Like much of the country, I have fallen for the two main characters in Disney’s The Mandalorian series on the new Disney Plus service. On a recent visit to The Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland, I got to really consider Baby Yoda, or The Child, and the Mandalorian himself as characters. We even spotted some Easter Eggs or items in the park which you won’t want to miss and so keep reading :). And if you haven’t watched yet ++spoiler alert++ so I recommend watching before reading further.
How did we become so connected with so few words?
I’m not the only one who’s fallen for the little green kid and the fierce gunslinger. In fact, I found fan-love including everything from custom comics, cartoons, 3D models, Christmas ornaments, and even research on ancient manuscripts with creatures that resemble Yoda just by searching #BabyYoda and #TheMandalorian on Twitter.
As a writer, while we looked around the land at Galaxy’s Edge, I kept wondering how so many people have fallen for these two even though there’s so little dialogue. In fact, Baby Yoda can’t talk at all but only squeals or makes small noises, but has very expressive gestures…
And quite amazingly, with the Mandalorian, whose name is Dyn Jarren (spelling unconfirmed) and played by Pedro Pascal, the audience hasn’t even seen the bounty hunter’s face yet since it’s hidden by a fierce helmet but he has really amazing armor that is tied to his faith and with a sense of intense devotion…
It’s taught my heart five strong lessons that carry over into writer’s life too.
Draw them in with sparks of mystery.
You don’t have to spell out all the character details to give the audience a strong sense of what’s going on. With the Mandalorian, there is tension about what’s behind the armor, which according to his faith he cannot reveal his identity to anyone or he can no longer wear the helmet or be a part of the warrior tribe. The characters he meets on many worlds also always say they’ve read about them and how rare it is to find one of the warriors, which adds to the lore as well.
The tension is palpable in the fourth installment, where he almost let a woman he meets, Omera, remove his mask.
Baby Yoda follows in the baby carrier that hovers whether there’s action-packed fights going on or journeying across the red-rock canyons. When he saves Dyn Jarren from a raging animal attack using the force, it’s surprising and Baby Yoda’s powers are never really explained. They can’t be since he isn’t able to speak yet. All the audience knows is that every local bounty hunter is looking for this child and he’s exceptional. And heart-twistingly cute too. There are two mysteries that pull in the audience: the source of the child’s powers and what the Imperial troopers actually did to him while he was in their custody.
Contrast dark moments and settings with humor and light.
“I can bring you in warm or I can bring you in cold,” Dyn Jarren says to a man he’s arrested. There is very little dialogue, especially in the first two shows, but there are sparks of humor and high intensity at the same time for the Mandalorian as he interacts with his bounty.
In the great showdown where he meets the Bounty Droid, it keeps thinking they are doomed and threatens to self-destruct and the interplay between them is humorous in the middle of an epic gun battle.
When Baby Yoda eats the frog, it’s equal parts gross and just silly enough to break up the tension. It leaves the audience wondering how he can be so strong and yet so young and whimsical. These moments are necessary because much of the setting for each show is very dark and dingy, run down and dusty. It’s war time, with very serious stakes. There’s no way to turn off the trackers since it’s tied to Baby Yoda’s DNA or biorhythms (we suppose) so the points of levity humanize the characters and make them more relatable.
Don’t discount the “aw” factor.
The Disney creators quite intentionally use poignant memories every time the Mandalorian is having some of his armor repaired or created. When he brings in his payment to the collective, and the leader makes the armor pieces, he relives losing his parents as a child and being taken into their order. It reveals the “why” of his devotion without even stating a word. Images are so powerful and I found myself experiencing a tinge of sympathy for him, which acts like a rope around my waist to pull me through the intense battles to understand the interplay of the relationship that grows over time with the other characters.
For Baby Yoda, it’s the gentle squeaks and sounds he makes, the expressive ears with soft peach undertones, the big black eyes and the way he softly but consistently disobeys the Mandalorian that is winsome. In fact, it’s the “aw” moment of when he unscrews the small ball in the cockpit that leads to his rescue and causes Dyn Jarren to reconsider giving him over to the Imperial troops. The little ball saves his life and forever changes the life and mission of Dyn Jarren.
