“History in Objects” is a continuing series exploring Lucasfilm’s legacy stretching from our founding in 1971 to today. Through objects both rare and commonplace, the company’s past, present, and future are brought to life.
The Yoda Fountain – which many fans have snapped a selfie with while visiting the Letterman Digital Arts Center in San Francisco’s Presidio – has become an enduring symbol of Lucasfilm itself in the years since its installation 15 years ago in 2005. The quiet, benevolent gaze of the Jedi Master seems to welcome visitors and guests to the studio campus, and is a chief attraction within the 17 acres of beautifully-managed parkland open to the public.
Lawrence Noble, who sculpted the bronze Yoda sitting atop the fountain in addition to several other life-size bronzes adorning the campus, began his professional relationship with Lucasfilm back in 1980, when the campaign to promote The Empire Strikes Back was getting underway. Primarily an illustrator at the time, Noble was commissioned to produce a poster concept for the film – one that didn’t include Yoda, ironically, since his appearance was still a well-kept secret. Though his poster concept wasn’t used (it did re-emerge for the film’s tenth anniversary in 1990), the character of Yoda made an indelible impression on Noble when he went to see the film for the first time months later.
“I was smitten,” says Noble. “I was so moved by Yoda I came home and went to the art supply store and bought clay, tools and did my first sculpture. Up until then I had not done any sculpture — I was just doing illustration.”
The result: an 11-inch statue of the Jedi Master which was produced in a limited edition of just 50 pieces and offered to members of the Official Lucasfilm Fan Club in 1990.