Yoda Yoda

Arriving soon, a special guest will be. Star Wars Rebels, the new animated Disney XD series set in a galaxy far, far away, is about to become very strong with the Force when Jedi master Yoda makes his presence known.

Though Rebels takes place between the two Star Wars movie trilogies — a time when the few surviving Jedis are in hiding from the Empire — the 800-plus-year-old icon is drawn from hiding to offer counsel to fledgling Jedi knight Kanan and his new padawan, Ezra, on the remote planet of Lothal. The twist: He only "appears" as a disembodied voice.

But what a voice it is. Frank Oz, who famously starred as the Yoda (in puppet and computer-generated form) in five of the Star Wars films, returns to the franchise for this episode. "I felt personally to keep Yoda as this disembodied thing it would confuse the audience less," says executive producer Dave Filoni, who also directed the installment. "I didn't want you to think Yoda could be teleporting from planet to planet."

It helped that Filoni was directing an actor so closely associated with one sci-fi's most beloved characters. "What's great about Frank, by keeping the voice very present and active, you do feel that it's a watchfulness and that he's speaking to you from afar," he says. "And I didn't want anyone to think that he had left Dagobah [the planet where Yoda first trains Luke Skywalker]. It was on the outer rim of what we do, but I think we were able to pull it off."

Star Wars fans will notice several homages to the lore, including The Empire Strikes Back and the final episodes of The Clone Wars. "This is show is meant to fit in with everything that's going on: Clone Wars, features, novels," Filoni says. "We do a lot of work to make sure there's continuity between these things now."

The episode, "Path of the Jedi" will air Monday, Jan. 5 at 9/8c on Disney XD. For those without the patience of a Jedi, it will be available on the Watch Disney XD app starting Monday, Dec. 29.

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