Spoilers for The Last Jedi below.
In a key scene in The Last Jedi, Luke Skywalker reunites with an old friend—no, not whoever was at Toshi Station with power converters, but his old teacher, Yoda. The Jedi master, or really a force ghost version of him, gives Luke some advice, and uses his powers to call lightning down from the sky, because even in death, he continues to live for drama. In order to bring Yoda into the film, director Rian Johnson explained, in an interview with Uproxx, The Last Jedi resorted to old-fashioned puppetry, the same kind that was used for the character in Empire Strikes Back. “[Creature shop head and concept designer] Neal Scanlan and his team did a recreation of the Yoda puppet,” Johnson said. “It’s not only a puppet, it’s an exact replica of the Empire puppet. They found the original molds for it. They found the woman that painted the original eyes for Yoda.” In other words, if you thought that Yoda looked a lot more physical than the weightless CGI creations you might have seen in other films (or the Star Wars prequels), you’d be right.
Then, Johnson explained, they had Frank Oz, who voiced and was the puppeteer of Yoda in the original films, come in. “He did a lot of testing and a lot of adjusting with the puppet creators,” Johnson said. “It was amazing to watch the process. The idea that the last time Luke saw Yoda was in Return of the Jedi and the notion of getting back to that version of Yoda to form the emotional connection with Luke — including a glimpse of the impishness, as part of their relationship. It made a lot of sense.” In the end, it’s that real, deep sense of human-puppet connection that audiences long for most of all.