Despite mixed reviews, The Mandalorian is getting massive views on Disney+. And as excited as most fans are to learn the identity of the mysterious, cloaked man in the spurs (good money is on Boba Fett), we already have something else that we can always look forward to: the cuteness overload that is The Child, better known as Baby Yoda.
Baby Yoda is objectively adorable. He's a small, 50-year-old baby with big ears and big, bright eyes. He makes sweet, cooing noises. He has a mischievous sense of humor. He can use The Force, but owing to his youth, he tuckers out easily. He has a tiny, floating space crib.
Baby Yoda is a necessary counterpoint to the overall dark tone of the series. The Mandalorian himself is a faceless terror to the criminals he rounds up, a Clint Eastwood badass with a spaceship instead of a horse. The planets are barren or overrun with hostiles. Baby Yoda seems like one of the only things worth saving in this hellscape. And that contrast makes us fear for his safety—although it seems like he can probably take care of himself.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, series creator Jon Favreau discussed the construction of Baby Yoda. He is largely a puppet, enhanced by CGI. It continues a strong Star Wars tradition of using practical effects when possible. Whenever the franchise has leaned on CGI (particularly in the prequel trilogy), the resulting effects lack weight, and they age poorly as technology improves. Making Baby Yoda a puppet guarantees that he'll be just as cute a decade from now as he is today.
Favreau says that he deliberately kept Baby Yoda out of pre-release marketing and the first wave of toys, so that the Mandalorian audience could experience the character in the context of the story. He chose Yoda's alien race for this character, because so little is known about it, and it adds to the characters' mystique.
Werner Herzog is a fan
During filming, Favreau had the director shoot two shots of the same scene: one with the Baby Yoda puppet, and another 'blank slate' shot, just in case they decided to use a completely digital baby Yoda post-production. Filmmaker Werner Herzog, who played The Client in The Mandalorian, called Favreau and his executive producer "cowards" for their overly safe approach. As it turned out, he needn't have worried; the Baby Yoda on the show is almost entirely a practical effect.
November 12, 2019: A legend is born
Baby Yoda debuted as a twist at the end of the first episode. We were told that the Mandalorian's target was 50 years old. So naturally, we were expecting some middle-aged, hardened criminal; we weren't expecting a pre-literate infant. But as the bounty hunter droid helpfully pointed out, different species age at different rates (Yoda was over 900 years old, so a 50-year-old child doesn't seem too odd in that context).
The final shot, of The Child reaching out to grasp the Mandalorian's finger, was heartwarming and sentimental in the best way. After a solid hour of wall-to-wall action and dimly-lit spaces, this was our first glimpse at the main character's deeply buried humanity.
November 15, 2019: Strong in him, the Force is
By the end of the second episode, it was clear why Baby Yoda had a bounty on his little, green head. He was strong in the Force, and when a massive space rhinoceros was inches from killing the Mandalorian, Baby Yoda levitated the beast into the air, giving our hero enough time to kill it. Baby Yoda then passed out from the exertion.
Our imaginations ran wild. What could this character be capable of, given training and experience? We didn't know exactly why Imperial loyalists wanted him. But we could certainly venture a guess, such as using him to create some sort of a superweapon.
November 19, 2019: Adorable concept art
By now, the Baby Yoda craze was in full swing. Jon Favreaeu took the opportunity to melt everyone's hearts when he posted some concept art for Baby Yoda. He was a bit rounder in his pre-planning stage, but aside from that, all of the things we loved about the character were present from the very start.
November 22, 2019: A face worth killing for
There was a moment in Episode 3 that ripped everyone's hearts out. It was when The Mandalorian delivered Baby Yoda to The Client, and you see the space crib floating out of the room as Baby Yoda peeks over it. The rest of the episode showed the Mandalorian suffering a crisis of conscience. And eventually, the better part of him won out. He stole Baby Yoda back and escaped, but at great cost. He had to break free of both the Stormtroopers and the fellow bounty hunters after him. Baby Yoda: So cute that you'll vaporize people.
November 26, 2019: Merchandise, Round 1
There is almost no decent official merchandise currently available for Baby Yoda. There are totes, mugs, and T-shirts available with the Baby Yoda concept art on it, but it's nothing that you couldn't throw together on a customized T-shirt app.
And it goes back to what Jon Favreau requested; to keep the character under lock and key until the show's debut. Still, it's surprising that a multi-billion dollar company like Disney did not project the need for quality merchandise around the holiday season. Even if they didn't have a million plush dolls sitting in a warehouse, they could have had the assembly lines ready to spring into action.
November 29, 2019: Baby Yoda sips soup...
Another episode of The Mandalorian means another meme-worthy photo of Baby Yoda—this time, he's sipping soup. The image is quickly overtaking the 'Kermit the Frog Drinking Iced Tea' image as the best way to throw shade and comment on other people's business while minding your own.
November 29, 2019: ...and presses buttons
A popular GIF from Episode 4 is when Baby Yoda is pressing random buttons in the Mandalorian's ship, looking to see if he can draw a reaction from his caretaker. The Internet has remixed this scene to have Baby Yoda and the Mandalorian fighting over the radio.
