Robert Short creator of the Kenner Yoda hand puppet

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Awesome to see him with the early conceptual version. Only ever seen that in catalogs.
 
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Jason, thanks mate - but I cant open the link unless I sign up for Facebook! Argh!*



*one more plus point for good old Rebelscum, anyone at all can access it!
 
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Very neat! Is there any way you could cut and paste Robert's FB comments here Jason (for we non-FBers), if it isn't too much trouble?

Awesome to see him with the early conceptual version. Only ever seen that in catalogs.
It was also shown on the back of the ESB Electronic Laser Rifle:

 
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He posted some comments which I can paste here in the morning...he also posted a pic present day condition of the piece. Lastly...it was guessed at around 8-10k until he posted a condition pic. It was then reverted to 5-8k...if anyone has offers, he is listening to them FYI. If a non Facebook person is seriously interested...I will contact him for you as long as you are serious.
 
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Not a facebook'er so it was cool to see this pic. Wish more of the former kenner employees would pop up on the scene like this. I guess this is an example of a Facebook 'win' even though I don't partake.
 
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The really fascinating thing about this is that Short has revealed that the Yoda handpuppet was a Lucasfilm idea that was brought to Kenner. Crazy.

What, then, to make of the handpuppet prototypes that consist of a rotocast head and a cloth body (see here: Yoda Unproduced Cloth Hand Puppet - Star Wars Collectors Archive ). Where do they fit in?

Possibly, Kenner was working on something along these lines in 1980 but didn't arrive at a final solution until Lucasfilm suggested an all-rubber (Short says the original prototype was latex) version.
 
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Thanks for posting this Jason, pretty cool that he randomly popped up on FB like that!
 
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He posted some comments which I can paste here in the morning...he also posted a pic present day condition of the piece. Lastly...it was guessed at around 8-10k until he posted a condition pic. It was then reverted to 5-8k...if anyone has offers, he is listening to them FYI. If a non Facebook person is seriously interested...I will contact him for you as long as you are serious.
That would be great if you could show his comments here. I would like to read exactly what he said (and the context). Much appreciated!
 
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Scott, this is pretty much everything of interest on the FB post, including Steve's posts.





 
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Steve comments that people have been mixing up 8-ball and puppet prototypes for years. That's not my memory. There is indeed a funky conceptual 8-ball prototype, but it's clearly not for the puppet because it's way too small. And it's around the right size for the 8-ball. That's always been considered an 8-ball piece, as far as I know. That's always what I've considered it at any rate.

The confusion concerned the large, cloth-bodied prototypes with the vinyl heads. For years those were taken to be Talking Yoda prototypes. They only became reclassified as puppet prototypes when the tagged example that Gus owns (and which I linked to above) turned up.

My general sense -- and who knows how accurate it is -- is that Kenner was keen to make an interactive Yoda but wasn't sure how to proceed. Conceptual drawings of a version that played tapes, sort of like 2-XL, exist, and obviously the prototypes of the pull-string toy are out there. Possibly, these were deemed too expensive, and so the idea morphed into a non-talking puppet. And then the cloth puppet may have been ditched in favor of the simple one-piece vinyl one -- which, it's now clear, was proposed by Robert Short of Lucasfilm. Gus' prototype is dated 1980. The vinyl puppet was released in '81. So the dates sort of match up.

If my timeline guess is at all accurate, a very cool toy (the talking Yoda) may have gradually evolved into a fairly lame one (the vinyl Yoda hand puppet).

The 8-ball was also released in '81 and may derive from the same desire to make an interactive Yoda. But I'm not aware of any prototypes for the 8-ball that have been confused for the puppet or talking Yoda. BTW, Kenner engineers had a real tough time getting the 8-ball to function correctly. I guess it's hard getting that die to float and rotate in just the right manner.
 
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Thanks very much for posting that Joe! Nice to see Steve York active again.

The really fascinating thing about this is that Short has revealed that the Yoda handpuppet was a Lucasfilm idea that was brought to Kenner. Crazy.

What, then, to make of the handpuppet prototypes that consist of a rotocast head and a cloth body (see here: Yoda Unproduced Cloth Hand Puppet - Star Wars Collectors Archive ). Where do they fit in?

Possibly, Kenner was working on something along these lines in 1980 but didn't arrive at a final solution until Lucasfilm suggested an all-rubber (Short says the original prototype was latex) version.
From his bio and the list of projects Robert was involved in, it looks like he worked a bit with the same materials that the prototype Yoda hand puppet was created with. Check out his varied list of special projects ( Robert Short ), especially the following:

"YODA HAND PUPPET - Short’s longstanding relationship with the Lucas company brought his Yoda hand puppet prototype to the attention of Kenner Toys. They quickly licensed Short’s concept for the hand puppet which then become one of their hottest sellers."
Robert even sculpted some stuff for Don Post Studios.

I'm wondering if, given the problems experienced with the Talking Yoda and the decision to go with a puppet, combined with Robert's already existing relationship at the time with LFL in the effects field, whether LFL (Kurtz?) may have suggested Robert ("I know a guy who can help you with that" type of thing) as a sculptor to Kenner and the result was his prototype Yoda. It makes some sense given his relationship with Kurtz on the effects side of things why Kurtz would be involved in presenting the prototype to Kenner.

