The Mandalorian has been one of the best outings for the Star Wars Universe under the Disney umbrella. An engaging storyline, solid ratings, beautiful visuals, and interesting characters are some of the reasons for the Disney+ show’s success. But the biggest takeaway from season 1 of the show has been the child, the youngling – better known as “Baby Yoda”. Countless memes, reactions, and trends have come off the adorable being’s introduction to the show. In fact, Baby Yoda has become so popular that even people not familiar with Star Wars can recognize the child. But according to Jon Favreau, showrunner of The Mandalorian, the popularity came at a substantial cost.
Disney’s decision to go with an animatronic puppet for Baby Yoda and not CGI the whole thing apparently cost the studio a whopping $5 million! The puppet, which legendary director Werner Herzog described as “a phenomenal technological achievement”, required two expert technicians to handle at the same time. One had to operate the facial expressions while the other controlled the eyes, mouth, and movements. Herzog, who played the role of “The Client”, was one of the first characters to interact with “The Child” on the show. He was so captivated by the puppet that he said he was “almost in tears when he first saw it” because it was so “heartbreakingly beautiful”.
But the reason why we know how much Baby Yoda cost is partly because of another character on the show. Before we get to that, a spoiler warning for those yet to catch up with the whole of Season 1 of The Mandalorian because there are some plot points regarding the season finale below. If you don’t want to proceed, here’s an even shorter TL;DR – Baby Yoda super cute, cost $5 million to make & handle the puppet, Disney doesn’t care since it’s going to make a shit-ton of money from the merchandise.
SNL Alum Jason Sudekis and Happy Endings star Adam Pally starred as Bike Scout Troopers #1 and #2 respectively in the season finale of The Mandalorian. Remember them? They’re the ones who kill Kuill and kidnap The Child to deliver it to Moff Gideon (played by the awesome Giancarlo Esposito). They became two of the most hated characters on TV for a while there. That’s because Bike Scout Trooper #2 (Pally) punches Baby Yoda right in the face after it bites his finger. Pally recently spoke at a Television Critics Association event where he recalled what happened right after that scene when showrunner Favreau rushed to let him in on a little detail:
Understandable that he freaked out. I would hesitate to even touch something if it cost $5 million, let alone punch it! But the makers were seemingly hell-bent on authenticity and perfection that they used the actual thing and not some other prop or even a bag of flour for the scene. It would’ve been cheaper.
To really put this cost for the adorable force-user into perspective, it cost $1 million to make the suit for the movie Shazam. The original “R2D2” prop from the 1977 movie recently sold for $2.7 million. Hell, an actual functioning real-life Darth Vader suit would cost a cool $18 million to make today (according to Shade Station).
Is Baby Yoda worth it?
Even though $5 million for a puppet feels like a bit much (or exaggerated), it was a calculated risk for Disney which has clearly paid off. The popularity behind Baby Yoda has brought about a frenzied demand for a plush or toy of The Child. But it’s unclear to me why the studio & toymakers like Hasbro were late to the party and didn’t come up with merch in-time for the holiday season. In fact, this might be the first time since 1977 that the phenomenal success of something Star Wars-related has blindsided the company into being unprepared.
What do you think about this huge price tag on an adorable little force user? Is Baby Yoda really worth the $5 million bill for Disney? Is it really $5 million or could Jon Favreau have just blown the number up for a shot’s benefit? Let us know if you know.