Why the Emmy nominations surprise ‘The Mandalorian’ is a win for Baby Yoda (and Disney+)

The Child in a scene from "The Mandalorian."
“The Mandalorian’s” Baby Yoda, sadly, cannot qualify for an individual acting nomination. But the series is up for best drama.

Just because Baby Yoda can’t qualify for an acting award doesn’t mean his excellence wasn’t recognized by the Television Academy. “The Mandalorian” is among the shows nominated for the drama series Emmy.

On Tuesday morning, “The Mandalorian” received 15 Emmy Awards nominations. In addition to a surprising nod for drama series, the show’s overall haul includes nominations for Taika Waititi’s voice-over performance as IG-11, guest actor Giancarlo Esposito as Moff Gideon, production design, special visual effects and stunt coordination.

The first live-action “Star Wars” series, “The Mandalorian” is also the first “Star Wars” show to land a nomination in one of the top Primetime Emmy categories. The animated “Star Wars Rebels” and “Star Wars Resistance” have both landed Creative Arts Emmy nominations, while “Star Wars: Clone Wars” won the Emmy for animated program (one hour or more) in 2004 and 2005.

“The Mandalorian’s” nominations are a win for the franchise — “Star Wars” films are often only recognized in the craft categories at the Oscars. 1977’s “Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope,” has been the most decorated of the franchise when it comes to the Academy Awards, and is the only film to land nods in categories such as best picture, director (George Lucas), original screenplay (Lucas) and supporting actor (Alec Guinness). The last “Star Wars” film to win an Oscar was 1983’s “Return of the Jedi.”

It seems the Force really is strong with Baby Yoda.

A long time ago (Nov. 12), in what feels like a galaxy far, far away, the 50-year-old Baby Yoda — known officially as the Child — made his debut on the Disney+ “Star Wars” series and captivated the world. The show’s special visual effects nod for “The Child” episode has Baby Yoda written all over it.


“The Mandalorian” star Pedro Pascal even admitted in an episode of the documentary series “Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian” that he knew “we’re all going to be second fiddle to this little guy.”

In that same episode, showrunner Jon Favreau explained that one of the secrets in designing the Child — lovingly referred to as “the baby” by the show’s directors — was striking the right balance of ugly and cute.

It has been explained that Baby Yoda’s hybrid performance was originally intended to rely more on CG than the puppet, but outspoken advocates including Werner Herzog and the puppet’s actual charm led to it being used as much as possible (though some CG is still involved).

Season 2 of “The Mandalorian,” which wrapped production before Hollywood’s COVID-19 shutdown, is expected to arrive on Disney+ in October.