Star Wars: The Force Awakens Prop Designers Reveal the Making of BB-8
Star Wars: The Force Awakens doesn't come out for another four months, but the new droid for the film, an endearing roly-poly robot named BB-8, has already made a huge impact on Star Wars fans. Other than the crossguard lightsaber, BB-8 made the biggest impression in the action-packed first trailer, and the world has been falling in love with him ever since. Now, in an extensive interview on StarWars.com, the creators of the lovable droid have revealed exactly how they brought him to life.
Before we knew his name, many fans called BB-8 the "soccer ball droid," as a result of his spherical shape and the geometric patterns. As it turns out, that observation was very astute, as Lucasfilm concept designer Christian Alzmann confirmed that a soccer ball did, in fact, serve as inspiration in the initial design. J.J. Abrams gave him a sketch on a napkin of two balls, one on top of the other, with a dot for an eye, and it was all downhill from there.
From the start, Abrams wanted BB-8 to be a practical effect (and with good reason), so there was an enormous amount of pressure to find a suitable design for a puppet. If the team hadn't been able to build a prototype that worked, they would have been forced to create a digital version. But luckily, they unveiled the puppet a week before shooting, and it was a rousing success.
Senior animatronic designer Joshua Lee recalled making a miniature puppet version of the robot in the early phases of the design, and explains that the design itself makes the droid as expressive as an R2-D2 follow-up needs to be:
BB-8 was finally unveiled in all of his tangible glory at Star Wars Celebration, and the reception was glowing. The creators were humbled by all the love for the character, but they insist that fans haven't seen anything yet:
We still don't know exactly how BB-8 works on a technological level, as they want to keep some of the mystery alive, but it's already clear that the droid has the potential to become an iconic Star Wars character: