The eyes are said to be the mirror of the soul. If so, Yoda has the soul of a scientist.
The original graphic designer for Yoda was Star Wars artist Ralph McQuarrie, and his images of Yoda were for a character smaller than the eventual Jedi, with a face more reminiscent of a young Mel Brooks than what came to life on movie screens during The Empire Strikes Back.
What changed, according to special effects artist Nick Maley, was that the person in charge of the makeup for the film was the one who had to set the final image, changing the concept art into a set of highly detailed images which would then be used to create the puppet. Seeking inspiration, the man in charge – Stuart Freeborn – used what was available, and what was available was a picture of Albert Einstein hanging on the wall of his workspace. The decision had been made that Yoda was to be older than the original design (in part because Frank Oz, in order to make him talk believably, had requested that Yoda be given no solid jaw). Freeborn needed an appropriately aged model.
And there was the photo…
Puppet eyes require extensive work to render them believable. Rather than merely modify their look, the muscle tone, bags and everything else was fully lifted to create Yoda.
As far as Einstein’s actual eyes, they’re likely where they’ve been for decades – in a safety deposit box in New York City. They were originally owned (after Einstein’s death, of course) by a close friend of the scientist. That man, the scientist’s eye doctor Henry Abrams, retained the eyes as a memento, saying that he felt Albert was with him even after death. Abrams himself died in 2009, and it is assumed that the eyes remain in the safety deposit box where he kept them.
It doesn’t seem like the best place to store eyes, but then again I’m not an eye doctor. Or a Jedi, for that matter.
Question of the night: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?