The Child (Star Wars)
|Star Wars character|
|First appearance||"Chapter 1: The Mandalorian" (2019) |
|Created by||Jon Favreau|
|Portrayed by||Several puppeteers|
|Species||Unnamed, same as Yoda|
|Family||The Mandalorian (adoptive father)|
The Child, colloquially referred to as "Baby Yoda" by fans and the media, is a fictional character from the Star Wars Disney+ original television series The Mandalorian. He is a member of the same alien species as Yoda, a popular character from the Star Wars films. He is the only character other than The Mandalorian (Din Djarin) to appear in all eight episodes of the series. The Child was well received by audiences and quickly became an Internet meme and breakout character.
Conception and creation
The Child is a member of the same alien species as Yoda, a popular character from previous Star Wars films, but is not a younger version of Yoda himself. The character was conceived by The Mandalorian series creator Jon Favreau out of a desire to explore the mystery around Yoda and his species. The character developed from early conversations between Favreau and Dave Filoni in the summer of 2017, not long after Favreau had pitched the show to Kathleen Kennedy and she had put him in touch with Filoni. When the two men met, Filoni began to draw doodles on napkins, and the visual concept for the Child was then developed by various artists, of which the version by Christian Alzmann was pivotal.
The Child is filmed mostly utilizing animatronics and puppetry, although accentuated with computer-generated imagery (CGI). The puppet is controlled by two technicians, one who operates the eyes and mouth and another who controls other facial expressions. Initially, executive producers Favreau and Filoni were unsure of whether to rely more on CGI or practical effects to depict the character, but actor Werner Herzog convinced them to use more puppetry, calling them "cowards" for not fully committing to practical effects. Favreau said:
He's mostly a puppet. When it's CG, we try to make him obey the same physical laws that he would if he were a puppet. I think a lot of times CG makes itself too obvious where you don't create parameters creatively that allow the character to keep the same identity and charm.
In the first episode of the series, the titular Mandalorian bounty hunter (Pedro Pascal) accepts a valuable commission from a Client (Werner Herzog), a mysterious Imperial official, to track down and capture an unidentified fifty-year-old target. Infiltrating a remote and heavily defended encampment, the Mandalorian acquires the quarry, who appears to be a child from the same species as Yoda. The Mandalorian destroys bounty hunter droid IG-11 (Taika Waititi), who attempts to kill the infant per its bounty orders. In "Chapter 2: The Child", the Mandalorian is attacked by a rhinoceros-like creature called a Mudhorn. As the beast rushes the Mandalorian for the kill, the Child uses The Force to levitate the creature, allowing the surprised Mandalorian to kill it. The Mandalorian delivers the Child to the Client on Nevarro and collects his bounty in "Chapter 3: The Sin". The Mandalorian is rebuffed when he uncharacteristically asks about the Client's plans for the Child. He accepts a new job from the Bounty Hunter's guild leader, Greef Karga (Carl Weathers), but instead goes back to infiltrate the Client's base and retrieve the Child, who is being studied by Dr. Pershing (Omid Abtahi). The Mandalorian is ambushed by the guild's bounty hunters and Karga, but the Mandalorian is able to escape with the Child when other Mandalorians of the Tribe unexpectedly come to his defense.
In "Chapter 4: Sanctuary", the Mandalorian plans to leave his charge in the care of kind local villagers on the sparsely populated planet Sorgan, but when another bounty hunter arrives to claim the Child, the Mandalorian realizes the village will not be safe and departs with him. The Mandalorian subsequently saves the Child from aspiring bounty hunter Toro Calican (Jake Cannavale) in "Chapter 5: The Gunslinger", and from the droid pilot Zero (Richard Ayoade) in "Chapter 6: The Prisoner".
In "Chapter 7: The Reckoning" Karga asks the Mandalorian for help in liberating Nevarro from Imperial reinforcements in exchange for clearing the bounty on the Mandalorian and the Child. The Mandalorian recruits Cara Dune (Gina Carano), an ex-Rebel shocktrooper, Kuiil (Nick Nolte), an Ugnaught farmer and mechanic who previously helped him, and IG-11, who has been repaired and reprogrammed by Kuiil. When Cara and the Mandalorian are arm wrestling, the Child mistakes Cara for an enemy and begins force choking her, but the Mandalorian stops him. Greef is injured and the Child heals him using the Force, so Greef reveals that he was planning on betraying them until the Child healed him. The Mandalorian sends Kuiil back to his ship with the Child, while he, Cara and Greef head into town to kill the Client. Kuiil is killed by stormtroopers, who take the Child for Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito). In "Chapter 8: Redemption", IG-11 rescues the Child from the troopers, and then arrives to find the Mandalorian's crew besieged by Gideon and his stormtroopers. The Child uses the Force to deflect an attacking stormtrooper's flamethrower back on him, and the group escapes with the Child through a sewer grate, seeking help from the hidden Mandalorians. The Armorer (Emily Swallow) tasks the Mandalorian to care for the foundling Child like his own, discover its origins, and return it to its kind. Escaping Gideon and his remaining troopers, the Mandalorian leaves the planet with the Child.
Reception and impact
The Child was well received by fans. He soon became a popular Internet meme and breakout character. Favreau said that though the character is not Yoda, the nickname Baby Yoda has been embraced "because there's no name for the Yoda species", and "It's the easiest, shortest, most hashtagable way to identify that character". The Guardian called Baby Yoda "2019's biggest new character", and many have described him as a key part in the success of Disney+. Business Insider considered "Baby Yoda's rapid ascent to meme-stardom" as indicative of the success of the Disney+ service.
In December 2019, artwork of Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger with the Child appeared in the Time magazine article naming him their Businessperson of the Year. The character was also parodied in the December 2019 South Park episode "Basic Cable", and the December 14, 2019 episode of Saturday Night Live in which Kyle Mooney played the Child (dubbed Baby Yoda) in the Weekend Update segment. At the 77th Golden Globe Awards, host Ricky Gervais jokingly mistook Joe Pesci for "Baby Yoda".
The Child was kept secret and was deliberately withheld from The Mandalorian's prerelease marketing and launch merchandise because of the risk that details about the character could leak before the show aired. Favreau has credited Donald Glover as the source of that strategy; while developing The Mandalorian, Favreau was simultaneously directing Glover in the photorealistic remake of The Lion King. Glover told Favreau that what people really like is to be surprised, because true surprise is so rare nowadays, and cited Beyoncé's 2013 surprise online release of her self-titled album Beyoncé as an example. As Favreau later explained: "I felt that if we really wanted to connect with the Star Wars fans, we had to let them discover the story as it was unfolding. The marketing team and the leadership were all supportive of what my instincts were, and I think it paid off really well because now people are excited to tune in every week to see what happens." On The Star Wars Show, Iger said that "if we had given the design out [before the series aired], it would have gone out to hundreds and hundreds of people, probably all over the world, and we didn’t want to do that." Iger reiterated that Disney is a story-first company which has "never set out to tell a story simply because it can become a toy or a game or a consumer product of some sort."
Due to the scarcity of licensed merchandise of the Child, many unlicensed products were created and sold through the Internet. Official merchandise relating to the character is expected to be released in 2020. The first two items are a 10-inch Funko POP! figurine and an 11-inch plush from Mattel. In December 2019, the Electronic Arts video game The Sims 4 added "The Child Statue" as a decoration that can be purchased. EA currently holds the rights to Star Wars video games.
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