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Die hard “Star Wars” fans knew that the franchise’s first live-action TV series would have a few top-secret twists to reveal upon its debut, but it’s doubtful any of them predicted that “The Mandalorian” would see its titular bounty hunter team up with the most adorable of space creatures for an eight-episode romp through a galaxy far, far away.
But the teeny young puppet/CGI-hybrid creature, who comes from the same alien species as Yoda, quickly became the series’ most talked-about character — seemingly even more popular than Pedro Pascal’s helmeted hero (the third featured bounty hunter in the “Star Wars” universe, after Jango and Boba Fett).
“The Mandalorian” takes place solidly in the middle of the established “Star Wars” timeline, between the fall of the Empire in “Return of the Jedi” and the emergence of the First Order in “The Force Awakens. Our hero, nicknamed “Mando” (though his real name is Din Djarin), must fight to keep his cute new bounty safe from all the evil forces who are after him.
The series was the crown jewel of Disney+ when the young streaming service launched in 2019, and it drove plenty of the 26.5 million people who had paid to subscribe to the service by the end of last year. (The company had already disclosed that 10 million subscribers had signed up a day after its launch.) If you haven’t yet made the leap, click here to sign up for $6.99 per month or $69.99 per year. Disney is also offering a special bundle that includes Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ for just $12.99 a month total, a 25% savings from the individual prices.
Although the streamer’s first Marvel Cinematic Universe series were supposed to hit Disney+ by the end of the summer, many of those projects have been indefinitely delayed due to the global pandemic and will likely not arrive on the service until 2021.
But there’s good news for fans who have been eagerly anticipating a new season since the first one ended on Dec. 27: Season 2 is already filmed and expected to debut in October, and Season 3 is also in the works. (Disney has not officially announced either bit of news, but sources close to the production confirmed to Variety in an April report that creator Jon Favreau had been “writing Season 3 for a while,” and that the art department had been working on Season 3 concepts for several weeks. In the meantime, there’s the whole eight-episode first season to rewatch, plus an entire eight-episode making-of series called “Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian,” focusing on the various teams who came together to create each aspect of the highly technical series.
The bottom line is that “The Mandalorian” Season 2 will not be materially delayed due to COVID-19, which means Baby Yoda — sorry, The Child — will be back on your screen come Fall.
John Rosengrant, co-founder and special effects supervisor at Legacy Effects and longtime collaborator with “The Mandalorian” showrunner Jon Favreau, revealed that initially the character was supposed to be a CG-created supporting character, but the puppet used for production, which required three or four puppeteers to operate (including Rosengrant), ended up being much more powerful than the team initially expected it to be.
“We did a proof of concept three weeks before shooting, and even once we started shooting, I don’t know that we were convinced that the puppet was going to do as much as it did,” Rosengrant said. “But, on set, there was an aha moment of what it was capable of, and it came together in an organic way. But it is a hybrid performance, and they had to seamlessly blend the CG [from Industrial Light & Magic] with the puppet.”
Season 1 of “The Mandalorian” ended with the introduction of a fan-favorite piece of space weaponry originally introduced in “The Mandalorian” executive producer Dave Filoni’s “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” animated series, and set up a whole host of potential storylines for Season 2 to explore.
Wrote IndieWire’s Tyler Hersko in a review of the Season 1 finale, “Regardless of where ‘The Mandalorian’ decides to go in Season 2 when the show returns in fall 2020, the next batch of episodes will benefit from the superb storylines its Season 1 finale has set in motion. The Disney+ tentpole has had its fair share of ups and downs — the episodic, copy-pasted midseason wasn’t remotely to its benefit — but the series’ high points are strong and numbered enough to inspire a veritable zeal for upcoming installments.”