Star Wars: The Force Awakens Animatronics Expert Reveals Design Process Behind BB-8



If there was ever any doubt of BB-8’s ability to make a good first impression, one need only cast an eye at Empire’s hot off the presses subscribers’ cover featuring the chirpy ball-droid. Championing the character’s cult hero credentials, the outlet also showcased new looks at John Boyega’s wayward Stormtropper, cast astray on the arid sand dunes of Jakku.

As a core member of the new heroic trifecta in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, we’ve learned a fair deal about Boyega’s character of Finn, but what of BB-8? Fear not, folks, for has carried out an interview with Senior Animatronic Designer, Joshua Lee, who spilled the beans on the creative process that helped the ball-droid leap of the page.


Early on in development, Lee toyed about with various ideas for the cutesy AI assistant, before settling with the R2-turned-football look that we’ve come to know.

“I made a little puppet version,” says Lee, “because there was a lot of talk about how this thing could move and whether it needed extra parts, like an extending neck, to allow for greater movement. I had this feeling that it didn’t need anything else, and so to prove that, I built, in half a day, a little polystyrene puppet with the main movements. All the head movements and the ball rolling around, and handles on the back. I remember as soon as I picked that up, it was just so expressive.

You could see that there weren’t any other fancy movements needed, that there’s so much expression and character actually in the shapes and in the way the head sort of arched over the sphere. Neal was working in a different office at the time, in another part of the studio, and I excitedly ran down and showed him this thing. We both thought, that’s it, there’s really something there, and a puppet version would be one way of achieving it on set.”

In related news, yesterday we learned that Disney had struck up a deal with IMAX Entertainment to ensure that The Force Awakens holds the lion’s share of premium theaters this festive season, with plans to keep J.J. Abrams’ anticipated sequel showing in the big-screen format for a full month. That will naturally provide the studio with a ticket price boon, as the House of Mouse looks to reinvigorate its dormant, galactic series for a new generation.

BB-8 will roll into action when Star Wars: The Force Awakens lands in theaters on December 18.


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