Baby Yoda was somehow in France — that’s what tipped it.
It was December 2019. The Mandalorian had been airing for only about a month on the nascent streaming service Disney+ when showrunner Jon Favreau saw an online photo of a large mural halfway across the world. The street art depicted his show’s cherubic, wide-eyed, Force-sensitive character peering solemnly from under a bridge. That was the moment, Favreau says, when he realized his series was becoming a phenomenon: The Mandalorian hadn’t yet aired in France — or anywhere in Europe, for that matter.
“The show wasn’t there!” Favreau says. “Something was going on where people were connecting with the characters, with social media allowing them to see aspects of the show before they even knew what it was.”
Baby Yoda — which Disney has fruitlessly tried to persuade the world to call the Child, as its actual parents are unknown and its species is considered rare and mysterious — was only part of the frenzy. After a slew of recent Star Wars movies were met with fandom reactions that ranged from “Hey, that was fun” (2015’s The Force Awakens) to “Why, exactly?” (2018’s Solo: A Star Wars Story), The Mandalorian’s audience score on Rotten Tomatoes (93 percent “Fresh”) was higher than any live-action Star Wars title since George Lucas’ beloved original trilogy. The show also earned 15 Emmy nominations in July, including a nod for Outstanding Drama Series, a feat that stunned industry insiders. Not too shabby for a show about a hero whose face you cannot see (Pedro Pascal) who is partnered with a kid who doesn’t speak.
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