t think anybody could figure out who they were originally.”
— Bantha Tracks #17 (Aug 1982)

J.W. Rinzler
“The voice of the probot droid came from the shortwave recordings from the ham radio set of Burtt’s grandfather. ‘I mixed it with some outtakes of weird transmission noises I’d created for a warning signal that beckons the spaceship Nostromo to a ghostly planet inAlien,’ explains Burtt.”
— The Sounds of Star Wars (2010)

With the final Season Two episodes of The Clone Wars tonight, fans will once again witness a fly-by from that iconic standard of mercenary might,Slave I.

Inspired by a satellite dish and incorporating parts from a Porsche sports car, the ship that would ultimately be driven by Boba Fett in The Empire Strikes Back is definitely one of the more distinctive designs to emerge from the Star Warsgalaxy.

While little is known about the actual origins of Fett’s ride of choice, we do know a bit about its real-world inception — designed by ILMer Nilo Rodis-Jamero and built by Lorne Peterson and Ease Owyeung, Slave I wasn’t actually inspired by the shape of a street lamp, a myth stubbornly clung to by fans for years. Also lost to the recesses of time are these little-known facts: Slave I‘s unusual vertical flight orientation actually changed during development, and the pig-like Ugnaughts of Cloud City were recruited at one point to act asSlave I‘s crew.

Whatever Slave I‘s in-universe history might be — and we glean a bit more of that story from tonight’s episode of The Clone Wars — we can gather a few rare insights from those responsible for her cinematic debut in The Empire Strikes Back:

Nilo Rodis-Jamero, Assistant Art Director
“Because Boba Fett is an ‘outsider,’ a bounty hunter hired by Darth Vader, the design of his ship had to be distinctive enough that it would not be confused with any of the Rebel ships or those of the Imperial fleet. The original concept of the Slave I was a half-spherelike body housing the main engine parts in a fuselage attached to the ship’s front. The body later evolved into the elliptical shape used in the film.”
— The Empire Strikes Back Sketchbook (June 1980)

Nilo Rodis-Jamero
“Joe Johnston showed me some of the ideas he had for Boba Fett, and I remember asking myself what his spaceship would look like. I remember seeing a radar dish and stopping to sketch it very quickly to see if I could get something out of it. <a title="An early Ralph McQuarrie concept painting shows a more round version of Slave I” href=”http://www.starwars.com/img/movies/episode-v/chronicles_slave_1/mcquarrie.jpg”>The original design I had was round, but when you looked at it from the side, it became elliptical. For some reason, when I drew it, George thought it was elliptical, so that’s what it became. When we were building the ship at ILM, somebody looked at street lamps and pointed out that they looked like Boba’s ship. So everyone began to think that was where I got the idea for the design.”
— Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays (Sept 1997)

[Note: In a January 2005 interview with Giant Robot Magazine, Jamero identified the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center in Menlo Park, California as the home of the Slave I radar dish]

Lorne Peterson, Chief Model Maker
“If I had to pick a model I enjoyed doing the most it would have to be Boba Fett’s ship. Slave I was designed for Empire by Nilo Rodis-Jamero. What inspired his design of the ship were the light pods that hang in the street [actually, according to Jamero, this has been a stubborn myth — see above]…When I was building it we found a Porsche model kit, a monstrous 16-inch model, which just happened to be a model of a car I have, and had a lot of parts we could use on the prototype. The rear end of Slave I has the big fender parts and the Porsche’s hatches and doors all incorporated into it. It tickled me to do that ship.”
— Bantha Tracks #22 (Nov 1983)

Lorne Peterson
“[Model Maker] Ease Owyeung built the ship, including the inner cockpit detailing. <a title="Ease Owyeung shows the original cockpit detail that included an Ugnaught support crew for Slave I below Boba Fett” href=”http://www.starwars.com/img/movies/episode-v/chronicles_slave_1/cockpit_detail.jpg”>His early iterations had a second bank of seats for Fett’s underlings — early sketches by McQuarrie had the pig-like Ugnaught guards actually working for Fett instead of being Cloud City laborers as in the finished film. As the story developed, Fett was defined as a loner and these support-crew seats disappeared.”
— Sculpting A Galaxy (2006)

Lorne Peterson
Slave I also changed orientation during flight. The base of the ship on landing became its trailing edge when in flight. Accompanying this ninety-degree shift was a rotation of the ship’s support wings, which weren’t motorized but could be stop-motion animated into position.
— Sculpting A Galaxy (2006)

Slave I fly-by“This Is No Cave!”

The space slug, whose exterior we see for all of a few seconds in The Empire Strikes Back, is probably one of the most memorable life forms introduced in the saga’s first sequel, trumped only by the surprise revelation of a little green Jedi Master.

The entire asteroid-crater-turned-space-worm scene actually came together with just a few props and an improvised set, enhanced with some select sound effects, editing, and musical score. When combined, the sequence provides a necessary reprieve from the driving action of the asteroid chase, and a rare opportunity for Han and the Princess to share a romantic moment in the Falcon‘s hold.

We’ve scoured three decade’s worth of interviews and behind-the-scenes discussions to put together a handful of passages about the space slug sequence, which George Lucas once confessed “worked better on the page than how it finally turned out.” It’s likely many fans would respectfully disagree.

(Editor’s note: This is the second entry in our new “Empire Chronicles” series. Check out the first — AT-AT Walker — here.)

