From Boonta to Baobab: Droids and the Star Wars Prequels

Droids: The Adventures of R2-D2 and C-3PO aired on ABC in the US in 1985 and 1986. The cartoon was developed by Nelvana, but it only lasted one season (13 episodes) and one special (“The Great Heep”). The episodes aired during the Ewoks and Droids Adventure Hour, which also showed an episode of Nelvana’s other Star Wars cartoon: Ewoks. Droids was a typical US cartoon (though Nelvana itself was Canadian) from the mid-eighties, so it couldn’t show physical violence. Droids also aired in other countries, such as Spain and France, where it was very popular.

Droids takes place 15 years before the Battle of Yavin. Our beloved droids, R2-D2 and C-3PO, hook up with three different masters and they meet a lot of new friends and enemies during these adventures. There is no sign of any of the other heroes from the movies. Still, the series looks like it’s a part of the Star Wars galaxy and from time to time it shows ships and vehicles from the movies (Lambda-class shuttle, Bantha II Cargo Skiff, and TIE fighters) and even from Kenner’s vintage line of toys (probably to promote toys that didn’t sell very well).

Something you might not immediately realize is the fact that the show features several elements or designs which have also appeared in the prequels. Some have been used almost literally, others have been used as a concept or are similar in design. One of the people at Lucasfilm who worked regularly on Droids was sound designer Ben Burtt. Burtt wrote the last story arc about the droids’ encounter with adventurer Mungo Baobab. Art director and conceptual designer from the original trilogy, Joe Johnston, co-wrote the elusive episode “Cody and the Starhunters.” It is not exactly known how and why several elements of Droids ended up appearing in the prequels, but it could have been Ben Burtt who offered George Lucas or the conceptual team some ideas for a particular name or design.

Let’s have a look at how Droids influenced the prequels!

What’s in a name?

The most obvious link between the cartoon and the prequels is probably the name Boonta. In Droids, it was the name of a landspeeder race held on the planet Boonta (originally known as Ko Vari, before the Hutts changed its name). Boonta was used in The Phantom Menace as the name of the Podrace on Tatooine and as the name of the holiday that gave its name to the race: the Boonta Eve. The name is not only exactly the same, it’s used both times for a race! Star Wars lore established both races as being part of three Boonta races (the third one taking place on Arami) organized to honor the ascendance of Boonta Hestilic Shad’ruu to godhood. Seventeen years after Anakin Skywalker won the Boonta Eve Classic in Mos Espa, R2-D2 and C-3PO were once again involved in winning a Boonta Race, this time on Boonta as members of the Joben-Dusat Racing Team.

Boonta Speeder Race and Boonta Eve Classic

Boonta Speeder Race and Boonta Eve Classic

Another name that is mentioned explicitly in the prequels is Bogden. Because Bogden had 18 moons, this Inner Rim system was universally known as “The Moons of Bogden.” One of these moons, the “bog moon,” appeared in Droids. The Ropagu pirate Gir Kybo Ren-Cha kidnapped Princess Gerin Toda to a derelict starship on that moon. Jann Tosh, Jessica Meade, R2-D2, and C-3PO spearheaded a rescue mission while Mon Julpa and Malameu Toda, Gerin’s father, thought of a strategy to capture Ren-Cha’s pirate gang. In Attack of the Clones, Bogden is mentioned to Obi-Wan Kenobi by Jango Fett as the place where he was recruited by Tyranus to be the DNA-host for the clone troopers on Kamino. During the 10th anniversary ceremony of Star Tours in 1997, a cast member read greetings from Tatooine, Endor, and also from Bogden.

Bog Moon of Bogden

Bog Moon of Bogden

Similar designs

A design that was first used in Droids and reused in the prequels was the Wheel Bike. The young miner Jann Tosh used a Gallis-Tech 48 Roller Wheel Bike on Tyne’s Horky to get around. He picked up R2-D2, C-3PO, and a strange android (who turned out to be Mon Julpa from Tammuz-an) at an auction and drove them to the camp of his uncle, Putch “Gundy” Gundarian. During the ride, Tosh got chased by Yorpo Mog, the enforcer of the Dirconite bounty hunter Kleb Zellock. In Revenge of the Sith we see General Grievous using a Tsmeu-6 Personal Wheel Bike on Utapau to escape from General Kenobi after the arrival of the 212th Attack Battalion. Obi-Wan raced against the Wheel Bike on Boga, the varactyl, until the vehicle plunged at high speed into the large sinkhole of Pau City. Both wheel bikes are a bit different, but since this type of vehicle doesn’t often appear in Star Wars, it’s definitely a connection between Droids and the prequels.

Star Wars Wheel Bikes

Wheel Bikes of Jann Tosh and General Grievous

The next comparison is rather obvious. When R2-D2 and C-3PO left their masters Thall Joben and Jord Dusat, the Intergalactic Droid Agency sent the droids to Tyne’s Horky. On this mining planet a four-armed Jillsarian, known as Doodnik Sharpelz, was looking for help in his diner. A four-armed cook was something we saw as well in Attack of the Clones with the Besalisk Dexter Jettster on Coruscant. Doodnik was raised by Besalisks and became friends with Dexter. Together they left Ojom and went on an adventure that led them to Tyne’s Horky. Not only did Doodnik and Dexter share similar features, so did their diners. Doodnik’s Café and Dexter’s Diner shared the same appearance, based on American diners from the ’50s and ’60s. The style of Dexter’s Diner is called Med’soto, but it’s not known if Doodnik’s Café was built in exactly the same style.

