How Disney Kept Yoda’s ‘The Last Jedi’ Appearance a Secret

Social media has become so hyper-sensitive to spoilers that critics and other writers get raked over the coals simply by describing part of the plot that’s obvious in the trailers. Someone will write “Character A tells character B this,” and the comments fly with “Dude! SPOILER!”

With all that in mind, Rian Johnson and Lucasfilm did an amazing job of keeping a certain diminutive master’s appearance in The Last Jedi a secret. Here’s how they kept Yoda’s cameo under the wraps.

How did Yoda figure into ‘The Last Jedi?’

A sculpture of Yoda is exhibited at the 'Star Wars Exhibition' at Telefonica flagship store on December 17, 2017, in Madrid, Spain.
Yoda | Oscar Gonzalez/NurPhoto via Getty Images

You may recall that Yoda wasn’t in The Force Awakens at all, making that the first Star Wars movie since the original in which he did not appear. And that made sense. He was mostly tied to Luke Skywalker, who only appeared in the final scene of that movie, so Yoda did not fit into the story yet. 

When Yoda finally did appear about two-thirds of the way through The Last Jedi, he arrived to offer Luke relief and wisdom in a slightly mischievous way, recalling his original appearance in The Empire Strikes Back when he initially appeared to be only a comic imp. And, as he did in The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda forced Luke to come to terms with failure, expressing themes that some fans found controversial.

“Heeded my words not, did you? Pass on what you have learned. Strength. Mastery. But weakness, folly, failure also. Yes, failure most of all. The greatest teacher, failure is. Luke, we are what they grow beyond. That is the true burden of all masters,” he said. 

How was Yoda’s appearance kept secret?

As much as fans tried to guess and theorize, many of them did not see Yoda coming. And that was Lucasfilm’s hope. CinemaBlend quoted Frank Oz, who voiced and operated Yoda as to how his appearance was kept on the down-low. 

“I was told that that was going to be the surprise of the movie, so when I went to Pinewood I had to be a secret there,” Oz said. “Although if people saw me… people DID see me, but if they questioned me it would have been fine because I shot Little Shop of Horrors … there, and could have just said I had some meetings for movies. But the idea was to keep me off the credits. I was asked, ‘Could you have your name off the poster?’ and I said ‘Sure.’ So the idea was that that would be the surprise.”

There were a few leaks here and there that Oz was on set with the Yoda puppet, but those were not widely reported. Even the fact that Yoda was a  puppet again was a pleasant surprise, as Yoda had turned into a CGI character in the prequel trilogy, living Oz to do only the voice. Yoda had been a puppet in the original version of The Phantom Menace, but later editions replaced him with the CGI version. 

Will Yoda be in ‘The Rise of Skywalker?”

Now fans are wondering if the Jedi master will make an appearance in Episode IX. The sequel trilogy movies have often been mirror images of the original trilogy movies, for better or worse, so following that line of logic, if Yoda appeared in Return of the Jedi, he should also appear in The Rise of Skywalker

Cosmic Book News states that Yoda is “confirmed” for the movie, although the evidence they offer is that composer John Williams’ score will use the Yoda theme. That is not exactly confirmation.

Similarly, the IMDB does not list Oz as having The Rise of Skywalker in his credits, although that does not necessarily mean Yoda will not be in it. He could have a non-speaking part, or Lucasfilm could be practicing secrecy again. 

We’re going to guess that he probably will appear in some capacity, as this movie is supposed to be wrapping up the Skywalker saga, and many old favorites are returning, including Leia, via unused Force Awakens footage. If Star Wars can transcend Carrie Fisher’s untimely passing, perhaps they can transcend missing Oz’s name in IMDB.