George Lucas, Story and Executive Producer
“This scene in the snake’s mouth worked better on the page than how it finally turned out. It’s a very hard concept to pull off. I think it works, but I always expected it would get a laugh when the ship flies out of the creature’s mouth. As it turns out, most people are astonished, and slightly confused, I think. We never really got the reaction we were looking for at the end of this scene. It was based on a mythological motif…”
— The Empire Strikes Back DVD commentary (2004)

Pre-production painting of the space slug by Ralph McQuarrie, who was largely responsible for its design

Mary Henderson, author of Star Wars: The Magic of Myth
“When Han and Leia leave Hoth, they are chased by Imperial Star Destroyers. Han escapes by piloting the Falcon into an asteroid field and then into a cave on one of these giant rocks. Unknowiningly, he has set the ship down in the stomach of a giant space slug. Once again, Lucas has woven into the story the imagery of consumption and of the journey into the belly of the beast… Han, Leia, Chewie, and See-Threepio have been swallowed whole, just as Jonah was swallowed by the whale.”
— Star Wars: The Magic of Myth (1997)

John Knoll, author of Creating the Worlds of Star Wars: 365 Days
“Undoubtedly the least expensive set built for The Empire Strikes Back, the space slug interior was created by laying black Visqueen plastic on the floor of the Echo Base hangar, draping black curtains around the Millennium Falcon, and clouding the space with a fog of dry ice.”
— Creating the Worlds of Star Wars: 365 Days (2005)

Irvin Kershner, Director
“I said, ‘I don’t think they can walk out on an asteroid in outer space and not breathe!’ So we built special masks which are made of lightweight plastic with a tube coming out to a little box that’s generating oxygen. They talk through little mikes; that’s why their voices are distorted. Naturally, on an asteroid, the gravity would be something like one hundredth or one thousandth the gravity on earth; they’d be floating all over the place. Originally we were going to do it floating, but it rapidly becomes too much. You notice the floating and forget the story. So we eliminated the floating.”
— Super-8 Filmaker (July/Aug 1980)

Laurent Bouzereau, author of Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays
“The scene with ‘large leathery creatures with yellow eyes’ attacking the Falcon inside the cave on the asteroid first appeared in the second draft [of the script]. In the fifth draft the yellow eyes became ‘something like a soft suction cup’ that attaches itself to the windscreen of the Falcon; Leia, not Han as in the movie, says that they look like some kind of ‘mynock,’ and Threepio explains that they usually travel in groups of five.”
— Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays (1997)

Irvin Kershner
“The mynocks were just pieces of plastic on fishing poles. You’ll notice that I cut away from them very quickly because they didn’t look great.”
— Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays (1997)

Michael Matessino, author
“In the momentary safety of the cave, the Falcon is suddenly attacked by bat-like creatures, prompting Han and the others to investigate. Emerging into the foggy environnment, [composer John] Williams uses strings, celeste, harp, and synthesizer to generate the appropriate mystery.”
— The Empire Strikes Back: Special Edition Soundtrackliner notes (1997)

Lukas Kendall, author
“There are also a few atmospheric moments in Empirethat benefit enormously from silence… Williams scored the entire ‘this is not a cave’ sequence in the asteroid field, not just the second half, but the initial moments have a wonderful creepiness and atmosphere with just the subtle effects of the ship, a brilliant use of sound.”
— Film Score Monthly (Jan Feb 1997)

The Blade Newspaper
“The task of [Foley Editors Scott] Hecker and his stepfather, Bob Rutledge: to create the sounds of [Han] and the others walking about on the monster’s tongue… ‘We wanted to create the sound, the feeling of slime,’ according to Hecker, a native of Akron. ‘We used about 25 pounds of pure beef fat in giant slabs and dozens of raw eggs…I was slipping and sliding all over the place. After eight hours the place smelled horrible, and it was a real mess. But it was a lot of fun, too.’ For [Han’s] footsteps on the monster’s tongue, Hecker wore hard-heeled boots. For Chewbacca’s footsteps, a softer sound was required. Hecker then wore knee-high moccasins.”
— The Blade (newspaper), Toledo, Ohio (Aug 9, 1981)

Wet Footsteps

Irvin Kershner
“Some of the best stuff was simply grabbing a hand-held camera and shouting, ‘Left, right’ and the actors throw themselves to the left and throw themselves to the right and the camera moves in the opposite direction. That’s what we did in the scene where the Millennium Falcon is in the bowels of the giant worm.”
— Lucasfilm Fan Club Magazine #11 (Spring 1990)

Cinefex
“More than fifty takes of the slug [puppet] were done over a period of a week, probably giving it record status for a throw-away scene. Phil Tippett covered the slug armature with an exterior of his own design, and Jon Berg puppeteered the first version for a number of takes.”
— Cinefex #3 (Dec 1980)

Doug Beswick, Stop Motion Technician
“It worked like a hand puppet — a return spring mechanism would close the jaws. You could stick your hand through the neck and grab it like a handgun or pistol grip. It was pretty heavy.”
— Cinefex #3 (Dec 1980)

