Baby Yoda won the hearts and minds of “Star Wars” fans this year. But can it also win awards season?
The short answer, of course, is no. Baby Yoda — technically called “The Child” on the new Disney Plus series “The Mandalorian” — is not real, and not eligible for its own Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild or Emmy Award. Spokespersons for both the Globes and SAG Awards confirm that there’s no room for CGI/animated characters.
But why not? Baby Yoda is not the first puppet, animated star or computer-generated character to make a splash in pop culture — and it could be argued that there should be a way to select and award such pivotal parts of popular entertainment.
Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy would be into it. The characters (via their human counterparts, of course) blasted the Academy Awards during a 2012 junket for their film “The Muppets” as being “species-ist.” “For some reason the Academy does not recognize other species than humans as actors, as artists, as talent,” Miss Piggy said at a U.K. press conference at the time.
However, Kermit does have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which has also honored Big Bird, Snow White, Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, Woody Woodpecker and the Simpsons, among others.
Shouldn’t ALF have been given his due at the Emmys? What about the dancing baby on “Ally McBeal”? Or, more realistically, perhaps Andy Serkis should have been considered for an Oscar in providing the performance-capture for Gollum in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy.
In 2003, the Broadcast Film Critics Association took a step in that direction, creating the category “best digital acting performance” for its Critics Choice Awards. Gollum won the inaugural award, for his part in “Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.” Serkis accepted the award, along with New Zealand’s Weta Digital team, which animated the character. Among nominees, Gollum beat out Yoda for “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones” and Dobby from “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.” But the category was a bit controversial, and didn’t return the following year — or in any future Critics Choice Awards after that.
The MTV Movie Awards also went tongue-in-cheek with its Lifetime Achievement award for a period of time, handing out the prize to characters such as Chewbacca, John Shaft, Godzilla and Jason Voorhees — but that was in the telecast’s early, 1990s life.
There is precedence even at the Oscars of fictional characters landing nominations. In 2003, Donald Kaufman, a character in Spike Jones’ “Adaptation,” was nominated for best adapted screenplay at the Academy Awards, along with his (real) “brother” Charlie Kaufman.
The Emmys and SAG Awards do honor voice actors, but as digital technology continues to perfect computer generated performances, the idea of honoring characters no longer seems that far-fetched. Posthumous performances like Peter Cushing in “Rogue One” or the announced plan by filmmakers to add a computer version of James Dean in their independent film “Finding Jack” may also open the door to an entirely new category of performer.
As for “The Mandalorian,” the new Disney Plus series is indeed eligible to be nominated at the Golden Globes and the SAG Awards. The SAG categories include ensemble cast in a drama — and the show’s cast could always bring Baby Yoda to the ceremony, should they be nominated.
But “The Mandalorian” faces another obstacle to any major acting nominations: Star Pedro Pascal, who plays the titular bounty hunter, is never seen without his mask on. And the rest of the show’s co-stars are so far only recurring, including Carl Weathers, Werner Herzog, Gina Carano and Giancarlo Esposito. Still others, such as Nick Nolte and Taika Waititi, have only been voices.
For now, just as fans will have to be patient for “Baby Yoda” merchandise, the character itself will need to wait for awards glory.