'The Mandalorian': Baby Yoda's Initial Design Was a Doodle on Some Cocktail Napkins

When The Mandalorian dropped on Disney+ in November 2019, very few people knew about Baby Yoda. The production team kept the tiny green creature under wraps so well that there was no merchandise to sell that holiday season. The Child blew up quickly on social media — people who weren’t into Star Wars before were intrigued. 

Baby Yoda became the most Googled baby of 2019, and it’s fame continued to grow in 2020. It’s hard to believe that the cute creature’s initial design was only a doodle on some cocktail napkins. 

‘The Mandalorian’ creator Jon Favreau kept his project secret for many years

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. He had previously directed two Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, Iron Man and its sequel. Favreau was also a passionate Star Wars fan from 11-years-old when Star Wars: A New Hope came out.

“[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?”

When Disney announced a plan to create their Disney+ streaming service, Favreau knew that was his opportunity. If the service were striving to emulate Netflix, then it would need original content. 

Dave Filoni created the original Baby Yoda design on some cocktail napkins

Favreau spoke with the president of Lucasfilm, Kathleen Kennedy, about pitching his idea. She suggested that the director meets with Dave Filoni, who had worked on several Star Wars animated shows. Favreau was directing Disney’s The Lion King at the time. After spending hours reviewing the movie shots, he would spend several more working on his secret project. 

When he finally felt ready, Favreau met with Dave Filoni to talk about his Star Wars live-action series. During this meeting, Filoni doodled on a few cocktail napkins to create the first image of Baby Yoda. 

It took several attempts to find ‘The Mandalorian’ creature’s design

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 details how they arrived at the current version of Baby Yoda.

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

Christian Alzmann came up with the final image with Baby Yoda wrapped in a piece of a garment. 

“It looked cute, but it also looked a little weird,” Favreau said. “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 ears, the posture, the cocking of the head, with a dog, a lot of expression comes from that. A big part of it was making something that felt like a pet that you had a connection with.”

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