Lorne Peterson, Chief Model Maker
“As the Falcon desperately tries to race out of the tunnel, the slug’s jaws begin to snap shut, bringing its enormous incisors into view. Its hinged jaws — which I created — were about four-and-a-half feet across. I sculpted the first five teeth in clay, which we then used to create molds in order to produce multiples. We cast them from a plastic urethane with a translucent ivory quality to it, which didn’t require additional painting. As it turns out, these five-inch-tall teeth made great gifts for the celebrities or industry guests who would visit us in the Model Shop. We would cast a tooth for them and write “Star Wars” on the bottom, giving the visitor what was certain to be an odd conversation piece.”
— Sculpting a Galaxy (2006)

Ken Ralston, Effects Cameraman
“On Empire, I shot a lot of gag footage… I built my own space slug out of an old sock and made a terrible stupid-looking puppet. So there’s this shot looking down, it’s in the movie, where you’re looking at the surface of the asteroid and there’s a couple of TIE ships above it…What’s not in there is the very last moment when you get to the last crater, this gigantic stupid sock puppet comes out and attacks one of the ships…we were on the night shift so we spent nine months six nights a week on The Empire Strikes Back.”
— Star Wars: The Definitive Collection laserdisc commentary (1993)

“He is the best bounty hunter in the galaxy” read the first official description of Boba Fett back in the summer of 1979, one year before his official cinematic debut in The Empire Strikes Back. As far as initial assessments go, this one got it dead right.

With Boba Fett’s return to the Star Wars galaxy in The Clone Wars episode “Death Trap”, we thought it fitting to give him our Empire Chronicles send-up this week, following a very coolBoba Fett soundboard entry just posted last Friday (don’t miss the “lost” Fett line recently discovered called “Into the sarlacc”).

In the spirit of Empire‘s 30th anniversary (and these are theEmpire Chronicles, after all), we’re limiting our discussion of the first Fett to his 1980 Empire performance, before his cinematic demise in Return of the Jedi and rebirth in Attack of the Clones. With The Clone Wars and four movie appearances to his credit (lest you forget his cameo in the revamped A New Hope), we wanted to rediscover the Fett we met some 30 years ago, when a few lines and the galaxy’s coolest costume were all it took to become a Star Wars sequel superstar. What follows are quotes from those responsible for bringing our favorite galactic gun-for-hire to The Empire Strikes Back in 1980:

Bantha Tracks (Fan Club newsletter, first officially published description of Boba Fett)

“Not much is known about Boba Fett. He wears part of the uniform of the Imperial Shocktroopers, warriors from the olden time. Shocktroopers came from the far side of the galaxy and there aren’t many of them left. They were wiped out by the Jedi Knights during the Clone Wars. Whether he was a shocktrooper or not is unknown. He is the best bounty hunter in the galaxy, and cares little for whom he works — as long as they pay.”
— Bantha Tracks #5 (Summer 1979)

George Lucas, Story and Executive Producer
“[Darth Vader] started as a kind of intergalactic bounty hunter, evolved into a grotesque knight, and as I got deeper into the knight ethos he became more a dark warrior than a mercenary… I split him up and it was from the early concept of Darth Vader as a bounty hunter that Boba Fett came.”
— Once Upon A Galaxy: A Journal of the Making of The Empire Strikes Back (Sept 1980)

Early McQuarrie design

Ralph McQuarrie, Design Consultant And Conceptual Artist
“I was sitting in a meeting with George, doodling on a piece of paper while taking notes. He was talking about Hoth, and I was thinking about a costume for that. When George saw this sketch, he said, ‘that would make a good bounty hunter. Develop it and make it a guy with all kinds of gadgets on his suit — rockets and so forth — to defend himself with.'”
— The Art of Ralph McQuarrie (April 2007)

Joe Johnston, Art Director-Visual Effects
“I designed the final version of Boba Fett. Ralph and I both worked on preliminary designs, and we traded ideas back and forth. Originally, Boba Fett was part of a force we called Super Troopers, and they were these really high-tech fighting units, and they all looked alike. That eventually evolved into a single bounty hunter. I painted Boba’s outfit and tried to make it look like it was made of different pieces of armor. It was a symmetrical design, but I painted it in such a way that it looked like he had scavenged parts and had done some personalizing of his costume; he had little trophies hanging from his belt, and he had little braids of hair, almost like a collection of scalps.”
— Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays (Sept 1997)

Boba Fett helmet design by Joe Johnston

Robert Watts, Associate Producer
“The first time I ever saw the costume, it wasn’t Boba Fett. It was completely white. He was going to be a ‘super stormtrooper.’ [Assistant Film Editor] Duwayne Dunham modelled it so we could all have a look at it, but the suit didn’t quite fit. At that point I’d never managed to give [my half-brother] Jeremy a job on film. So I rang him up and said ‘If the suit fits, the part’s yours.’ He came in and it fit.”
— Star Wars Insider #101 (May/June 2008)

Jeremy Bulloch, Actor, “Boba Fett”
“I got into the costume and I put the helmet on. There were lots of little gadgets and knee pads and the boots had two little jets on the toes. I thought, ‘This looks rather good!’ There was a jet pack, too. I found what I thought was my hair so I put it on underneath the helmet, hanging down. When I came out to show George Lucas, he said, ‘What’s that funny thing sticking out of your helmet?’ I said, ‘Isn’t it the character’s hair?’ ‘No,’ said George, ‘it’s a Wookiee scalp — it’s supposed to be tied to your belt!'”
— Lucasfilm Fan Club Magazine #21 (Winter 1994)

Jeremy Bulloch
“The character was explained [by Lucas] a great deal: what sort of person he was, deadly but very methodical in movement and fast, even though you never saw him move quickly.”
— Star Wars Insider #30 (1996)