Tap into the universal desire to believe in something bigger.
Much has been written about the religion of The Mandalorian, and the quest to understand a deeper level of mission or calling in life is very powerful. You don’t have to grasp much about his way of life to realize how inconvenient it is not to eat in front of others, to always deny any sense of connectedness, and to surrender finances to a collective existence.
Most writers can understand this sense of calling. It’s what compels us to rise early, to stay up late, and use the slender moments of freedom in life to breathe our words into existence. When I speak to young writers, I actually don’t recommend trying to be a professional writer unless you have to do it because publishing is only for those who are thick-skinned and patient with long timelines. If the words and images and characters won’t leave you alone and you must press in and relate them to the outside world, then, that’s a test of your calling.
In my real-life, as a person of faith who’s actually walked beside flames of wildfires and death with tremendous loss, I know the power a story and enduring truth can have in the darkest corners to bring forth diamonds of resilience. The ability to rise again, face the dragons down, and press on in life is evocative and very powerful. Everyone is created to worship, it’s just a choice of what you will give greatest value along the way. Appealing to this integral human need makes this gunslinger, loner, synthesis of Clint Eastwood and a samurai warrior more relatable to the audience. His devotion gives the Mandalorian permission to captivate us with the few words but many powerful actions he makes.
Utilize redeeming moments to turn the tables unexpectedly.
There is genius in key moments to completely shift the purpose of the characters’ lives.
When Dyn Jarren sees the unscrewed ball in his cockpit, he is compelled to give up everything and risk incredible odds to rescue Baby Yoda. In that one moment, he finally accepts that he can’t live without knowing the child is secure, even if this means a one-person insurrection against the Imperial troops. Then, when his whole Mandalorian collective rises to the occasion and somehow knows he needs rescuing in the old-west with jet-packs shootout scene, everyone in his tribe has accepted the value of fighting for Baby Yoda’s life. It is so poignant. There is amazing power as a writer or creator to use one small item like the ball to signify the important decision of the moment.
I also think it’s important that the Mandalorian didn’t let the woman remove his mask right before Baby Yoda is discovered by another bounty hunter. It stayed true to his character, and the discovery of the hunter flips the tables right in the moment he almost stayed permanently in the krill farmer’s camp. There will be no rest for this warrior or the sweet young creature. It propels the story further and defines their future, again all in one moment, the tables are turned permanently it seems.
Don’t miss these items in the park if you visit the Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland:
Here are some of the Easter Eggs!
We found the bounty droid, the Mandalorian’s mask and weapon all in Dok-Ondar’s Den of Antiquities in the Black Spire Outpost. Dok-Ondar sells galactic artifacts including jewelry, ancient rools, kyber crystals, and lightsabers. The helmet for the Mandalorian is center, left above the circular gate and you can spot his weapon as well. And the crest for the Mandalorian above it all. You can see more on my review when the park first opened HERE.
Of course, I was on the lookout for Baby Yoda and there was at least a cute nod to it with the stuffed Yoda children’s toys in the marketplace. Look for this icon and you’ll find a bin filled with the cuties and the nest suspended from the wall there.
Hope you enjoyed this from a writer’s perspective, and I welcome your comments below on how you’ve been crafting your character details or touched by the series so far!
Elizabeth Van Tassel writes compelling middle-grade fantasy. She brings her knowledge and expertise in the field of gemology to the page and infuses her love of folklore into modern adventures filled with mystery. A wildfire survivor, Elizabeth also understands the both power of loss and the power of hope. And she’s always on the hunt for a great story. Elizabeth currently resides in the Bay Area with her husband and two sons. She can be found wandering the gardens of Filoli House, enjoying her favorite coffee shops, occasionally visiting Disneyland and catching up with Chewy, and engaging with other writers.