Entertainment

The secrets of Star Wars' new droid, BB-8

Published 8:03 AM ET, Mon December 7, 2015
Share
bb8 running bb8 running
1 of 9
BB-8, the plucky astromech featured in "Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens," is the brainchild of designers Matt Denton and Joshua Lee, who eschewed CGI and created a tactile version of the droid for use on set. courtesy Disney
Unlike R2-D2, which was controlled from the inside by Kenny Baker, BB-8 was automated, and came in eight incarnations. Some were remote controlled and one was controlled by puppeteers Brian Herring and Dave Chapman. Other versions were specialized: one had a super-articulating head and another would right itself like a weeble. courtesy Disney
Denton and Lee claim that the Abu Dhabi shoot was the toughest for their creation. Searing heat and sand made the shoot a challenge, as it entered the inner mechanisms, pushing the droid to its limits. lucasfilm
Lee and Denton recalled how one of the BB-8s met its end in Abu Dhabi. Pulled along by a winch and traveling at high speed, the droid flipped and careered forward. By the time it came to a standstill "there was shocked silence on the set. It was as if someone had been hurt," said Lee. "The crew didn't know where to look." lucasfilm
BB-8 was the breakout star from the trailers. Fans pondered whether the droid was CGI, and the mystery remained until Denton and Lee were finally allowed to break their silence. It turns out that a little computer tinkering was required, but only to remove the stabilizers necessary for BB-8 to stay upright in challenging shots, such as those filmed in the desert. courtesy Disney
Little is known about the plot of the movie, and Denton and Lee remain tight-lipped, despite being present on set from the first week to the last. From the information scraped together before the film's release on December 18, we know that the droid has an allegiance to Resistance pilot Poe Dameron, played by Oscar Isaac. What Denton and Lee would disclose was that viewers should look out for how the droid enters Dameron's X-Wing -- apparently a spectacle in itself. courtesy Disney
We also see BB-8 aboard the Millennium Falcon in the full length trailer. Because it appears there and on Jakku, the desert planet on which Rey (Daisy Ridley) lives, many have been led to think that the droid plays a role similar to that of R2-D2 in the original movie, "Star Wars: A New Hope." courtesy Disney
BB-8 has been welcomed into the Star Wars family like the beloved R2. Lee claims C-3PO actor Anthony Daniels "absolutely loves" the new astromech, and on its final day of shooting the droid was wrapped with a round of applause like the rest of the actors. courtesy disney
The pair cannot confirm whether the droid will feature in Episode VIII, due for release Spring 2017. But given that fan favorites R2-D2 and C-3PO have found their way into all six movies, one expects BB-8 will become a fixture of the Star Wars universe for a while to come. courtesy DIsney