Jeremy Bulloch
“Occasionally, I would make a movement, but a little one, because the less you do, the stronger the character is. So I would just stand with my hip one way, and I’d cradle the gun a certain way. He’s aware that something could happen any time, so he’s quick with the gun. It’s ready cocked. He knows exactly what’s going on behind him. He may be moving slowly, but he’s deadly when it comes to that sudden movement… I thought of Boba Fett as Clint Eastwood in a suit of armor.”
— Star Wars Insider #49 (May/June 2000)

Alan Arnold, Author
“The character, like the costume, is a composite. Although Fett is a galactic bounty hunter, his leather ammunition belt and spiked boots are reminiscent of the Old West. There’s also a dark hint of that period in the scalps that hang from his right shoulder. His ‘saddle’ is a beat-up spacecraft, but his kind have been around for a long, long time in Westerns.”
— Once Upon A Galaxy: A Journal of the Making of The Empire Strikes Back (Sept 1980)

Duwayne Dunham, Assistant Film Editor
“Do you know that Boba Fett wore spurs? He was Clint Eastwood in outer space. [Sound Designer Ben Burtt] put spurs on him so that when he walks down the hallway, he goes ‘ching, ching, ching…'”
— StarWars.com video interview (May 2007)

Fett’s spursJeremy Bulloch
“They went back to America to do a lot of the sound stuff. I’m not going to stand and say ‘Why didn’t you use my voice?’ If I used my voice as it is now, it wouldn’t be right. They used a voice similar to the one I tried to do. As I see it, the character has his mask and his mystery. It doesn’t matter who does the voice.”
— Starlog #50 (Sept 1981)

Jason Wingreen

Jason Wingreen, original voice of “Boba Fett” for 1980 release
“My agent called me and said to go over to the recording studio, where I met Gary Kurtz and Irvin Kershner. Normally, you see the face of an actor you’re dubbing, so you have to lip-synch. But that was no problem here — I could say the lines at any time. I got in position, they ran the film a few times, and I said the lines. Kershner came out and made a suggestion or two and went back in the control room, I did it again, and I was finished.”
— Star Wars Insider #49 (May/June 2000)

Jeremy Bulloch
“One day I was sitting around in the Boba Fett outfit, and I was asked if I would mind playing this Imperial officer, because there was nobody to play the part. I went into wardrobe, got dressed in an Imperial Officer’s uniform, and played this part who now has a name in the Decipher card game, Lieutenant Sheckil. It was in the scene in Cloud City where Princess Leia says ‘Luke, it’s a trap’ — I drag her away. Moments earlier, you see me as Boba Fett shooting at Mark Hamill.”
— Star Wars Insider #49 (May/June 2000)

Scott Chernoff and Jon Bradley Snyder, authors
“[‘‘Dak’ actor John Fass Morton] donned the costume of Boba Fett when actor Jeremy Bulloch, who played the beloved bounty hunter, couldn’t be there… The scene with Morton inside the historic Boba suit is the one where Fett confronts Vader over Solo’s impending carbon-freezing and says, ‘He’s no good to me dead.'”
— Star Wars Insider #34 (Spring 1997)

With 30 years now behind it, we’ve learned quite a lot about the making of The Empire Strikes Back since its U.S. premiere in May, 1980. Three decades worth of books, articles, documentaries, and interviews have revealed scores of behind-the-scenes stories aboutEmpire, greatly enhancing our understanding of how the saga’s fifth chapter was ultimately brought to the screen.

With our launch of “Empire Chronicles,” a new series which explores many of the characters, vehicles, and settings from The Empire Strikes Back, we begin with an in-depth look at one of the film’s most unforgettable pieces of military hardware: the All Terrain Armored Transport, or AT-AT for short. We’ve combed through dozens of sources documenting the creation of this intimidating weapon of the Empire, from early issues of the highly-regarded special effects journal Cinefex to the now-elusive video commentary tracks featured on 1993’s Definitive Collection laserdisc set (remember those?). From these we’ve culled quotes or passages from the individuals directly responsible for conceiving, building, filming, or breathing life into the AT-AT, and have scoured our Image Archives for photos documenting its creation, some of which have rarely been seen.

So enjoy this fond look back at the making of what many regard as the saga’s finest chapter, and be sure to keep an eye out for future entries we’ll be posting in the coming months as we celebrate 30 years ofThe Empire Strikes Back!

Concept

George Lucas, Story and Executive Producer
“The walkers, if anything, were inspired by the original novel of War of the Worlds where the Martians walked on giant spiders that walked on legs. I was trying to come up with a way of making this battle different and unusual without putting tanks and normal military stuff in there… They’re tall because I wanted the speeders to fly under them to make a more dynamic kind of battle out of it. And again I was struggling with the fact that in the first film I had this big space battle at the end of the movie but in this movie there wasn’t anything like that.”
— 2004 Empire DVD commentary

Joe Johnston, Art Director-Visual Effects
“George Lucas and Gary Kurtz knew at the outset that there was going to be a snow battle, and they knew we were going to have armored speeders. But they hadn’t really decided on what kind of vehicles the Empire would have or how they were going to do it. At first they considered using existing military tanks from the Norwegian army, redressing them to make them look alien. I did a bunch of sketches using the tanks as a basis. Then I ran across a xerox that a friend of mine had. It as a promotional brochure put out by U.S. Steel in the early Sixties and contained a whole slew of full-color paintings indicating ‘what steel will be used for in the future.’ The paintings were done by Syd Meade. Interestingly enough, one of the paintings showed a four-legged walking truck! That’s where the initial walker idea came from. It was a very unique design.”
— Cinefex #3 (Dec 1980)

