‘The Mandalorian’: Baby Yoda’s Original Designs Were Wrinkly, Sickly, and ‘Ugly’

When Star Wars spinoff, The Mandalorian, took over Disney+ in 2019, no one could have predicted the outpouring of love and never-ending memes of Baby Yoda. The little green creature became the most Googled baby of 2019, beating out Baby Shark, the royal baby, and Kim Kardashian West’s baby.

However, the original designs of Baby Yoda were wrinkly, sickly, and “ugly.” How did he become the cute and cuddly creature that kids all over the world love today?

'The Mandalorian' with Pedro Pascal and Baby Yoda
‘The Mandalorian’ with Pedro Pascal and Baby Yoda | Lucasfilm Ltd.

‘The Mandalorian’: Director Jon Favreau created the initial vision for Baby Yoda

When director Jon Favreau heard the news that George Lucas had sold Lucasfilm to Disney in 2012, he began thinking about what he could create in a Disney/Lucasfilm world.

“[Baby Yoda] is one of the things that I had been making notes about,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “I just was trying to figure out what happened after the original Star Wars trilogy, after the Empire falls. We knew Yoda, who was so old and was a master. What would it be like for a new character, another one of the species emerging and being in training, who was just beginning that journey?”

Next, he spoke with the president of Lucasfilm, Kathleen Kennedy, about pitching his idea. She suggested that Favreau meets with Dave Filoni, who had worked on several Star Wars animated shows. During the meeting, Filoni drew a rough draft of the Baby Yoda image on a napkin.

Baby Yoda’s original image was ‘a little weird’ and ‘ugly’

Leading up to The Mandalorian Season 2, Disney+ released a behind-the-scenes documentary series about creating the Star Wars spinoff. In episode 5 of Disney Gallery Star Wars: The Mandalorian, Favreau described developing Baby Yoda.

“We all, I think, had a vision for what a bad version of it was,” Favreau explained. “And what was written in there was just that it was a little baby of Yoda’s species.”

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The script didn’t explain what The Child looked like, but the director had the image in his mind. 

“We got lots and lots of drawings,” he continued. “Some of them were too cute, some of them were too ugly, some of them were the wrong proportions,” Favreau added. “But they were all informing as we gave notes on each drawing.” 

Favreau modeled The Child’s body language and ears from a dog

Christian Alzmann drew the final concept image of Baby Yoda in a worn garment for The Mandalorian.

“It looked cute, but it also looked a little weird,” Favreau told The Hollywood Reporter. “That’s part of Yoda. It can’t just be cute. It can’t just be a straight-up Disney baby; it has to be a little bit tweaked.”

The director wanted the creature’s expression and body language to come from its big eyes and ear movements. He thought of the cocking of the head like a dog does. It makes the creature feel like a pet the audience would develop a connection to.

“The look of the big ears, we had inherited that from Yoda,” Favreau added. “I had already been preoccupied with the look of big eyes and using ears for motion.”