Building My Own R2-D2

Posted by mverta Category: Uncategorized

Long before I was hired to do the CG R2-D2 for Lucasfilm, I was a member of the R2-D2 Builders Club (Of course there’s an R2-D2 Builders Club!).  The club is a fantastic resource for blueprints, advice, tutorials; they even go in on part manufacturing runs together to save costs.  But fresh from my experience gathering data from the originals in the Archives at Skywalker Ranch, I decided it was time to get my own build together.

Like most builders, I had been collecting parts for years.  I had a little “shrine” in the house – a scattering of semi-recognizable aluminum parts in little piles.  That’s how it works: to save on money, parts are produced by machine shops whenever they happen to have left over time at the end of jobs, so it can be months (or years!)  from the time an order is placed until a part actually shows up, by which time you’ve probably forgotten about ordering in the first place.  So it’s a little like Droid Christmas all year-round; packages just randomly show up containing, say, a leg, and you become giddy with excitement for about 10 minutes, until you realize you still have dozens of parts to go, and no idea when they’re arriving.

But, eventually, like me, you’ve got all your parts.  This is a little like having your “I’m going to build an R2-D2” bluff called.  The actual work of assembly, integration of electronics, painting, etc., is entirely at the builder’s discretion and there are no instructions.  Over the years, builders have come to agree on various approaches towards different aspects of a build, but as we’re fond of saying, it isn’t the R2-D2 Kit Assemblers Club; it’s a builder’s club.  As a result, no two R2’s are exactly alike.  Some are very basic, others frighteningly sophisticated.  My goal was simple: I wanted to match the look and feel of the original R2 from 1977’s Star Wars.  He never quite looked the same again, and nobody had quite done him justice in a build.

In the end, I spent more than a month in Florida at the shop of my good friend Jon Laymon, who is one of the most talented (and patient) human beings on the planet, and we made it happen.  Today, my R2 walks, talks, and generally dominates the room’s attention, even when he’s just sitting in my living room.  And, just having him around makes a part of me feel perpetually 5 years old again.  It’s a good thing.

Here’s a slideshow of the build.