5 lessons I learnt from Baby Yoda (and other cute characters)

In this fun (and exceptionally cute) blog post, Imogen Palmer tells us why audiences inevitably fall for the cuteness factor and how you can harness this in your improv…

Something surprising happened to me last year. I fell, utterly, inconceivable, wholly, in love….

With Baby Yoda. A character (played by an INCREDIBLE puppet) in ‘The Mandalorian’.

Myself (and most of the internet) share the pure joy & love which stems from gazing at his beautiful green face- we feel the fear and anger when the villains in the Mandalorian try to put Baby Yoda in danger.

Baby Yoda isn’t the first cute character to play our heartstrings – I’ve also been know to watch 15 minute highlight reels of Baby Groot, Nemo (and Dory), Puss in Boots, Paddington, Totoro…. (I can go on but I don’t want you to think I spend my whole life on Youtube).

What can we learn from these adorable characters? How can we bring this into our acting, improv & storytelling?

  1. Vulnerability accelerates connection

As Puss in Boots teaches us in Shrek 2, there is nothing more powerful than an open, vulnerable gaze to communicate ‘I am not a threat’ and ‘care about me please’.

A look like this can steal the hearts of a whole audience.

Gif of Puss in Boots looking up adorably at the camera

2. We don’t need to work too hard when we channel our inner ‘cute’ 

As this very catchy rap about Baby Yoda communicates….’He can sit there and doing nothing…he’s still so relatable’.

I believe less is more when it comes to cute, so much can be communicated in a look or slight gesture of fragility. ANYONE can be cute- it is about attitude.

Baby Yoda gazing cutely slightly to the left

3. Playing cute earns playing angry 

When a cute character, who has won over the audience’s love, becomes angry, this is a BIG DEAL.

Check out Paddington’s ‘hard stare’, or for an even more extreme hyper cute to hyper angry, Uni-Kitty in the Lego Movie is hard to beat.

Starting a story as an angry or cruel character can make it hard for the audience to warm to you…start cute and then turn mean- BOOM! They are putty in your hands.

Paddington Bear staring angrily directly at the camera

4. Putting a cute character in danger can raise the stakes instantly

I just died when baby Dory from ‘Finding Dory’  loses her parents. I don’t believe this one is a spoiler because it is essentially THE PLOT OF THE FILM. 

Due to the fragility of her betrayal (those big eyes, that sweet voice), it is hard not to fear for her. 

Having a cute character in your story can dramatically raise the stakes- by putting them in danger OR even killing them, you can create a powerful motive or game-changer for the rest of the story.

Baby Dory looking curiously up to the top right of frame

5. Playing cute is FUN
Practicing how to invite fragility & vulnerability into our performance is a skill to be practiced. Once we’ve found it, playing with it can be hugely rewarding. Just check out the Totoro at the bus stop scene to see how a cute character can go from awww to ‘aaaah!’ and back again.

Whether we’re playing a baby bird or a sweet, naive person who’s about to get in a lot of trouble (‘I don’t believe those old ghost stories, let’s go in anyway!’), playing cute is an awesome string to add to our improv guitar.

Imogen is teaching the online taster session ‘Playing Cute Characters’ on Wednesday 3rd Feb. You can book tickets here.