What did Wendy Froud / Wendy Midener contribute to Yoda's creation and development?

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The Wook

Master Member
I've heard several people claim that Wendy Froud (and sometimes even her husband Brian, who isn't even credited on ESB) created Yoda. To these people I say, that while Wendy did work under Stuart as a Yoda Fabricator, Stuart is the one who created the character and sculpted the character. Sometimes, depending on how open these people are to learning, I tell them the story about how Stuart created Yoda in his own image.

But you know how a lot of people are. Misinformed and reluctant about admitting it.

And yet, I even see that on Wendy Froud's own website, she claims to be the creator of Yoda. If you open the page linked here, you'll see it says:

"Besides working with Jim Henson, Wendy was also hired to sculpt a very important character in the George Lucas film THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. Yoda became a central figure throughout the Star War series, becoming her most widely known creation."

http://www.worldoffroud.com/films/yoda.php

Does anyone know what exactly were her contributions to the creation and development of Yoda? What did she sculpt--the body? Did she assist on the animatronics?

The Wook
 
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Stormtrooper

Well-Known Member
It also says on that website that Wendy sculpted the original Stormtrooper helmet....


















Umm, OK I'll go and stand in the 'naughty corner' now :lol :angel

Cheers,
John
 

DaddyfromNaboo

Master Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
...

"Besides working with Jim Henson, Wendy was also hired to sculpt a very important character in the George Lucas film THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. Yoda became a central figure throughout the Star War series, becoming her most widely known creation."
...
If you dissect the quote, I think you can see that she did not give any creative input but only did the craftsmanship on this job. It is clearly said for what she was hired, namely to sculpt the character and not develop it. That was done by Joe Johnston and Stuart Freeborn beforehand. Or are there any sketches published anywhere that feature her signature ? She worked under supervision, which makes her an assistant, and this means that she very likely had no real say in creative decisions. or is it really possible that such an important character like Yoda the Jedimaster would be given to an outsider to develop and sculpt in unison ? I think not.

And although she did not have any creative influence in the process, she created the sculpt, hence they rightfully speak of "...her most widely known creation." "Commissioned sculpt" would´ve probably been more correct, but hey, it´s for her resume, everyone is tempted to exaggerate a bit here and there ;)

EDIT :

I found this in an interview from 1999 :

When I moved to New York, I was lucky enough to be asked to come and work on The Dark Crystal and that was the start of my professional career, making puppets. Then I worked on Yoda for The Empire Strikes Back. I wasn't the sole creator of Yoda; I was part of the team that made Yoda. I did most of the major sculpting on it, and I also helped puppeteer. But this is the sort of doll that I make now
Source can be found here : http://www.rambles.net/froud_windling.html

Hope this helps ;) .

Michael
 
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SFPROPS

Sr Member
Again...we apparently have people confusing "creation" with "realization".

Lucas told Johnson/McQuarrie/Freeborn what he wanted. They took their resources and came up with ideas. Lucas directed those ideas in a way that his vision for the character became realized. It was George Lucas who decided what Yoda was and what Yoda would look like, with the help of his creative team listed above.

Froud and A. Ainsworth were contractors hired to help realize the creative vision of others. While that's not to say that they had no responsibility in the creation of the characters in question (and this new Froud quote puts even less crediblity in the claims of A. Ainsworth, IMO)...the characters probably wouldn't have ended up much (or any) different had they hired some other contractors to do the job.
 

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ob1al

Sr Member
Stuart Freedborn sculpted Yoda under the direction of Lucas' original vision and Ralph McQuarrie's sketches, which began to bring Lucas' vision to life.

Everyone want's a slice of the pie, but in my opinion based on everything I have read or learned about Yoda, I will always consider him to be Stuart Freeborns physical creation.

It's like if you buy a resin kit - you can trim it, build it and paint it but that doesn't make it your creation. The creator(/s) is the person who actually designed and sculpted the piece. Sure you have some creative input into the paint scheme, weathering, build-up..but ultimately, you still can't claim to have created the piece.
 