Ralph McQuarrie, Design Consultant And Conceptual Artist
“The angle fascinated me, looking up at the Imperial walkers. I put a snowspeeder in the foreground and a background of fire from an exploding landspeeder that’s apparently full of fuel. Now that’s a battle scene! The effect shots weren’t completed yet [when the painting was done], but this was my dream of the ideal shot for this battle.”
— Star Wars Galaxy Magazine #13 (Nov 1997)

Jon Berg, Stop Motion Animation
“I remember somebody had done a sketch on possibly doing the walkers through some sort of marionette system. We had to figure out, first, how are we going to make these big machines — justmake them — and then how are we going to make them move?
— Star Wars Insider #49 (May/June 2000)

Joe Johnston
“George said the Imperial weapons attacking Hoth should look like walking tanks. The intention with the walker was to make it more frightening and anthropomorphic so it would look like a big robot. The idea of having a head and shapes that looked like big eyes and a big jaw was really to make it look more frightening.”
— Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays (1997)

Dennis Muren, Effects Director of Photography
“Part of the idea behind their slow movement was that they could be overpowered and they would lose. That was part of George’s vision on it. They were big, lumbering, you know, obsolete machines that could be overcome by a clever person in the right spot with the right weapon. I think we might have talked about it being an analogy to Vietnam…”
— Star Wars: The Definitive Collection laserdisc commentary (1993)

Jon Berg
“I remember saying, ‘This thing looks so much like an elephant, why don’t we just go out and shoot some film?’ It wound up being this whole expedition that went out — Dennis Muren, Phil Tippett and I, and a whole camera crew. There was a wonderful place called Marine World Africa USA. The elephant we used was a really sweet Indian elephant named Mardji [who had already played a bantha in A New Hope], and she had a trainer. We shot quite a bit of footage of her walking back and forth, so we could get an idea of the motions an animal that size and configuration goes through in just walking.”
— Star Wars Insider #49 (May/June 2000)

Joe Johnston
“It kind of moves like a cat to me. I have a cat; she kind of walks that way at times — stiff-legged, head down. There is nothing particularly feline about the walker’s appearance, but of all the animals, it reminds me more of a cat than anything else.”
— Cinefex #3 (Dec 1980)

Phil Tippett, Stop Motion Animation
“Tom St. Amand [Stop Motion Technician] and I probably spent close to three weeks just figuring out how the walkers walk. Since these creatures were mechanical and without very much personality, we wanted to create a walk cycle that we could use over and over again with only a few modifications.”
— Starlog (July 1987)

The Shoot

Dennis Muren
“The approach I took for the walking machines on this was to do them stop motion animation. There was some talk about doing them motorized but I think we’d still be doing that if we’d actually made real walking machines. Everyone sort of got together and made the models, the walking machines, probably about two feet high and the legs about two inches wide, each one, just big enough for a hand to sort of grab it and be able to move it one frame at a time from one position to the next.”
— 2004 Empire DVD commentary

Lorne Peterson, Chief Model Maker
“Rather than try to drop the models into live-action background plates, we created a scale miniature environment for the walkers to inhabit. Mike Pangrazio, a fantastic matte painter, created these enormous photo-realistically painted backdrops of the Hoth landscape.”
— Sculpting a Galaxy (2006)

Richard Edlund, Special Visual Effects
“We used about fifteen different background paintings in the walker sequence and the tauntaun shots. The largest was about thirty-five feet wide and twelve feet high, and the smallest was maybe four feet wide and two feet high.”
— Cinefex #2 (Aug 1980)

Jon Berg
“One thing I did when I was designing the walker was to create little squared-off pistons in the upper legs and little doohickeys on the inside. So when you did the leg animation these little mechanisms would actually move along with it, and you’d get secondary animation that you wouldn’t have to worry about doing yourself. I thought those little fun things going on with the walker’s movement would make it look like something was actually happening mechanically there.”
— Star Wars Insider #49 (May/June 2000)

Dennis Muren

“They had a lot of trouble on location in Norway because of changing weather conditions and that complicated things immensely for us in terms of matching. We ended up with footage for a sequence in which some shots would have bright sunlight and a blue sky, cutting directly to a white sky and a snowstorm in which you couldn’t see 30 feet away…So we ended up adding a progressive blizzard to the sequence by means of our shots and George Lucas recut footage to accommodate this. As the sequence begins, there’s a big storm front approaching in the background and the walkers are in sunlight in the foreground. Then you see clouds beginning to form and the sequence ends in an overcast that makes the walkers look very menacing and large and dramatic. That problem with the weather wasn’t really anticipated, but it worked out nicely in that it gave us a chance to do a lot.”
— American Cinematographer (June 1980)

