Managing Grogu


Grogu is the adorable green Yoda-like being from the Disney+ hit series, "The Mandalorian".


Of course, he's very different from the other actors on the show: Grogu is a combination of new animatronics and old-school pupetteering.


According to "Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian" (a fascinating, eight-episode "behind the scenes" series that had me transfixed for several hours this past weekend), Grogu is brought to life by a team of people working together seamlessly. At any one time:

  • One puppeteer controls Grogu's eyes via a remote control, similar to what you might use to control a remote control car;*

  • A second controls the movement of Grogu's ears and mouth;

  • And a third puppeteer is used for Grogu's head and arm movements, as well as his legs whenever he has to walk (which isn't often).


Imagine you had to direct Grogu. If you wanted Grogu to look curious in a given scene, you probably wouldn't say, "Hey, Jason, let's raise his eyebrows slightly right here... Trevor, let's turn his head upward and 15 degrees to the right, and Kan, how about a little wiggle of those ears?"


Instead, you'd probably say, "Grogu should look curious", and then trust the team to make it happen.


Fortunately, that works well.


"We do have a script ahead of time," says Jason Matthews, one of the puppeteers, "but this is just another character on the set, so the director just directs it like it's just a single character. We always take the direction, but you take the part specific to what you operate. It's just like a band jamming... you just start to get into a rhythm, and you know when the head's going to turns left, and I'll try to beat it leading with the eyes, and the ears will go up... and it starts to work itself out."


If you think that sounds like a terrible, inefficient, chaotic system, I have some bad news for you: you might be a micro-manager.


The next time you get the urge to micro-manage a team, think about managing Grogu.


Hire exceptional people, give them clear direction, then trust them to do their jobs,.


- dp



* A very, very expensive remote-control car: Grogu reportedly cost $5 million to make, and took the team at Legacy Effects over three months to perfect. All totally worth it, in my opinion.