Today is the last day of Star Wars Weekends, and what better way to commemorate this year’s event than by listening to Yoda himself, the legendary Frank Oz, regale us with stories of his childhood and work as a puppeteer! In the video below, Oz sits down with James Arnold Taylor, the voice of Obi Wan Kenobi in The Clone Wars, to do just that. Take a look.
I love hearing artists like Frank Oz talk about their past, their craft, and their personal recollections of some of the most memorable moments not just in their careers, but in the hearts of their fans. At Star Wars Weekends, Oz tells the audience about how his low self-esteem as a child led him to work in puppetry; how he came to work with the greatest puppeteer of the 20th century, the late Jim Henson; and what went into the creative process behind some of his most iconic characters. One of those characters is, of course, Yoda, whom Oz says he “got” right away on seeing a particular piece of concept art of the Jedi Master. And when he asked George Lucas what he wanted Oz to do with Yoda, Lucas replied simply, “Frank, just make it wonderful.”
Oz also had something interesting to say about the CG version of Yoda. When asked how he felt about CG replacing the puppet, and which incarnation he preferred, he said, “I prefer him… whatever’s necessary for the story.” He illustrates his point with the battle between Yoda and Count Dooku in Attack of the Clones, saying, “…there’s no way on God’s earth he could be a puppet. [You’ve] seen him jumping around, there’s no way!” I like his philosophy, that whatever is necessary for the story to work is what should be done. In the end, for him, the story is what matters.
I agree with James Arnold Taylor when he says that Frank Oz’s characters (Grover, Bert, Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy, Animal, and more) have touched everyone’s lives. It’s true; I mean, what would the world be like without these wonderful creations? And I don’t think Oz is merely being modest by saying that each of those characters was a collaborative effort, and that they could not have come to life without the hard work and energy of many, many people. However, they still wouldn’t hold the place they do in our hearts if it weren’t for Oz’s heart, his understanding of human nature, and his sheer skill in puppetry. Thank you, Mr. Oz, for your beautiful work.
That’s it for now from Star Wars Weekends! Be sure and check out the video of the first Weekend’s celebrity guests, Amy Allen and Ian McDiarmid, in their interview with James Arnold Taylor here.