The 'Star Wars' creature supervisor describes bringing Babu Frik to life: 'That was our little Yoda moment'

  • The tiny alien "droidsmith" Babu Frik was a standout new character in "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker."
  • Insider spoke with "TROS" creature and special makeup effects creative supervisor Neal Scanlan on Monday about the process of bringing the character to life.
  • Scanlan told Insider that Babu was actually a puppet controlled by five puppeteers.
  • The puppeteers wore green-screen suits so that they could be digitally removed from scenes.
  • He says he was inspired by watching the Yoda puppet in the original "Star Wars" movies.
  • "Harry Potter" actress Shirley Henderson voiced the character and learned to control Babu's mouth so that she could improvise and perform live on set.
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

The tiny, snarky alien "droidsmith" Babu Frik was a standout new character in "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker," and he was partially inspired by Yoda.

"We wanted the audience to know that Babu was not CG," creature and special makeup effects creative supervisor Neal Scanlan told Insider on Monday of creating the new "TROS" character. "We wanted them to be aware that this was a puppet, because I remember the joy that I had when I first heard Yoda, and I knew that was Frank [Oz], I knew that [Yoda] was a puppet, but it was absolutely spellbinding to watch, and it completely fascinated me as a young person."

"I was enthralled by [Babu] as a puppet performance, and I think that was our little Yoda moment, where we wanted the audience to engage in it," he added.

Babu Frik was controlled by five puppeteers wearing green-screen suits

The puppeteers controlling Babu Frik were digitally removed later.

Babu is first introduced when Rey, Finn, and Poe visit his workshop and seek his help reprogramming C-3PO. Because the character is a puppet, Scanlan and his team were initially concerned about how to hide the puppeteers controlling Babu as he works on the droid throughout the scene.

"Roger Guyett, the visual effects supervisor, said, 'Look, don't worry about it. You know, why don't you guys wear green suits, the puppeteers, we'll green the [puppet] rods, and we'll shoot it there, in the set, and shoot exactly the way you want to shoot it. And we'll remove everything, and replace everything later digitally,' which is just incredible," Scanlan said.

It took five puppeteers to bring Babu to life — one for his head, one for his body, one for his pelvis, and one for each of his legs.

'Harry Potter' actress Shirley Henderson voiced Babu and delivered her lines live on set

Shirley Henderson played the ghost Moaning Myrtle in the "Harry Potter" franchise.
Karwai Tang/WireImage for Getty Images

Henderson — who played Moaning Myrtle in the "Harry Potter" movies — spent a week with Scanlan and his team learning how to maneuver Babu's mouth, so that she could perform the character and improvise live during filming.

"During that week, she developed Babu's voice," Scanlan said. "And so when we came to shoot the sequence, it was shot literally live, vocalized live, and, to some extent, with some lovely spontaneity between the puppeteers, [director] J.J. [Abrams], and Shirley. It was fun. You know, she made us giggle a lot, but she also electrified the air with her performances and some of the ad-lib things that she did."

"I think that's one of the reasons why people enjoyed [Babu]," he added. "I think they can sense that we had a good time doing it."

"Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" is now available on Digital and available on Blu-ray March 31.

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