Ewan McGregor looks back at the 'not nearly as endearing' CGI Yoda of the 'Star Wars' prequels

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American actor Mark Hamill on the set of Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back directed by Irvin Kershner. (Photo by Lucasfilm/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)
American actor Mark Hamill on the set of Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back directed by Irvin Kershner. (Corbis via Getty Images)

Ewan McGregor has praised the technological advancements in visual effects being employed on his upcoming Star Wars miniseries Obi-Wan Kenobi, comparing them favourably to the CGI heavy prequels in which he also starred.

Kenobi, which is in production now, utilises the same VFX techniques pioneered on The Mandalorian, the show that introduced the world to Baby Yoda - Grogu. In both shows, actors perform in the ILM StageCraft LED Volume, which uses video game technology to project virtual photo real backgrounds onto huge LED screens in real time, and uses a physical puppet for Grogu for most of the time. 

"I did the first three films in the late ’90s and into the 2000s, and by the time you did Episode 2 and 3, literally 90% of the scenes were just on green sets with green floors and green walls, or a blue set with blue sides and blue walls," McGregor says in an interview with Variety.

Read more: Ewan McGregor had to lie 'for years' about 'Star Wars' return

Talking to The Mandalorian star Pedro Pascal, McGregor also vented his frustration about the physical Yoda puppet used in 1999's Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace being replaced by a CGI version for 2002's Attack of the Clones and 2005's Revenge of the Sith.

"The first film I did, I was lucky to do my scenes with the Yoda puppet," McGregor says. "And it was extraordinary, because I acted with him. I couldn’t believe I was acting with Yoda."

"Then they replaced him for our second film and our third film with the digital version of him, and it’s not nearly as endearing," he adds. "Also, we know Yoda as a puppet. We know him from the original movies as a puppet. So when it was suddenly computer generated, it didn’t feel like Yoda to me anymore."

The physical Yoda puppet in The Phantom Menace (L) compared to the CGI one in Attack of the Clones (20th Century Fox/Lucasfilm)
The physical Yoda puppet in The Phantom Menace (L) compared to the CGI one in Attack of the Clones (20th Century Fox/Lucasfilm)

Star Wars creator George Lucas later replaced the physical Yoda in Phantom Menace with a CGI version for the Blu-ray release in 2011, and all subsequent releases.

McGregor also said that he had been thrilled to work with actual Stormtroopers on his upcoming Disney+ exclusive series after only ever working with CGI Clone troopers in the prequels.

Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (Lucasfilm)
Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (Lucasfilm)

Obi-Wan Kenobi, written by Joby Harold and directed by Deborah Chow, will launch exclusively as a six-part series on Disney+ in 2022. 

Read more: Yoda's younger years revealed in concept art for 'Star Wars: The High Republic' series

Hayden Christensen will return as Darth Vader, as will Joel Edgerton and Bonnie Piesse as Luke Skywalker's Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru.

Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi (credit: LucasFilm)
Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi (credit: LucasFilm)

It's set ten years after the events of Revenge of the Sith which ended with Kenobi living his life in exile on Tatooine, watching over Luke from afar.  

Moses Ingram, Kumail Nanjiani, Indira Varma, Rupert Friend, O'Shea Jackson Jr, Sung Kang, Simone Kessell, Benny Safdie, and Maya Erskine will also appear in as-yet-undisclosed roles.

Watch: Joel Edgerton returning to Star Wars

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