Yoda’s original name in Star Wars is still surprising to us all

Frank Oz in Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980). © Lucasfilm Ltd.
Frank Oz in Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980). © Lucasfilm Ltd. /

Star Wars is famous for its many “near misses” when the history of its productions is explored. Famous actors turning down roles on-set accidents and chance encounters permeate the galaxy far, far away. One of them has to do with the naming of everyone’s favorite puppet Jedi master.

Master Yoda is one of the most recognizable non-human characters in all of cinema. But he nearly didn’t get his now-household name. Early in production, the wise, green frog-like creature had a different appearance with an altogether different name. Believe it or not, there was a time when the character was to be called “Buffy.” No, we’re not kidding.

Imagining the ghost of Ben Kenobi saying to Luke Skywalker “You will go to the Dagobah system. There you will learn from Buffy” doesn’t quite have the right ring to it. The character’s name was later changed to be “Minch Yoda” in the first draft of The Empire Strikes Back screenplay by Leigh Brackett. The name was changed again to the shorter “Yoda.”

“Minch” later became the name of another member of Yoda’s species who appeared in a 2003 Expanded Universe comic called Heart of Darkness.

The Jedi that almost was

It goes without saying that this original name would have resulted in a somewhat different cultural landscape. It is unlikely that the famous vampire hunter of the same name would have shared the title with a magical puppet.

A puppet itself that also almost never came to be. There was also a time in production where Yoda was planned to be portrayed by a live monkey with prosthetic ears. But someone who also worked on 2001: A Space Odyssey warned that the animal would have been more trouble than it’s worth. The idea was scrapped before shooting began, so sadly there is no footage of Mark Hamill talking to a misbehaving primate.

dark. Next. A New Hope - Ending Explained

For more Star Wars facts, keep up with us at Dork Side of the Force!