A lot of Star Wars fans prefer the practical effects of the original Star Wars trilogy over all the CGI filled in the franchise's prequel trilogy, saying that the use of puppets, actual sets and ship models gave the films a more natural and solid look.
However, when asked by ScreenRant during the world premiere of the Muppet Guys Talking: Secrets Behind the Show the Whole World Watch at the SXSW about his opinion on the contentious Star Wars debate between practical and visual effects, Frank Oz, the puppet performer who handled the original trilogy's Yoda, defended the Jedi Master's CGI replacement.
"They're all just valid forms. There all just ways to get something onscreen that doesn't exist in real life. And they have their pros and cons. CG can mean total freedom of the camera, total freedom of the subject, the lighting, everything can be manipulated anyway you want. And that's a great strength. It's hard to animate characters with realistic movement. You've probably noticed that. That's why motion-capture came along. It helps to improve on what you can do as an animator to get realistic motion. But then on the other side of the coin, what we do is very crude and primitive. What the Muppets are very simple figures; they're not sophisticated. They're not complex, but they're really there. It really happens. You can touch 'em. You can interview them. And you can talk to them. You can shake hands, and it's really happening, whereas anything that's done digitally with animation never happened. It's not that one is better than the other. They're equal. For a given project, you might choose one medium over another…I don't see them as competitive. They're just tools, different tools to do the same kind of thing."
He later on defends George Lucas' controversial decision to rely on CGI for the prequels as well.
"As a filmmaker, George needed to tell a particular story. And this story that he needed to tell was a big fight with Yoda. And he could not do that with a puppet. It was impossible. To he had the choice to either dump the story or stay with the story–which he felt strongly about–or change Yoda. So he did what any storyteller would do."
It's very generous of Oz to think so highly of the CGI that replaced his work in Star Wars. His comments definitely make a point – both methods are simply tools to help deliver a story on screen. As long as the visual and practical effects remain pleasing to the eye and serve the story well, then there's no harm in using either.
What are your thoughts on the whole Visual vs. Practical effect debate? Feel free to comment below.