The first live-action series in the “Star Wars” universe, “The Mandalorian” premiered on Disney Plus in November to critical acclaim and endless Baby Yoda memes. The creative team gathered (virtually) at a pre-recorded panel for ATX’s TV Festival to discuss the making of the first season. The panel boasted extraordinary talent, including series creator and writer Jon Favreau, executive producer and director Dave Filoni (director of episodes 1 and 5), alongside guest directors Rick Famuyiwa (director of episodes 2 and 6), Deborah Chow (director of episodes 3 and 7), Bryce Dallas Howard (director of episode 4) and Taika Waititi (director of episode 10).
Creating the Vision of “The Mandalorian”
Favreau spoke about wanting to do “a version of “Star Wars” that felt very small,” citing the genres that influenced George Lucas originally, such as westerns and WWII adventure films. He also cited the popularity of Boba Fett’s character, saying that the audience “never got as much of him as we all wanted.” Therefore, with Mando, “we wanted somebody that could kind of live up to what we had hoped to see when we were younger.”
The Child (AKA Baby Yoda)
On The Child’s surprise reveal at the end of the season premiere, Filoni said it was important “not to reveal The Child before Mando discovers him,” instead having the audience discover The Child together with Mando. Filoni said he “felt it could spark something with the audience.” It was important to show Mando as being ruthless first, so then to emphasize how The Child begins to change his character. Favreau then even brought out Baby Yoda on camera, to everyone’s delight.
Howard could see the initial popularity of Baby Yoda with her kids, who were on set nearly every day and fell in love with ‘Baby.’ Favreau mentioned how surprised he was that they were able to keep The Child’s character a secret, with Howard stating “I would remind my kids every day once they were going to school, ‘What do we not talk about? Baby!’”.
Famuyiwa mentioned the concerns about getting the audience to connect with a masked protagonist and a puppet, with him and the other directors treating Baby Yoda like an actor. Famuyiwa felt the focus of episode two “The Child” was “this young child’s face and his discovery of the world…and Mando rediscovering who he was.”
Influences and Collaboration
The directors spoke about their influences, Chow referencing Akira Kurosawa’s “Yojimbo” as the biggest influence on the shootout at the end of “The Sin” and that “it was really fun using classic archetypes from cinema.” Meanwhile Dallas spoke how actress Gina Carano helped shape the character of Cara Dune, with the writing “really honing in on the backstory of her character to really get a voice that was connected to Gina herself.”
Waititi was struck by how much prep went into each episode, saying his experience shooting the finale was stressful because there was so much going on, but that the other directors had done the heavy lifting in terms of the characters relationships. With all the simultaneous shooting between directors, they all bonded, Famuyiwa saying “We were all in the mix together and it was pretty exciting” and Favreau claiming he’d “never collaborated to that extent” before.
The panel then moved to a Q&A, with the first question asking whether they used any old gear from previous “Star Wars” projects. Favreau responded that they used old camera lenses to help create the feeling that people knew.
The panel then moved on to the director’s future “Star Wars” projects, with Waititi slated to direct a film and Chow on the Obi Wan Kenobi series. Waititi joked that it’s “all finished,” while Chow said they had more development to do for the series.
Questions naturally turned to season two, with Favreau confirming that they finished production before lockdown began, with post-production on track to have the new season ready to return in October. He said that they will hopefully build “on what people loved about the first season” and that it’s been “very fun and fulfilling.”
That wrapped up the panel, leaving us with great excitement for the new season.
Featured image credit: Disney Plus