The Wook

Master Member
The creator(/s) is the person who actually designed and sculpted the piece. Sure you have some creative input into the paint scheme, weathering, build-up..but ultimately, you still can't claim to have created the piece.
True. And yet that is exactly what that quote on her website claims--that Yoda is "her most widely known creation". What a crock of $hit. Stuart is the only person in the world that can truthfully say that he created Yoda. Created in the physical sense, that is. Frank Oz could also truthfully claim that he created Yoda, but only in the personality/performance sense.

I hear that the Froud's are at Comic-Con each year with their own booth. I may pay 'em a visit in July and tell 'em what I think of the claims on their website.

The Wook
 

GINO

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Nick Maley had a major role in yoda's creation/development as well.
In fact, I know I have a pice of him actually working on the puppet somewhere.
 

cerillo

Well-Known Member
Now, Now, Wook don't go trearing Arms out of People Sockets, Wookies are known to do this. :lol
 

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gonk27

Sr Member
Perhaps Wendy sculpted the hands, feet and maybe a body to give Yoda a shape? that could possibly count as 'most' of the sculpting by her way of thinking if the only part she didn't work on was the head. She doesn't claim to have done the whole thing.


By the way, a little factoid- the Froud's home in Devon's close to where I grew up, the area's also home to Alan Lee and Jonathan Hales! (SW: AOTC screenplay).



Jeremy
 

ob1al

Sr Member
Nick Maley had a major role in yoda's creation/development as well.
In fact, I know I have a pice of him actually working on the puppet somewhere.
Yes, he certainly did.

The Making of Yoda interview http://1001resources.com/hosting/users/cinesecrets/pmMakingYoda1.html is a good insight into the creative process of Yoda, in case anyone hasn't read it.

Here's some good quotes from Nick, from that interview:

Nick: "The two most important players, (excluding George Lucas), in creating the world's most popular alien , (sorry E.T.) were Frank Oz, who did an incredible job of bringing the puppet to life, and Stuart Freeborn who headed the Make-up/Creature Effects Department. Stuart got an Oscar for his part in STAR WARS and he deserved it. He's the one who (with George Lucas), made all the key decisions. He's the one who had to take all the heat.... the pressure of being responsible for meeting the deadlines (and there was a LOT of pressure). Of course, he didn't physically do everything himself, nobody could...... that's where the rest of us came in. I like to think of myself as a key contributer but Stuart was the one that gave me and the other guys the opportunity to contribute by telling Lucasfilm to employ us and then trusting us with various responsibilities."

Nick: "With the exception of the radio controlled Yodas that I talk about in The making of Yoda Part 2, I would say, basically, yes.... Yoda was constructed entirely in our department. However, it has to be said that Stuart brought into the department people like Wendy Midener (who was a regular at the muppets), Bob Keen (a trainee with a background in model making),and David Barkley (another trainee with a background in puppetry). Besides Stu and Kay there was only Graham Freeborn and myself with a background as regular Make-up artists. We were right at the birth of movie animatronics. Things were changing very fast. I think EMPIRE STRIKES BACK was the first "in studio" movie in Britain to assemble a creature workshop that incorporated a strange meld of assorted talents from various backgrounds. A lot of movies did it after that, but EMPIRE was the first.

"Wendy Midener played a key role in constructing Yoda. She was also one of three operators who assisted Frank Oz.

Ergo: "Who did the modeling?"

Nick: "Stuart did almost all of it. He started with a lump of clay mounted on top of the plaster model of Frank's arm and tried to recreate the drawing that Ralph had done squashed down to the new proportions. Wendy Midener did some work on the ears and modeled the hands and feet."

Question answered, I guess. Wendy Midener certainly had a part in the physical construction of Yoda and did some sculpting work on the ears, hands and feet. So, she definately had a part in the creative process under Freeborn's direction and vision.

Still Freeborn's creation, in my eyes, but credit must also go to the whole team who brought this unique character to life.
 
