The Mandalorian, Disney+’s spin-off series, was watched for 1.336 billion minutes in the U.S. the week of December 14 to December 20, 2020, according to Insider. It's an amazing feat, considering that this was the second season of the show all about Mando, an intergalactic bounty hunter who becomes the caretaker for an odd green alien. You know who we’re talking about—cue all the awwws—Baby Yoda (a.k.a. The Child, real name Grogu).
Under the direction of Jon Favreau, the space opera vibe of other Star Wars films endured—which was a non-negotiable for the showrunner, who told ABC News he chose to focus on the story of the Mandalorian because it “hearkened back to the Westerns and samurai films that had originally influenced [George] Lucas.”
It paid off, and not just in terms of hours watched: On September 12, 2020, the series won seven Emmy Awards—for Music Composition, Prosthetic Makeup, Cinematography, Stunt Performance, Stunt Coordination, Special Visual Effects, and Sound Mixing. Of course, awards aren’t what made fans fall in love with Mando. Here are some wild and wonderful facts about The Mandalorian, from the making of to the series’ future.
1. Baby Yoda is more real than you think.
Today, most fantasy film and TV characters are the work of special effects wizards and complicated computer graphics. Not so with The Mandalorian's beloved Grogu. “The Child,” as he’s otherwise known, is actually a puppet. Or, more specifically, an animatronic creation operated by a team of puppeteers—and a pricey one at that. Favreau said Baby Yoda cost around $5 million. Or, as Yoda might say, “$5 million it cost.”
2. The Mandalorian cost $13 million per 30-minute episode.
Speaking of big spending: The Mandalorian, which so far has released two seasons totaling 16 episodes, is estimated to have cost $13 million per episode for season 1 alone, according to Dork Side of the Force. That's due to each episode having the look and feel of a feature film with stunning visual effects, big-name stars like Pedro Pascal, and a cameo from none other than famed director Werner Herzog.
3. The Mandalorian employed an impressive team of directors.
Show creator, executive producer, and writer Jon Favreau could have easily taken the director’s seat for the entirety of The Mandalorian's run. Instead, he called in the likes of Dave Filoni, Deborah Chow, Rick Famuyiwa, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Taika Waititi.
Favreau allowed each director to bring their own flavor to their episodes. In addition to voicing droid IG-11 in a handful of episodes, Waititi directed "Redemption," which features the momentous moment where Mando removes his mask to reveal his face (a verboten move within Mandalorian society). “It struck me at that moment that we haven’t seen the main character’s face and you have to create an emotional bond with the character and the baby,” Waititi told Deadline.
4. The Mandalorian's composer got the gig because of Donald Glover.
A great series’ buzz is built around its theme song, and that rule holds true for The Mandalorian. But how it all came together might come as a surprise. According to d23, it was Donald Glover, a.k.a. Childish Gambino, who tipped Favreau off to composer Ludwig Göransson. The Swedish conductor and record producer is best known for Gambino’s song “This is America.” But he has also worked extensively in film, and won a Grammy for Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media for Black Panther. He has since won two Emmys for The Mandalorian.
5. Two stuntmen doubled for Pedro Pascal on The Mandalorian.
Pascal, who plays the helmeted Mando, is no slouch, but even he needed some backup. In this case, making Mando the brave bounty hunter he is required the work of three men. According to ScreenRant, Pascal was responsible for all the straight dialogue scenes; stuntman and gun expert Brendan Wayne took care of the shoot ‘em up moments; and Lateef Crowder donned the suit of armor for all the hand-to-hand combat.
6. Baby Yoda isn’t a baby at all.
He may look like he needs a diaper change and a pacifier, but it turns out that Baby Yoda is actually nearing retirement. The cute and relatively cuddly Grogu is actually 50 years old. How does that math work out? Well, if you consider that Yoda—the real Yoda—lived to 900 years of age, “The Child” is actually, well, a child.
7. Casting Werner Herzog in The Mandalorian required some arm-twisting.
“Is that ... is that Werner Herzog?” was surely heard in more than a few living rooms when The Mandalorian premiered. Why on Earth would one of arguably the greatest directors of all time make a cameo in a Star Wars TV series? Because Favreau twisted his arm, that's why.
“Let’s face it, it’s Jon Favreau who got me into the mess," Herzog said. "I knew within less than 60 seconds that this was going to be big, because I saw the universe, I saw the costumes and I saw the spacecraft."
Of course, Herzog couldn’t just say his lines and be on his way. The man behind Fireball and Grizzly Man had to dial up his directorial bona fides as well, and on Baby Yoda of all characters. "It was one of the weirdest and best things that happened with Werner," Deborah Chow, who directed the episode “The Client,” told The Hollywood Reporter. "He was acting against the baby and he started directing the baby directly. I’m trying to direct Werner, who’s now directing the puppet. He would tell us we need to commit to the magic.”
8. The Mandalorian's most surprising cameo was a blast from the past—and a deep fake.
Making sense of The Mandalorian timeline can be confusing, especially for those new to the Star Wars universe. Put it this way: The show is supposed to take place five years after the Emperor's defeat in Return of the Jedi (hint: that’s the one with the Ewoks and where Luke Skywalker defeated Darth Vader).
Even so, it came as a surprise to many viewers when The Mandalorian brought Luke Skywalker into the series finale to collect Grogu for more training. More impressive was the fact that Luke (Mark Hamill) was back to the looks of his youth. The A.I. facelift was the work of Industrial Light and Magic's digital de-aging technology, according to Den of Geek.
In order to keep the reveal a secret, the script was hand-delivered to Hamill by Favreau himself, according to Polygon. Then, once filming began, no one was allowed to use the words Luke Skywalker on set, and the set and editing rooms were kept on lockdown. The result was a deep fake for the ages.
9. The Mandalorian helped Boba Fett get a spin-off.
For fans that love The New Republic era in which The Mandalorian is set, there's some good news: A Boba Fett spin-off is coming. The standalone series will be called The Book of Boba Fett and will star Temuera Morrison as the eponymous character and Ming-Na Wen as bounty hunter Fennec Shand. It's scheduled to premiere on December 29, 2021.
10. The Mandalorian fans could be waiting a while for season 3.
It might be a while before Mando returns. Recent reports from CNET suggest that season three will begin filming soon, but an air date has yet to be released. Best guesses suggest binge-watching will have to wait until 2022 at the earliest. Not great news for fans, but this is the way.