Cinefex (a special effects industry journal)
“As a rebel officer looks through his electrobinoculars, he spots the approaching machines. The binoculars scan the walkers from head to toe while a built-in digital readout designates their location. To achieve this scene, the stop-motion walkers were filmed in VistaVision with a telephoto lens, the camera locked off. Twelve seconds of animation were shot. The film was then front-projected onto a six-foot screen and rephotographed on tape using a 3/4-inch Sony video camera. Blurs were introduced here, along with a zoom-in on the walker’s foot and tilt-up to the moving head to give it a video veritélook. The tape was transferred back to film during which a binocular-shaped matte was added. Digital readouts were superimposed. ‘The shot had everything that would take place in a hand-held binocular situation,’ said [Dennis] Muren. ‘Because of all the generations and contrast, the final result looked almost black-and-white.'”
— Cinefex #3 (Dec 1980)

Doug Beswick, Stop Motion Technician
“For the five-walker shot, the two background ones were just mock-ups. Actually, they were photo cutouts that move infinitesimally on a track. The legs of the cutouts had some small articulation to them. The photos were taken from the angle the background walkers were meant to approach from.”
— Cinefex #3 (Dec 1980)

Cinefex

“Even more startling is the fact that the walker cutouts were actually 8×10 Polaroids, heavily retouched. ‘We could retouch a photo in twenty minutes, or take four days to build a model,’ said Muren. ‘The choice was clear.'”
— Cinefex #3 (Dec 1980)

Phil Tippett
“When the speeder starts wrapping the rope around the legs of the walker, Pete Kuran animated a rope in 2-D cell animation that twisted around the legs. Then, Jon Berg came up with an elastic band he wrapped around the walker’s leg. Jon used that to simulate the rope and he animated the shots where the walker was starting to get tripped-up and falls over. The actual impact was done with a large scale prop that was shot by Richard Edlund.”
— Cinefantastique (March 1997)

Peter Kuran, Animation And Rotoscope Supervisor
“Our department generated a cel-animated rope where this speeder ropes a snow walker’s legs. The walker trips over it. We even had a little cel-animated man crawling up one of the walkers to see if he could sabotage it!”
— Fantastic Films (July 1980)

Lorne Peterson
“Steve Gawley devised a system of electromagnetic locks in the legs [for the four-foot walker]. When powered, the magnets would hold the legs in place. When the power was cut, the legs would collapse. Unfortunately, the walker weighed about ninety pounds and turned out to be too heavy for the magnets to support it. Instead, a steel cable suspended the walker from above.”
— Sculpting a Galaxy (2006)

Ken Ralston, Effects Cameraman
“Filming the Imperial walkers — and all of the miniatures and stop-motion that went with them — that was difficult. We were combining them with snowspeeders. That was tough to achieve in that bright white environment with the old optical printers available to us. No one had tried to show this kind of thing on film before.”
— Star Wars Insider #105 (Dec 2008)

Alan Arnold, author of Once Upon a Galaxy
“It seems that a plan is under debate to rent space at another studio, none being available here, to shoot an eighteen-foot-long mechanical foot in the act of crushing a snowspeeder during the battle on Hoth. Later, I learned that the plan is to be dropped. The gargantuan foot will not be built, and instead the sequence will be done in miniature in California.”
— Once Upon a Galaxy: A Journal of the Making of The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Richard Edlund
“Another shot we did high-speed was the one where Luke’s speeder gets crushed. For that, we had one large foot mounted on an enormous pipe rig that was built out of camera range; and we used a special model speeder made out of thin metal. An awful lot of work went into making that thing and detailing it out — so it was a one-shot deal. If you blow a take like that, the model makers aren’t real happy.”
— Cinefex #2 (Aug 1980)

Ken Ralston
“If the snow walker had a pop or a jerk in the animation, instead of redoing the shot, they would have a laserblast hit it in the leg or wherever and it would make it look like it was injured or had something give it a shot, so that was actually very time saving.”
— Star Wars: The Definitive Collection laserdisc commentary (1993)

Joe Johnston
“It was a perfect type of puppet because the jerkiness that is inherent in stop-motion really lent itself to that kind of machine. I thought it had a lot of things going for it. It was a great toy.”
— Cinefex #3 (Dec 1980)

Julian Glover, Actor, “General Veers”
“On Empire, the last thing in the world that I knew about was what the thing I was driving was! I sat on the top of a gantry with a bluescreen behind me and they shook it about a bit…There was one line which was, ‘Target the main generator.’ It was in the middle of some other lines and I couldn’t remember it. We must have done eight takes on it. It was driving them absolutely mad! It wasn’t until I actually saw the film that I knew what I was driving! I said, ‘My God, it’s a giant giraffe!'”
— Lucasfilm Fan Club Magazine #10 (Winter 1990)

Sound and Soundtrack

Ben Burtt records the metal-stamping machine

The New York Times
“The Empire’s immense anthropomorphic walking tanks make sounds blended from metal-stamping machinery, garbage trucks and motors from oil derricks. ‘Those walking tanks were supposed to weigh 500 tons, and it was difficult to get sounds that would give that scale,’ [Sound Design And Supervising Sound Effects Editor Ben Burtt] said. ‘When they crashed, I used immense impact sounds like trains bumping.'”
— The New York Times (June 9, 1980)

John Williams, Composer of the Empirescore
“Many passages required special instrumentation. For example, the music for “Battle in the Snow” has unusual orchestration calling for five piccolos, five oboes, a battery of eight percussion, two grand pianos, two or three harps, in addition to the normal orchestral complement. This was necessary in order to achieve a bizarre mechanical, brutal sound for the sequence showing Imperial walkers, which are frightening inventions advancing across a snowscape.”
— liner notes, The Empire Strikes Back Soundtrack (1980)

“Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

With Yoda’s season three debut in Clone Wars last week and appearance in the The Force Unleashed II video game this week, we felt it appropriate to dedicate the latest installment of Empire Chronicles to the venerable Jedi Master, first introduced to the Star Wars saga in 1980.

