Star Wars fans are seeking out every bit of information they can find on the currently filming and highly anticipated Episode VIII, and now a new report suggests that Frank Oz, the voice of Yoda, may be working on the film in some capacity.
According to Making Star Wars, a site that accurately reported on a great deal of the production of The Force Awakens, Oz is in the U.K., set to head for Pinewood Studios. They note that through unidentified sources they have learned that Oz is in the country to work, so he isn’t visiting for personal reasons or for leisure. The duration of his visit to the country is unknown to them at this time.
— Star Wars Underworld (@TheSWU) April 5, 2016
The report immediately stoked fan speculation that Yoda may appear somehow in the highly anticipated follow up to The Force Awakens. Oz has continued to voice the character in recent years, lending his talents to the production of Star Wars Rebels, and even The Force Awakens itself. As the Independent notes, Yoda’s voice could be heard briefly during Rey’s Force vision, alongside the voices of Ewan McGregor and Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi.
So could we really see Yoda returning to the screen in Star Wars: Episode VIII? Unconfirmed rumors have suggested that one of the sets designed to recreate Ahch-To (Skellig Michael, the island upon which Luke is found at the end of Force Awakens) was constructed to accommodate a puppet, but this information has not been verified. Furthermore, Yoda hasn’t been portrayed onscreen by a puppet since the first Star Wars prequel, The Phantom Menace, which was released in 1999 (in subsequent releases, the character was replaced using digital animation).
— Rage One (@RageOneUK) April 6, 2016
During the production of The Force Awakens, numerous rumors surfaced suggesting that the diminutive Jedi master would be returning to the screen in some capacity. The entirety of Yoda’s appearance in that film amounted to voice-over work, however, and should the same be transpiring for Episode VIII, there would be little reason for Oz to travel to the set. It is most likely that he is visiting as a consultant in some capacity (whether for a matter related to Yoda or some other aspect of the production, like voicing a new character), yet Making Star Wars also points out that the puppeteer could possibly be on set in order to interact with other cast members while performing as Yoda.
— Indy Film (@TheIndyFilm) April 6, 2016
The best of all possible scenarios, according to Making Star Wars, would be for Yoda to fully return in Episode VIII, with Oz operating a newly designed puppet. As the Jedi master now exists as a Force ghost, however, it would be a curious choice to integrate him into the production utilizing practical effects. J.J. Abrams notoriously shunned over-use of digital animation while directing The Force Awakens, however, so a puppet Yoda may make sense if Rian Johnson wishes to hew close to the direction Abrams took.
Were Yoda to return for Episode VIII, it also wouldn’t be the first time that a beloved but deceased character from the original films (or the prequels, for that matter), has been considered for the new trilogy. Following the release of The Force Awakens, the Inquisitr reported that a scene featuring the return of Anakin Skywalker as a Force ghost (half mechanized to represent his Dark Side) was considered for the film before ultimately being cut.
Whether Frank Oz is traveling to Pinewood to reprise his role as Yoda remains to be seen, yet Star Wars fans will know all when Episode VIII opens on December 15, 2017.
[Photo by Clemens Bilan/Getty Images]