VFX artists who worked on Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith reveal the origins of Yoda's cool lightsaber throwing move and how they got George Lucas to agree to the idea. After Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace and Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, Lucas concluded his prequel trilogy in 2005 with Revenge of the Sith. The film bridged the gap between the prequel trilogy and 1977's Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, seeing the beginning of the extermination of the Jedi and Anakin Skywalker's evolution into Darth Vader.
First introduced in Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda returns in the Star Wars prequels, but this time as a fully CGI character. Voiced once more by Frank Oz, Yoda is seen playing a more active role in Jedi affairs in the prequels and is even given a few now-iconic fight scenes. After Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) orders the clone troopers to "Execute Order 66" in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, Yoda travels to a recently-attacked Jedi Temple. To gain access to the building, Yoda takes down a group of clone troopers standing guard, killing one by throwing his lightsaber into him and then jumping to retrieve it.
In a recent exchange on Twitter, animator Shawn Kelly and animation director Rob Coleman explain how Yoda's lightsaber-throwing scene in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith came to be. Kelly reveals that he initially pitched it by demonstrating what it would look like to Coleman with a broken hockey stick. Coleman then chimes in with his own tweet, saying that Lucas needed a bit of persuading for the move to actually make it into the movie. Check out the exchange below:
Animating this was some of the most fun I’ve ever had at work. I really wanted Yoda to throw his lightsaber and pitched it by jumping around on @ArfKeldo’s couch with a broken hockey stick like a lunatic. He laughed and said I could give it a try. Thanks for the fun shots, Rob! https://t.co/3GRdqEfeUe— shawn kelly (@Shawnimator) June 23, 2022
Having Yoda throw his lightsaber took a bit of selling to George Lucas, but you pulled it off, and showed him how cool that moment could be! I have a feeling that fans around the world are very happy that you pitched me your idea 😁— Rob Coleman (@ArfKeldo) June 23, 2022
Despite not being received well by critics upon their release, the Star Wars prequels now hold a special place in the hearts of many fans around the world. Revenge of the Sith, in particular, represents a high point of the prequel trilogy, and seeing Yoda demonstrate just how strong of a fighter he is represents an interesting contrast to the older version of the character seen in the original trilogy. While Lucas may have been unsure about the lightsaber throw at first, Yoda's brief fight with the clone troopers is one of the coolest moments in the film.
The exchange between Kelly and Coleman, in addition to providing a bit of background on a cool Yoda moment in Star Wars, also shows how much influence animators and VFX artists can have on the shots they work on. While Lucas, as the director, is ultimately the man who signs off on the ideas, Yoda throwing his lightsaber might never have happened in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith if it wasn't for Kelly thinking it up himself. But now that moment will live on in Star Wars history forever.