As in previous Empire Chronicles entries, we’ve gathered testimony from those intimately involved with the Empireproduction, documented in the dozens of books, magazines, documentaries and related sources over the past three decades. With so much interest in Yoda, it was difficult to choose which quotes and passages not to include here, as 30-years worth of reporting has generated an overwhelming abundance of information about the Star Wars Saga’s most celebrated Jedi Master.

Like our previous entry on Boba Fett, we’re limiting our discussion mainly to Yoda’s appearance in The Empire Strikes Back (his Jedi and prequel appearances would make our lengthiest Chronicles entry to date even longer!).

Size may matter not, but judging by the volume of quotes below, there’s no shortage of interest — and likely never will be — in the Star Wars galaxy’s most luminous being of all.

George Lucas, Story and Executive Producer
“After I had killed Ben in Star Wars, I had to figure out a way to replace him. I didn’t want another human being, and that’s when I decided to make him tiny and green and very odd and eight hundred years old and a whole different level of Jedi than Ben was. Then I created the backstory that he was Ben’s teacher.”
— Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays (1997)

George Lucas
“I was using Alec [Guinness] and the Ben Kenobi character as the chief influence, so I said I want something like this, the same power, the same strength… and the calm and the way he did his performance — I want to transfer that into this puppet in the same way.”
— Star Wars: The Definitive Collection laserdisc commentary (1993)

George Lucas
“I wanted Yoda to be the traditional kind of character you find in fairy tales and mythology. And that character is usually a frog or a wizened old man on the side of the road. The hero is going down the road and meets this poor and insignifcant person. The goal or the lesson is for the hero to learn to respect everybody and to pay attention to the poorest person because that’s where the key to his success will be. I wanted Yoda to be perceived at first as a funny critter, not as the most powerful of all the Jedi. I wanted him to be the exact opposite of what you might expect, since the Jedi is based on a philosophical idea rather than a physical idea.”
— Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays (1997)

George Lucas
“I worked with [Visual Effects Art Director] Joe Johnston who was my chief designer at that point along with Ralph McQuarrie — actually I gave them both the assignment. I said I want a three-foot-high wizened little gnome-like creature and they started drawing various pictures of it as I was writing it…I think we had green versions and blue versions, all different kinds of versions before I finally picked and evolved the version that we’ve got now.”
— Star Wars: The Definitive Collection laserdisc commentary (1993)

 

Ralph McQuarrie (Design Consultant And Conceptual Artist)
“Joe and I worked on Yoda, and Joe’s drawings kind of stood out more, I think, than mine. I had an idea he should be more aesthetic and boney and more animal-like, I suppose, a little more life-like. I think the puppet-makers had an awful lot to do with him, what he finally looked like. He looked terrific in the film. He was perfect.”
— Ralph McQuarrie: Illustrator DVD (2002)

George Lucas
“[Yoda’s name] is an amalgamation of a lot of different words and letters. You develop these lists. For a while his full name was Minch-Yoda, but we shortened it. You want these names to have certain influences, but you don’t want them to remind people of a specific ethnic group. You don’t want people to say that he’s German or Japanese.”
— Chicago Tribune (May 15, 1983)

Production painting by Ralph McQuarrie

Irvin Kershner, Director
“At first I thought Yoda should be eight feet, nine feet tall with a big beard, like an oversized Moses, because after all, he is a Zen master, he is almost Godlike. But that was too much of a cliché…Then we started looking for a face — what does he look like? — and then we thought, Well, he is amphibious, he can live underwater, he is on a wet planet, therefore his skin is not affected by water, he’s like a lizard. But we couldn’t get a good image of the head, and Stuart Freeborn, the make-up man, who was also sort of an engineer and made props, said, ‘I think I can make the face.'”
— Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays (1997)

Stuart Freeborn, Make-Up And Special Creature Design
“When I first saw him I loved Yoda. I thought he was going to be the greatest creature ever!! Still the drawings varied quite a bit. Some I liked, and some I wasn’t too keen on. One or two showed Yoda with the suggestion of a twinkle in his eye that said to me that this little guy was looking at me and sizing me up and already had me pegged. I felt that I had to capture that look and make Yoda look very wise and a likable sort with a slight smile, but still sarcastic where he can twist up his mouth and just play games with you, then switch back to the nice old fellow that he really is. Oh, he was a fun one, he really was.”
— Bantha Tracks #19 (Feb 1983)

Stuart Freeborn
“I thought to myself, ‘This guy’s got to look highly intelligent,’ so I thought about the most intelligent person in the world and decided Yoda needed Einstein’s look about his eyes. Then I looked at myself and decided that I was comic, with all these little knobbles. So I built myself in. Yoda is a combination of Albert Einstein and myself.”
— People Magazine (August 8, 1983)

Irvin Kershner
“…Here was this head draped with a cloth. We sat there, and [Stuart] said, ‘Now I’ll show you what Yoda could look like,’ and he pulled the cover off, and I thought it was a joke because it looked exactly like him. He was very small, had a large head, a round face… It was a self-portrait.”
— Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays (1997)

