Thursday, December 5, 2019

Jon Favreau Discusses Baby Yoda, New Technology Used In 'The Mandalorian'

By: Dominic Jones

Even if you haven't seen The Mandalorian yet, there is one character that has permeated pop culture that you've likely seen or heard of: Baby Yoda.  Baby Yoda has become so popular, with memes and song parodies and fan art, despite the fact that the character was kept completely secret prior to the first episode's debut on Disney+ last month.  Series writer and executive producer Jon Favreau spoke about the character, as well as some of the new technology developed for the series, in a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter.

Favreau spoke about the creation of the character, both in story terms and in terms of technology, saying,

"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. … We'll learn more about him over the course of the season. I think what's great about what George created is that Yoda proper, the character that we grew up watching, was always shrouded in mystery, and that was what made him so archetypal and so mythic. We know who he is based on his behavior and what he stands for, but we don't know a lot of details about where he comes from or his species. I think that's why people are so curious about this little one of the same species."

We've heard a lot about how amazing the puppet was on set, with Werner Herzog (who plays a character known as "The Client") in particular having great praise for it.  Favreau also recently shared a video from the set of the series which showed just how amazing Baby Yoda looks, even without the CGI enhancements.

He also spoke about keeping the character secret, telling THR,
"I think that part of what people really value is to be surprised and delighted, and I think that's becoming all too rare. It's very difficult to keep secrets about projects you're working on. By holding back on that one product, we knew that we may have had the disadvantage of not having toys available day and date, but what we got in exchange was an excitement surrounding the character, because everybody felt like they discovered him together. That emulated more what my experience growing up was like."

Favreau also spoke about the new technology that they used on both The Lion King and The Mandalorian, explaining,

"In The Lion King, we built a tool set, basically a "multiplayer VR filmmaking game," using the Unity game engine. We built a bunch of tools working with [lead VFX house] MPC and [tech developer] Magnopus and Unity, and we developed a way by which you could actually create environments and set up cameras and shots within VR. In The Mandalorian, we used a lot of the same tools to plan the entire production, working with the Unreal engine [from Epic Games]. But Lion King was a much different production because there was no actual photography. For Mandalorian, we take that cut, and instead of going right to animation and render like we did on Lion King, we build sets and a digital environment that we project onto a video wall. We partnered with Unreal and [VFX house] ILM and put together this system for The Mandalorian. All the people that we worked with then took that technology, and they're doing their versions of it. They're all slightly different, but basically we did research and development for The Mandalorian, and now everybody is building on the innovation that we collectively did and making that available to other people who might be curious about this process as well."

George Lucas famously pushed the technology of film making forward, with both the original and prequel trilogies.  He even wanted to have virtual sets for the live action series he was developing between 2005 and 2012, but couldn't make it cost effective.  Favreau feels like he's continuing on that legacy in a way that the recent films haven't (even though each of them has pushed things forward in small ways).

The Mandalorian is set following the events of Return of the Jedi and follows the adventures of a "lone gunfighter", as he navigates the galaxy in the post-Empire/early days of the New Republic.  The first four episodes of the series are available now on Disney+, with episode five being released on Friday. You can check out the trailer for the series below,

The series is available now on Disney+, and stars Pedro Pascal as The Mandalorian, Gina Carrano as Cara Dune, Carl Weathers as Greef Carga, Giancarlo Esposito as Moff Gideon, Nick Nolte as Kuiil, Werner Herzog as "The Client", Emily Swallow as "The Armorer", and Omid Abtahi as Dr. Pershing.  The Mandalorian is executive produced by Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni, with episodes directed by Filoni, Bryce Dallas Howard, Deborah Chow, and Rick Famuyiwa, and Taika Waititi.

Follow The Star Wars Underworld on Twitter @TheSWU for more updates about this story and other breaking Star Wars news.


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