‘Star Wars’: How Albert Einstein Inspired Yoda
Albert Einstein is the greatest icon of scientific advancement from the 20th century. People across the world recognize his face and he has exerted a sizable influence on popular culture. He even managed to inspire a beloved Star Wars character: Yoda.
If any Star Wars character embodies wisdom, it’s Yoda. It only makes sense Einstein inspired Yoda to a degree. Here’s a look at the man who created Yoda’s look and the inspirations behind the character.
The amazing career of the makeup artists behind Yoda
Slate reports we would not have Yoda in his current form if not for the efforts of Stuart Freeborn. Freeborn was a makeup artist who worked on several notable Hollywood films. Some of the classics in his filmography include The Bridge on the River Kwai, Dr. Strangelove, and 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The Verge reports that George Lucas saw Freeborn as a legend before he worked on Star Wars. Lucas admired Freeborn thanks to Freeborn’s contributions to the “Dawn of Man” sequence in 2001. Freeborn would create designs for several major Star Wars characters.
For example, Freeborn designed Jabba the Hutt, Chewbacca, and the Ewoks. Yoda remains one of Freeborn’s most popular creations. Surprisingly, the character’s look was partially inspired by a picture of Einstein.
How Albert Einstein inspired a ‘Star Wars’ character
According to Mental Floss, special effects maestro Nick Maley recalled “A picture of Einstein ended up on the wall behind the Yoda sculptures and the wrinkles around Einstein’s eyes somehow got worked into the Yoda design. Over the course of this evolutionary process Yoda slowly changed from a comparatively spritely [sic], tall, skinny, grasshopper kind of character into the old wise spirited gnome that we all know today.”According to The New York Times Magazine, Freeborn based Yoda’s upper lip on Einstein’s as well. In addition, the book Reinventing Teenagers says Freeborn modeled the character’s eyes on Einstein’s eyes.
Moreover, Frank Oz, the actor who puppeteered and voiced Yoda, had some input in the character’s creation. Maley recalled “The final step in [the character’s] transformation was Frank’s insistence that the puppet should have no jaw fitted. That allowed him more freedom for expression as a puppeteer but it also meant that the skin hung loosely below the cheeks and that gave Yoda an older, rather chinless look.” The character’s final appearance was very different from the initial design for the character created by Ralph McQuarrie. McQuarrie was an illustrator who created much of the concept art for Star Wars.
Freeborn’s decision to make Yoda look vaguely similar to Einstein was brilliant. Einstein is associated with intelligence more than just about anyone else. By making Yoda look like Einstein, he was sending audiences a subtle message that the Jedi Master was smart. Freeborn helped the character to seem wise through a simple but powerful visual cue.