Long-Lost Star Wars Interview Reveals A Very Upsetting Early Design For Yoda

Everyone loves Yoda. Sure, people go ga-ga for Grogu these days, but remember that once upon a time everyone called him "Baby Yoda" because their species' name is still a big mystery! The original little green guy, voiced by the legendary Frank Oz, has made an appearance in all three of the "Star Wars" trilogies, and is one of the greatest creatures to ever wield the Force. 

During his design phase, however, there was a version of Yoda that wasn't so lovable. In a recently-unearthed interview with creature creator Stuart Freeborn from July 1979, an original prototype puppet of Yoda was revealed, and he's one creepy-looking critter. The video was found and posted by the 70sSciFiBoy YouTube channel, and shows both the animatronic head design we know and love alongside the absolutely grotesque original version. The footage is grainy and the audio a little rough, but it's still a neat, if somewhat unsettling look into the creation of one of pop culture's most popular puppets.

The brilliant mind of Stuart Freeborn

Freeborn's original design for Yoda might have been a little creepy, but he would eventually refine it into something unforgettable. The special effects makeup master was already well known by the time he was hired to make movie magic for George Lucas. Directors would frequently come back to Freeborn, and he worked with some of the biggest names in genre cinema in the 1960s and '70s.

Freeborn collaborated twice with director Stanley Kubrick, creating the ape-like ancestors for the "Dawn of Man" sequence in "2001: A Space Odyssey," and turning actor Peter Sellers into multiple characters for "Dr. Strangelove." He also worked with Richard Donner repeatedly, making Christopher Reeve into the perfectly chiseled Kryptonian for "Superman" and designing the devil's spawn Damien for "The Omen."

In the world of "Star Wars," Freeborn was responsible for not only creating everyone's favorite little green guy, but also the designs of the Ewoks, Chewbacca, and Jabba the Hutt.

A character close to its creator

While Yoda was only one of Freeborn's many creations, he was probably his most personal. "The Empire Strikes Back" director Irvin Kirshner would comment on just how much Yoda looked like Freeborn, with similarly "inquisitive and mischievous elfin features." Freeborn even copied the wrinkles on his forehead, carving them into the clay figure of Yoda that served as the original design. According to Freeborn, the only part of Yoda that wasn't modeled after some part of himself was the character's upper lip. That was based on famed scientist Albert Einstein, so viewers might subconsciously assume Yoda's intelligence. Too bad most people only know Einstein with his trademark mustache, hiding his Yoda-like upper lip.

The character of Yoda would go on to be one of the most famous and easily recognizable in the franchise, with his big ears and gentle eyes. Though the character dies in "Star Wars: Return of the Jedi," he would return for the prequel films in a younger form and appear in the sequels as a Force ghost, making him one of the few characters to appear in all three trilogies.

The Yoda puppet of your nightmares

For people with pupaphobia — the fear of puppets — the original Yoda puppet might be one of the creepiest creations ever made. Even if you aren't frightened by fabric faces, this guy's pretty unsettling. One eye squints as if he's peering into the future, while the other is wide-open, like he can read everyone's thoughts. As Freeborn explains the character and the design, he continues moving his hand inside of the puppet's mouth ever-so-slightly, so it looks as if Yoda is sort of chatting along with him. The original concept drawing of Yoda also appears, and thankfully the finished Yoda doesn't look too much like that either. Freeborn calls him an "interesting little character" and a "clever little fellow." He says "he is the Force himself," which is an interesting tidbit for hardcore fans to dig into, but it's still pretty difficult to get past the way Yoda 1.0's face looks. It's like a wax figurine of Ed Asner was left to rot in a factory that only made green crayons, and is the stuff of nightmares. 

"Once he starts talking, you can't stop him," Freeborn says as he continues to move the mouth. The camera zooms, the tiny pink maw continues to flap, and that open eye sears right into your soul.

There are plenty of terrifying and adorable creatures in "Star Wars," ranging from the sneaky Jawas to the slug-like Hutts, but Original Yoda might be the most terrifying of them all. Let's hope Grogu never has to see this.