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The Wook

Master Member
Yes, there was a team of people who worked on Yoda, but which Yoda? There were several muppets made to withstand the rigors of making two films in three years.

My point is, that the creation of Yoda, meaning the first one made that looked like he ultimately looks, was done almost exclusively by Stuart. At least in terms of the head. (Sure, others may've helped with the body, but given Stuart's Yoda head sculpt, and given the dimensions of Frank Oz's arm, making Yoda's body was kind of a no-brainer. And when we think of Yoda's likeness, what comes to mind is that fabulous head and face of his--not his insignificant, robe-covered body.)

I stand by my opinion that the quote on Wendy Midener-Froud's website, that Yoda was her creation, is false. Not just a gross exxageration, but false. Stuart hired her and she did contribute to the fabrication, but Yoda is most certainly not her creation.

The Wook
 
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ob1al

Sr Member
I agree.

Definately Freeborn's baby - after all, everyone else involved worked under his supervision and with his say-so.
 

MisserCraig

Well-Known Member
True. And yet that is exactly what that quote on her website claims--that Yoda is "her most widely known creation". What a crock of $hit. Stuart is the only person in the world that can truthfully say that he created Yoda. Created in the physical sense, that is. Frank Oz could also truthfully claim that he created Yoda, but only in the personality/performance sense.

I hear that the Froud's are at Comic-Con each year with their own booth. I may pay 'em a visit in July and tell 'em what I think of the claims on their website.

The Wook
i'd be interesting in hearing what comes of THAT conversation :lol
 

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tgreco

Sr Member
as a juxtaposition to what's already been stated here:

yoda didn't just have to look good, he had to perform
go take a look at the Greedo and see just how far a leap yoda is by comparison

it's documented in The Making of the Dark Crystal by Brian Finch (published in 83 and long out of print so good luck, I paid a mint for mine, so it's not some hazy memory or an interview done 27 years after the fact...)

Gary Kurtz (you know, that guy that Lucas hates and tries to remove his name from everything...) went to Henson and asked for their help with realizing Yoda. Frank Oz and Wendy Midener where working directly with Jim Henson on the Dark Crystal (which started preproduction in 77) when they were loaned to Stuart Freeborm... and Henson recommended Frank Oz to play Yoda... Wendy Midener's claim to fame was she was the designer and fabricator of the Jen and Kira puppets, which is to say she built and realized everything on both characters from Brian Frouds sketches, so she knew more about making life-like puppets then just about anyone at the time

The trade off for Oz and Midener help was Kurtz became an executive producer for the Dark Crystal and second unit director

what they brought with them was all the experience that made a puppet look and behave life like... something she had spent a long time perfecting as a designer and fabricator working directly for Jim Henson
(breathing, blinking speaking that looked like speaking... all the things that are missing in the aliens from ANH)

all that stuff didn't happen on accident

how that puppet worked was every bit as important as how it looked... you think Yoda would be so beloved if his performance had been similiar to Greedo's? or Ponda Boba's? Or the Doros? the Jawa's? etc.


notice none of them blinked or had mouths that moved... other then Chewbacca I can't think of an alien in AHN that had any moving parts... and that was a man in a mask... a far cry from what yoda was

If Freeborn had known how to do that Kurtz wouldn't have sought professionals outside the production

You can dismiss it as the "stuff under the robe" but it's what made Yoda capable of performing... Her contribution is far more than any of you are allowing

I also think that you all are forgetting Ralph McQuarrie who did the original illustrations and is more responsible for the look than anyone...
Stuart Freeborn just put his facial features on Ralph McQuarrie's idea...
so is it really Freeborn's baby?

and with as rabid as LFL is at protecting their intellectual property, it's not like Wendy Froud could fly under the radar, as she still works in the film industry... so if anyone was going to say something about her claim made very publicly on her website... they probably would have done it by now

and conversely, Brian Froud was deep in production on the Dark Crystal the entire time and after ESB was made... 1977-1982 why would he have anything to do with Yoda? He was busy creating an entire world for Henson...
 
