What role will Yoda play in Episode VIII?

There is no question that Yoda is one of the most beloved characters in the Star Wars saga. The little green Jedi is one of the wisest and most powerful ever, and also tells us you can’t judge a book by its cover. I must admit, I’ve always been a fan of Yoda ever since I can remember, going back to ESB when I was 6 years old. Back then, I had a more vivid memory of the Yoda action figure than the actual movie, but still Yoda was a cool little dude. In this spoiler-laden speculation article we ask the question, what role will Yoda play in Episode VIII?

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Puppet or CGI?

Going way back to October of 2012, we got an article from CosmicBookNews claiming that Yoda would communicate with  with Luke. From the article,

‘We’re told that Yoda will have words with Luke Skywalker about a rising unbalance in the force and the need to preserve the Jedi.’

While this obviously didn’t happen in the movie, something like this may have been considered. It was later confirmed by none other than JJ Abrams that there was newly recorded dialogue from Frank Oz for The Force Awakens. From the article, it was said that

Frank Oz, a veteran of The Muppets who puppeteered Yoda and supplied his voice in the earlier movies, also contributed new dialogue for The Force Awakens, although Abrams says they ended up using pre-existing elements of the little green Jedi master’s voice.

So they actually had Frank Oz fly in and record some dialogue. Everything we’ve heard has suggested that it was planned from the beginning that Luke wouldn’t have any dialogue in TFA and is only seen at the end, so it does appear that the CosmicBookNews rumor, and subsequent similar rumors, were bogus. That said, Yoda was in The Force Awakens. His voice, albeit based off of repurposed OT dialogue, was part of Rey’s Force-vision. Something tantalizing still remains about the first rumored scene, though. How cool would it be to have Luke talk to Force-ghost-Yoda? Could this have been a plot concept that was at least considered in the concept phase of TFA?

That’s why I was excited to hear rumors that Frank Oz is/was headed to Pinewood Studios for Episode VIII.  These reports go back over a month ago, and we didn’t really get any confirmation that this actually happened. Seems plausible though. We got this image from Rian Johnson’s tumblr about new motion capture work for Maz:

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So this really makes you wonder, could Frank Oz be using the same technology to bring Yoda to the newest generation of movie magic? Frank Oz is a legendary puppeteer, probably second only to Jim Henson in terms of his fame and talent in puppetry. He’s gone from foamy muppets like Miss Piggy, to realistic creatures like Yoda, to voice acting work with animation. So why wouldn’t he jump to the opportunity to work in motion capture? I’d bet the only reason why he hasn’t yet is for lack of an good opportunity. One thing you can be sure of is Frank Oz knows about taking something unreal like a puppet, and making it convey emotions. This is why they people at Imaginarium Studios would almost certainly also love to have him provide expertise and vision for their work with ILM. It’s a match made in heaven.

Even more recently, just days ago, we have an article from IndieRevolver that claims that Frank Oz has already recorded audio for Episode VIII, and someone else will be performing with a puppet that’s already been made. While puppets would be in line with the trend toward “practical effects”, the idea of Yoda being a puppet in Episode VIII seems less likely for a couple of reasons. First is the last puppet they made, for TPM, didn’t look that good and was replaced by CGI for the blue ray version of that film. Secondly, since Yoda will be a ghost, his ethereal presence might be best represented with CGI. In other words, why build a physical puppet for something that is non-physical? I guess if they wanted it to match up perfectly with RotJ, then they might still do this puppet.

My guess is they’ll try both options, puppet and CGI, so that they can make sure that it works on screen. Think about that for a minute. The puppet Yoda from TPM was such a dud, they might have two options to cover their butts. That would explain why a lot of the reports say that Oz has recorded audio, and the character, be it puppet or CGI would be added later.

Story

There are persistent rumors going back at least three years, and maybe even going back to 1983 that the sequel trilogy will have Luke communicating regularly with Yoda, and presumably Obi Wan. But perhaps a better option would be for Yoda to speak with Rey?
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It’s been established that Force ghosts may not only talk to people that they’ve interacted with during their lives. The Force-vision in TFA and Star Wars Rebels kind of shows that any possible Jedi can be reached out to. That said, Yoda wasn’t a ghost at that time, but the concept still applies.

The thing about Yoda in Rebels is he could visit with Ezra in a Jedi Temple. So given there is so much talk about our heroes visiting the first Jedi Temple on Ahch-To, there is a pretty good chance that this is where we’ll see the little green ghost. As we’ve reported before, they’ve rebuilt those beehive huts like three different times (well, three if we count the originals on Skellig Michael), suggesting the strong possibility that they are important for something. Not to mention, there are lot of rumors about caves in Episode VIII, possibly connected to the temple, as well as an old spooky tree that could be connected to the Force. Any of these could be where we see Yoda visit our heroes, but why?

I’m personally expecting that, like in Rebels, Yoda will convey some key bit of wisdom and guidance to our heroes. I’m thinking that this will be to tell Rey and Luke where they need to go next, what planet to visit for example. He will most likely move the plot forward, and send Rey and Luke to their next planet off Ahch-To. What planet this might be is anyone’s guess. We think, based on recent leaks, that there is a scene at the beginning of the film where the Knights of Ren find Ahch-To, and come in to start a fight with Rey and Luke. There could be some damage and our heroes could be shaken up from this encounter. I would think that visiting an old friend like Yoda will help bring the mood back to hope. So my best theory at this point is Yoda will come to visit Rey and Luke in this time of despair and worry, and send them where they need to go to defeat these antagonists.

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