When The Mandalorian premiered on Disney + in November of 2019, memes of Baby Yoda, or “The Child,” began rolling out almost instantly: drawing upon, and further igniting, an obsession with the ridiculously cute 50-year-old toddler. From the moment his eyes peered over the blanket at Mando, Baby Yoda captured hearts and united an otherwise divided fandom. Along with the memes feeding the obsession, there are Baby Yoda toys, art, crochet patterns, apparel, and even a life-sized replica. Baby Yoda is in such high demand that his Funko pop figure is the highest pre-order figure in the company’s history.
Who could have known a year ago that Baby Yoda would be such an immense hit among Star Wars and non-Star Wars fans alike?
The creator of Baby Yoda possibly knew that a phenomenon known as “baby schema” would hook most of us immediately. With his big eyes, high forehead, and fuzzy round head (shown below), Baby Yoda resembles… well… a baby. This triggers a response in most humans to find him irresistibly adorable and a desire to protect the little guy. When we see Mando and the crew putting their lives on the line to save Baby Yoda, we understand and approve. In fact, we would be horrified by any other choice.
It probably helps that Baby Yoda, unlike human babies, doesn’t cry much. No tantrums from this cute little guy (yet?). When Mando takes away his new toy (which is not a toy at all but part of a lever on the dashboard of Mando’s ship), Baby Yoda responds stoically: less like a toddler would and more like what we would expect from his namesake. Yet, when he stubbornly tries again and again to reclaim the toy, we appreciate this determination and our hearts melt when Mando eventually gives in.
Surely part of Baby Yoda’s appeal is in the contrast between himself and Mando. Mando is a mystery. His voice is modulated, his expressions are hidden, and his past is largely unknown (but laced with tragedy and hardship). Yet one thing we do know is there’s a soft, gooey center in there that is as much taken in by Baby Yoda as we are. It’s an unlikely and unexpected friendship, and one that will surely grow in the future.