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The Wook

Master Member
as a juxtaposition to what's already been stated here:

Her contribution is far more than any of you are allowing
You haven't specifically said what her contribution was.

I also think that you all are forgetting Ralph McQuarrie who did the original illustrations and is more responsible for the look than anyone...
Stuart Freeborn just put his facial features on Ralph McQuarrie's idea...
so is it really Freeborn's baby?
Yes, it is Freeborn's baby. The Yoda that made it onto the screen is a far cry from McQuarrie's elf-like Yoda concept sketch. To say that Freeborn only put facial features on him is absurdly false.

and with as rabid as LFL is at protecting their intellectual property, it's not like Wendy Froud could fly under the radar, as she still works in the film industry... so if anyone was going to say something about her claim made very publicly on her website... they probably would have done it by now
This is not the sort of thing they would care to correct. If they even know about it, they would think that just having Yoda mentioned on the Froud's website is good promotion for Star Wars, and not bother to correct her.

So, what is it you're saying? Are you saying that Wendy Midener-Froud has the right to claim that she created Yoda? Are you saying that she created his likeness more than anyone else can claim to have done?

The Wook
 

tgreco

Sr Member
open The Art of The Empire Strikes Back to page 93 and take a good look at the picture credited to Joe Johnston in the lower right corner... (I mistakenly thought McQuarrie had done it)


That IS Yoda... Not the scrunchy faced long haired version from the usual McQuarrie production paintings...

so if you want to say who has claim to Yoda's look, it's Johnston, not Freeborn

Stuart Freeborn's expertise was in men in masks... and Chewbacca is really the same kinda costume as what was done for the apes in 2001, and really isn't that sophisticated

When they needed someone who could build a life like puppet they went to Jim Henson, who gave them Wendy Midener. She had built puppets for the Muppet Show, the Muppet Movie and the Dark Crystal.

Rewatch Empire and watch that puppet emote... there is far more there then the outsides...

she even got listed in the credits on the movie and is now on starwars.com as the yoda fabricator.

Riddle me this Batman
if she was just another person follow Stuart Freeborn's direction why was she the ONLY PERSON singled out in the credits as THE YODA FABRICATOR?
marginalize her all you want, but she wasn't lumped in with the rest of the creature shop and makeup cronies who did grunt work. And I'll assume the film's credits and the official website is something that they would care about...

you can lay it all on Freeborn if you choose to, but I think you should do some reading on her... she's amazingly talented

what, only the guy who designed the outside of the car gets credit, forget the guy who designs and builds the frame, engine, transmission and driving systems... all the stuff that actually makes it a drivable car...

so I guess it all leads to one simple question...
Is Yoda just his look (as you think that gives sole claim to only one creator) in which case credit should go to Johnston...

or was his performance just as important... in which case Wendy Midener's role was crucial to what wound up on screen

if I give you a head, and say, make this into a living breathing puppet that will appear alive on film, I'm sure you'd say there is more to it then just his "insignificant, robe-covered body"

yoda is more then the sum of his parts... and Stuart Freeborn contributed a part...
 
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jts1031

Well-Known Member
To try to give credit to just one person for the creation of Yoda is rather narrow-minded. Would it still be Yoda without Frank Oz's voice? Would he be as revered if he didn't have the juxtaposed sentence structures? Who wrote that dialog specifically? Most seem to want to side with just one person, when that's just not realistic.
 

NickMaley

New Member
I was in the room while Yoda was being created (a 10 month exercise) and have created a website to answer this question and set the record straight once and for all. http://thoseYodaGuys.com. For a full understanding read the site. But in short, BOTH Wendy and Stu made Yoda. But myself, Graham Freeborn, Ron Hone, David Barclay, Bob Keen and Nick Dudman all contributed too. Stu was the boss. His contribution was the greatest. For specifics see the profile on each contributor or the overview at thoseYodaGuys.com
 

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