George Lucas
“I wanted to make his head slightly larger like a baby, because babies’ heads are usually larger than their bodies…we put that onto him and made him basically an 800-year-old baby and still tried to keep him cute but tried to give him a very odd look that wouldn’t be put-offish.”
— Star Wars: The Definitive Collection laserdisc commentary (1993)

Stuart Freeborn
“Einstein’s got a mustache. [Yoda] couldn’t have a mustache, so I remodeled the lip the same shape as Einstein’s mustache. It’s just a subtle suggestion. People have seen this before associated with someone of high intelligence, you see. And all that somehow worked. George said, ‘Oh, that’s just right.'”
— Make-Up Artist Magazine (Apr/May 1997)

Irvin Kershner
“In regard to Yoda’s clothes, I wanted him to wear something that looked homemade, but none of the fabrics we selected looked right. Finally we found this raw silk from India, and it was just perfect. It hung nicely, and it looked homemade. We had a piece left over, and I had a jacket made out of it for myself.”
— Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays (1997)

Irvin Kershner
“Of course we wanted to use the traditional three fingers from comics…You’ll notice that in comic books all the anthropomorphized animals always have three fingers.”
— Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays (1997)

George Lucas
“Well the essential part of Yoda was that I felt it was critical that I get the very best actor to play the part, the very best puppeteer to do it because obviously I was trying to make this into a real character, a key character in the whole series.”
— Star Wars: The Definitive Collection laserdisc commentary (1993)

Frank Oz, Yoda performer
“The beginning of Yoda for me was through Jim Henson. We were shooting The Muppet Movie in Los Angeles and Gary Kurtz, producer of the Empire Strikes Back, approached Jim and asked how to do this, and Jim suggested me. I remember Jim kind of took me in the trailer and talked to me about this and showed me this design, this sketch of Yoda. Sometimes you have to work hard to really find the character, and sometimes it just happens, and I just looked at that and it felt really right. It just felt really good.”
— Star Wars: The Definitive Collection laserdisc commentary (1993)

Frank Oz
“The thing that hits me most is that I think he came from a more formal time, because here he lives in this Dagobah, this planet by himself. I’m sure he had many friends, this guy’s probably 800 years old, and somehow he wound up here because of the troubles all around the universe. It may sound silly giving him this but as an actor it’s important to know.”
— Star Wars: The Definitive Collection laserdisc commentary (1993)

Irvin Kershner
“I wanted to reveal Yoda gradually. First you see him from the back, then from the front, and then you have the close-up. In that first scene I had to give a sense to the audience of how short Yoda was. So I had this shot of Luke in the foreground standing in front of Yoda. Then Luke bends down, and you have a real sense of scale.”
— Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays (1997)

Mark Hamill, Luke Skywalker
“When my close-ups were being shot, they replaced [Yoda] with a stick, with a piece of tape on it that said, ‘Yoda.’ In every shot of me by myself, Yoda was in the shop being worked on, because his eyes would go funny or his ear cables wouldn’t work. He was a real problem, but he got better.”
— Mediascene Prevue (Sept/Oct 1983)

Irvin Kershner
“I was the only one who could hear [Yoda’s] voice because I was wearing earphones. Even Mark Hamill when he was talking to Yoda couldn’t hear his voice. We’d rehearse it with a speaker so Mark could get the timing, and then he’d have to do it blank with nothing coming out of Yoda’s mouth. He did a good job, Mark; he is a good actor.”
— Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays (1997)

Lawrence Kasdan, screenwriter
“Creating Yoda’s speech pattern was one of the most difficult problems we encountered in developing the script. George wanted Yoda to talk in a distinctive way and had settled on an inverted style of speaking for the first draft. But Kersh, George, and I all had our own ideas about the rhythm of Yoda’s dialogue and had trouble selecting one style. I played around with inversion, rhyme, sentences in question form. Finally I found what I liked best was a repetition of words, a slight inversion that had a medieval tone to it.”
— The Empire Strikes Back Notebook (1980)

George Lucas
“I didn’t want Yoda to sound like Miss Piggy, and there is a touch of similarity between the two voices. They’re a completely different style but it’s the same voice, don’t know how to get around it. And so I was a little concerned about that and wanted to use a different actor, but I’ve discovered over the years that, especially in terms of puppetry and that sort of thing, the person is actually acting the role, is really into it, and they really can give a performance that’s very difficult for anyone else to duplicate.
— Star Wars: The Definitive Collection laserdisc commentary (1993)

Frank Oz
“The pressure was extreme because I was taking too much time. The reason I was taking too much time is because this was the first time this had ever been done. You know, I had somebody doing cables for the ears, and somebody was doing cables for the eyes and somebody was doing the left hand, so I had me and three other people trying to bring the character to life.”
— Empire of Dreams documentary (2004)

Irvin Kershner
“The technical difficulties were like having a chain around your neck, hands and feet and being dropped into water and told to direct from four fathoms.”
— People Magazine (June 9, 1980)

George Lucas
“That was like a real leap, because if that puppet had not worked, the whole film would have been down the tubes…if it had been Kermit running around in that movie, the whole movie would have collapsed under the weight of it.”
— Empire of Dreams documentary (2004)

Frank Oz
“I was given a beautiful design, beautiful words and the actual physical character…I could see patience, wit, wisdom and strength. I was simply the person to put all that together into a warm, functioning being.”
— People Magazine (June 9, 1980)

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