December 3, 2019: Pre-order the plush doll
Wal-Mart finally put up pre-orders for a Baby Yoda plush doll. But if you're hoping to get one of them as the perfect Christmas present, you'll be disappointed. The doll won't ship until April 1, 2020, and you should get it on April 3.
December 6, 2019: Amy Sedaris, babysitter
In Episode 5, Baby Yoda touched down on Tatooine, and while the Mandalorian looked for work, the ship's mechanic-for-hire, played by Amy Sedaris, had to play babysitter. Like all of us, she fell for the little guy in an instant. It cannot be overstated: She got to cuddle Baby Yoda. She's living the dream.
December 9, 2019: Funko Pop!
Of course there's a Funko Pop Baby Yoda going on sale. You can pre-order either a standard-sized version or a life-sized version. But again, if you're looking for a stocking stuffer, you're out of luck. These won't ship or be publicly available until Spring 2020.
It's not even the end of The Mandalorian's first season—the show's only been on the air for a month. But already, people are permanently inking their bodies with pictures of Baby Yoda. Gizmodo published a round-up of 39 different tattoos, proof that most people like to plan things out carefully.
The fans fill the demand
Disney has scant merchandise available, and artistic fans have stepped up to fill the demand. But these individual creators, most of whom craft by hand, are getting inundated with responses and requests. One seller, who creates handmade, $300 Baby Yoda figures, has a waiting list that's 14-17 months long; you won't get what you purchased until after next Christmas. Maybe just wait for the official plush doll next year. Too much disposable income, fans have!
December 13, 2019: Bill Burr drops Baby Yoda
Episode 6 of The Mandalorian was not Baby Yoda-centric. It dealt with Mando teaming up with a team of criminals from his past, to spring another criminal out of prison. But Baby Yoda made brief appearances at the beginning and end of the episode. And when one of the criminals (played by comedian Bill Burr) picked him up, we all froze, and then gasped as Burr accidentally dropped Baby Yoda. A later sequence, during which a droid tried to kill Baby Yoda triggered the same type of anxiety. It shows that beyond its surface cuteness, the character is really beginning to resonate, emotionally, with fans.
December 13, 2019: Hasbro's big announcement
Hasbro announced a Baby Yoda plush doll, action figures, and collectibles, which are currently available for pre-order on their official site. As with everything else, however, you're going to have to wait; the products won't ship until May 2020. The fan-made merchandise (overpriced as it is) will still be your best bet for the holiday season. CNN reports that more merchandise will be available via Disney's official outlets (and from their parks' retailers) this holiday season, but it's still unclear what that merchandise will be, and exactly when it will become available.
December 17, 2019: Cute, but deadly
Likely to beat the rush this weekend, when Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters, Disney+ dropped Episode 7 of The Mandalorian a bit early this week. Without getting into too many spoilers, we're reminded that even though Baby Yoda can do harmless tricks with the Force, like make things float and heal people, he also has the potential to cause death and violence, especially since he's so little, and doesn't necessarily understand the impact of his actions.
Suffice to say, the episode ends with Baby Yoda in real jeopardy—a perfect setup for the final episode of Season 1.
December 27, 2019: Surrogate Son
In the season finale of The Mandalorian, Baby Yoda is safe, but it comes at great cost: Ugnaught, IG-11, and an entire squadron of Stormtroopers all meet a painful end. The episode concludes with Mando and Baby Yoda formalizing their clan of two; Mando is to watch over the child as if he were his father. The duo fly off into the unknown.
While this is happening, Moff Gideon cuts himself out of his ruined TIE fighter with the legendary darksaber. The second season of The Mandalorian is due out in October and is currently in production. Based on the context clues, we'll be seeing a lot of Gideon and hopefully, a reveal of Baby Yoda's race of beings. One is cute; a room full of them might make our hearts explode.
January 30, 2020: Life-Sized Clone
Sideshow announces that it is selling a 1:1 scaled version of Baby Yoda. You can pre-order the figure for $350, or pay in installments of $52.50 per month. It stands 16-and-a-half inches tall, has white peach fuzz on its head, and is holding the shift knob from the Razor's Crest in its right hand. Sideshow estimates that they will ship the figure between August 2020 and January 2021. The price is too steep for casual fans, but they won't have to wait long for a less expensive alternative.
February 20, 2020: The Nightmare of Black Friday (2020)
Disney and Lucasfilm unveils the most adorable Baby Yoda thus far on Good Morning America: a Hasbro plush that coos, giggles, and waves its left hand like it's channeling the Force. It will be released on December 15 (bassinet sold separately), but it would not be a good idea to wait until then. This toy is poised to be the Tickle-Me-Elmo / Furby / Cabbage Patch Doll of the holiday season. Amazon was offering pre-orders on the day of the announcement, but is no longer accepting them as of February 21.
Unless you're planning to enter the annual mosh pit on Black Friday, scour the Internet and check out other online retailers. Now, before it's too late.