Back when I was the size of a Jawa, which is going back a long way now, I dreamt of having my very own R2D2. The closest I ever came was throwing a punch bowl on top of a trash can and strapping some roller skates to the bottom. It wasn’t pretty but my imagination took care of the rest.
Nowadays it’s a lot easier to make your dreams a reality. It’s almost as easy as learning your ABC’s the Star Wars way! Back in 1999, a few Star Wars fans started up a Yahoo Message Board Group called the R2 Builders Club. It was here where folks came together to share ideas on the best ways to make their own remote controlled Astromech droids. The group grew in popularity and grabbed the attention of a few important people. Lucasfilm granted them exclusive access to one of the original R2s for photo documentation and size comparison to get a better idea of how to make their own builds as screen accurate as possible.
Today, the R2 Builders club exists on astromech.net and has tens of thousands of members from around the world where there is a build plan to suit every budget and almost every material you could think of. Want a heavy duty droid that can handle almost anything? You’ll want use all aluminum parts. Need to save pennies? That’s ok; there are some builders that have built their droids out of wood, styrene and 3d printed parts. All 100% movie accurate.
A build of this scale does require patience, however. Not all parts are available at all times and for the more sought after pieces there are wait lists for ‘part runs’ that happen throughout the year on the club site.
There are some truly awesome R2’s out there. Builders Council member Chris James has over $10,000 worth of kit installed in his R2 and it is a thing of beauty. Don’t worry there are plenty of builders that have fully operational droids that have spent as little as $1000.
The R2’s that are built through the club are able to do a lot more than the originals ever could. No Kenny Baker sized actor needed here, as radio controlled servos control his gizmos and gadgets. In fact, a few years ago at Star Wars Celebration Europe, the club got noticed in a big way. Lucasfilm’s Kathleen Kennedy was so impressed with what she saw at the Builders Club table, R2 builders Oliver Steeples and Ian Towersey were asked to build all the Astromechs for the new trilogy and spin off movies. Not a bad job if you can get it!
The chances of you bumping into an Astromech at a convention are very high as they have become minor celebrities themselves along with the 501st Legion, a worldwide organization of high quality Star Wars costume enthusiasts. The two groups are frequently volunteering alongside charities to bring the Star Wars experience to the masses on a global scale.
If you ever wanted an R2 to call your own and want to learn some valuable skillsets along the way then head over to Astromech.net and start reading and researching the plethora of information they have. Since joining I haven’t regretted a single moment. My build continues!