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The good people at MovieWeb have released some concept art of the little droid, pulled directly from the new book titled The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, showcasing the creative process of the mega-blockbuster.
From these early designs, it seems clear that the little robot was always meant to be small and sphere-shaped, with “cute” being the central focus. While one still might question how a thing that rolls everywhere (especially on the dusty sand planet of Jakku) manages to stay not only clean but serviceable is another matter (perhaps the makers of the Jurassic World Gyrospheres had a hand in that design feature) there’s no denying it is a much more effective way to get around than the clumsy R2-D2 (dismissing the fact that R2 can in fact fly!).
It’s almost common knowledge now that J.J. Abrams wanted his film to use as many practical effects as possible, and that included many of the characters seen on screen. With BB-8, a unit that spends a lot of time front and center, he knew that something tangible would really help the actors and give authenticity to the realized world. Ralph McQuarrie, the legendary conceptual designer and illustrator who brought us R2-D2, C-3pO and even Darth Vader, had a hand in the design of BB-8 as well. Kathleen Kennedy, one of the producers of the film admits that many design features, including that of McQuarrie were included in the final product. The Pinewood Studios’ Creature Shop were given the task of making a real, working model.
The technology is certainly similar to the Sphero Ball (a company funded by Disney), which works with a gyroscope to determine up and down and a set of wheels inside the sphere to propel it forward. The voodoo dark magic part is the head. That’s where it gets complicated, and is the brainchild of inventors Lanny Smoot and Dirk Smelling, who work for Disney’s Imagineering R&D and, surprisingly, patented the idea in 2010, two full years before they had acquired LucasFilm. Huh? There’s some Jedi mind trickery happening here. Either way, all you need to know is that it’s done with magnets and while that is the simplest way to say it, the real deal is staggeringly cool. This is he droid we’re looking for.
So what do you think of BB-8? More cuter than R2-D2? Let us know in the comments below.