“We just felt that it was absolutely right and proper that we create the puppet in the closest likeness to the original.”
One of the most unexpected elements of The Last Jedi was the inclusion of Yoda, who trained Luke Skywalker on the swamp planet Dagobah all those years ago in Empire Strikes Back. The Jedi Master appeared as a Force ghost to help Luke realize that failure is the best teacher.
While there was some debate about how Yoda was depicted in the movie (he did look a little…off in the first shot), thankfully, Yoda was brought to life using practical effects ala the original trilogy, instead of the CG animation used in the prequels. In a recent interview with Nerdist, head of the creature shop Neal Scanlan revealed that the second he was told Yoda would be in the movie, he knew a puppet was the way to go.
From the piece:
To know that we were going to have Yoda, we just said, ‘Look we need to go back and look at Empire Strikes Back, we need to look at how Stuart [Freeborn] created Yoda because that is the most pure puppet moment,'” Scanlan said. “It’s Frank Oz, who is one of the greatest puppeteers ever, and we knew that Frank was going to redo this. We just felt that it was absolutely right and proper that we create the puppet in the closest likeness to the original and to give Frank exactly what he had the first time around.
Unfortunately, Lucasfilm did not have a complete Yoda puppet laying around to reprise the role — but they did have pieces. The original head mold and one of the hands were in tact, which along with photos from old magazines and input from the legendary Frank Oz himself — who, yes, once controlled the iconic puppet once again — was enough to recreate a replica of Yoda.