Kind of a convoluted theory, but it may be worthwhile for the FBers to pose the question to Robert. I'd like to know how he came to get involved in making a prototype for Kenner. As you mentioned, that original design you linked to was dated April 1980 while the puppet didn't come out until spring 1981, so there was obviously some evolution over time there.
 
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I was thinking something similar, Scott. I think the Yoda puppet was probably attractive to Kenner because it allowed an item to be made cheaply and easily. It's just a one-piece, rotomolded thing, which is way easier and less expensive to product than that cloth-plus-vinyl thing. Also, I think it's likely that the hand puppet ultimately led to the 8-ball, which was produced in a similar fashion, albeit in sturdier vinyl and with some internal components added after the fact.

I've always thought the Yoda hand puppet was a weird product. The puppet functionality is almost nonexistent. It sold well, though, because it was cheap as well as a nice figural representation of Yoda.
 
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Robert Short wrote: "Thanks for all the interest in good old Yoda but he sold recently for well over Mr. York's estimate."

Historical piece. Wonder how much and to whom? -Steve
 
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One of the comments said 20K.....not sure how reliable the source is but still. I never would have guessed that much.
 
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One of the comments said 20K.....not sure how reliable the source is but still. I never would have guessed that much.
People are crazy for this stuff these days. A price over 10k for a puppet prototype would have been sheer fantasy a few years ago.
 
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I mean, the Yoda hand puppet is not even a toy that most collectors care about.

Hopefully the latex that thing is made of is stable and not disintegrating...
 
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Well this could turn into a huge debate. I am just curious what it went for. Is it worth that much? It was one of the first proto Yoda's created for the Kenner line correct?.?. It obviously was worth a lot to someone.
Personally, I would have liked to hear that the Star Wars museum that will be built in Chicago bought it. Nice for others to see.... But I guess, dropping what ever change someone did on it, may not be a big deal. If it sold for over 10k, that's a CRAP load of cash to a guy like me.... I am just interested what exactly it sold for, even if the owner wants to stay private....
Again, shame it's not in a museum. -Steve
 
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Well this could turn into a huge debate. I am just curious what it went for. Is it worth that much? It was one of the first proto Yoda's created for the Kenner line correct?.?. It obviously was worth a lot to someone.
Personally, I would have liked to hear that the Star Wars museum that will be built in Chicago bought it. Nice for others to see.... But I guess, dropping what ever change someone did on it, may not be a big deal. If it sold for over 10k, that's a CRAP load of cash to a guy like me.... I am just interested what exactly it sold for, even if the owner wants to stay private....
Again, shame it's not in a museum. -Steve
I think you're probably right that its being Yoda plays a big factor. Also, the story as presented by Robert is pretty cool.

I'm not really surprised to hear it went for way over Steve's estimate (whatever that means). It's simply worth pointing out that we're talking about a non-action figure piece that has never been a hot item among collectors. It's a little like an early prototype of the plush Chewie turning up, and then selling for $15k.

I never understood folks' desire to see things end up in museums. Personally, I'd much rather they stay in collector hands.
 
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I see your point Ron. I guess I see a museum setting for those that could never obtain or even see a piece like that in person. But at the same time, a piece like that could make a "long time" Yoda collector happy. Or a newer private collector, willing to drop a crap load of cash, and the Yoda prototype never to be seen again. I guess there is 2 ways of looking at it, right?.?.
-Steve
 
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.... but after doing some more thinking, once it's in a museum, it'll never be in a collector's hands. That isn't the best results either.... Hopefully the new owner will share pics and information on the piece as time goes by.
-Steve
 
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The whole museum vs. collector thing is very interesting. I think I'll start another thread on it as to not diffuse this one.

Cj
 
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I see the pros and cons of both....I prefer museum so I could actually see them in person. I live close to the city so I would love to see pieces ill never get to own. Prototype pieces in private collections could be locked up tight and I may never see it. Either way IF someone spent 20K on it...hats off to you. My hands shake a fraction of that amount. I will stick to my 1K or less pieces and be content.
 
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From the FB photos, the piece was stuff with newspaper and was cracked. I wrote Robert initially, but our bouncing emails were really just "Hey, I'm still here" and "I'll get back to you". For 2 months. Bah. Anyway, I made an offer, but didn't realize he was entertaining others. I think that it being Yoda might have been beneficial, but more likely the 2014 timing (and prices we're seeing nowadays) was why it may have gone for up to 5 figures. Action figure prototypes have been king and, as Ron said, that kind of money for a Yoda hand puppet piece (as disregarded as the production toy is) seemed way up there.

But I think condition matters and if that has been stored stuffed with newspaper then it may be much worse off than appears. I had that figured into my offer and, had I gotten it, would have sent it to Tom Spina Designs for conservation as they are the leaders in the repair and stabilization of latex masks and props. That puppet needs TLC, but hard to say how much from just that one photo. But newspaper completely sucks the moisture out of latex and it would eventually turn into a crumbled mess.

People can look at the TSD site to see what kind of miracles they've performed on similar pieces. The Ugnaught mask is one of the earliest restorations they did and that piece (from Stuart Freeborn's studio) was the exact same thing - latex stuffed with newspaper. I'm sure the repair would have been even better had that just turned up in 2014.

It's a great piece for sure.

-chris
 
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