Doodnik Sharpelz and Dexter Jettster

Doodnik Sharpelz and Dexter Jettster

There’s also Mungo Baobab’s airspeeder (unknown series). Mungo, Threepio, and Artoo used the vehicle to escape from Stormtroopers after paying a visit to the Blue Nebula cantina on Mungo’s homeplanet Manda. The airspeeder is painted yellow and green. Though Mungo’s vehicle doesn’t have the large outboard hot rod engines, the paint scheme and general design resemble the XJ-6 Airspeeder that Anakin “borrowed” from Senator Simon Greyshade to pursue Zam Wesell after she tried to assassinate Senator Amidala on Coruscant, right before the Clone Wars started.

Mungo's Airspeeder and the XJ-6 Airspeeder

Mungo’s Airspeeder and the XJ-6 Airspeeder

Similar droids

Not surprisingly, Droids featured a lot of new and different kind of droids (though most of them are still unnamed and unclassified). Some of these droids resemble counterparts that appeared in the prequels. Sludgegulpers were critters used by the Great Heap on Biitu to salvage and attack starships. They could easily function in outer space and existed in many forms and sizes. Some of them were created with evil looking humanoid faces. The Sludgegulpers from Droids were similar in function to the Pistoeka Sabotage Droids (Buzz Droids) used by the Confederacy during the Clone Wars. Another droid was simply known as a Gulper. This security droid looked like one big wheel and guarded the mines on Biitu for the Great Heap and the Empire. It could really go fast by rolling into action against any intruders. The Droidekas or Destroyer Droids from the Trade Federation and the Confederacy used a similar type of propulsion. When these dangerous droids weren’t deployed in their upright and battle mode, they folded into a wheel that could go as fast as 75 km/h. Another unnamed droid that appeared in Droids was a security droid used by Governor Bisad Koong on his Roon Clipper. This droid was guarding the deck when Mungo Baobab, Auren Yomm, and C-3PO had been captured by Koong. The head of that droid closely resembles the head of the BX Commando Droids from the Confederacy in the Clone Wars. The Commando Droids didn’t appear in the prequels, but they were seen quite regularly in The Clone Wars.

Koong Security Droid and BX Commando Battle Droids

‘Koong Security Droid’ and BX Droid Commandos

Though C-3PO didn’t remember his calamitous adventures in the Geonosis Droid Factory, R2-D2 must have reminisced about them when the droids found themselves in a hazardous situation inside the Fuel Ore processing factory of the Great Heep on Biitu. This factory included the typical conveyor belts, crushing doors, and giant magnets. Instead of using his booster rockets (which Artoo apparently didn’t have anymore in 15 BBY), Artoo hooked himself onto a cable, with a hook inside his dome, to rescue Threepio.

Factories on Biitu and Geonosis in Star Wars

Factories on Biitu and Geonosis

Droids also introduced droid starfighters for the first time. We would get acquainted with a lot of droid starfighters during the prequels (Vulture-class, HMP Heavy Missile Platform, Tri-Fighter, etc.), but these types of droid vehicles had already appeared in Droids. The Fromm Gang used space-worthy droid starfighters to guard their lair on Annoo. The Fromm Tower Droids were used on Ingo by Tig Fromm to guard his secret base. These models resemble tank droids such as the MTT, AAT, or NR-N99 Persuader-class Droid Enforcer used by the Trade Federation, Corporate Alliance, and the Confederacy during the Clone Wars. Governor Koong used blue Drone Fighters that looked like giant butterflies. It’s unknown if these drones could enter outer space, but Koong kept a couple of them in a cargo hold in his Roon Clipper.

The last remnants

While droid armies would swarm the battlefields during the Invasion of Naboo and during the Clone Wars, their opponents were the clone troopers created on Kamino on behalf of Jedi Master Sifo-Dyas and Darth Tyranus. Droids also showed clones: the Anoo-dat Blue Clones. These clones were created by the Fromm Gang and were employed to guard the Trigon One weapon satellite. They were ultimately promised by the Fromm Gang to Jabba the Hutt to help him with eradicating the Mandalorian Death Watch diaspora.

Then there are the two-headed aliens. Krox, who gave Mungo Baobab the map to the Roon System, had two heads, just like Fodesinbeed Annodue, the famous Troig Podrace commentator. The Roon Colonial Games in 15 BBY were commented by two different (and unnamed) aliens in Droids. Both Krox and the unnamed aliens could have influenced the concept of Fode and Beed.

Krox, Fodesinbeed and the Colonial Games commentators

Krox, Fodesinbeed and the Colonial Games commentators

Finally we have Ebenn Q3 Baobab, a known historian, author, adventurer, and philologist. He was present at Theed when the newly elected Supreme Chancellor Palpatine congratulated Queen Amidala on her victory against the Trade Federation in 32 BBY. Ebenn was a relative of Mungo Baobab and a member of the Baobab family, owners of the Baobab Merchant Fleet and the Baobab Archives. It was Ben Burtt himself who established the connection to Droids when he wrote the Galactic Phrase Book and Travel Guide. He named the character played by himself in The Phantom Menace and thereby established another connection between the prequels and the Droids series.

Ebenn Q3 Baobab

Ebenn Q3 Baobab

Sources:
- Coruscant and the Core Worlds
- Dining at Dex’s (former Hyperspace article)
- Droids: The Adventures of R2-D2 and C-3PO (13 episodes plus hour-long special, Droids: The Great Heep)
- Galactic Phrase Book and Travel Guide
- Polyhedron 170
- Revenge of the Sith: The Visual Dictionary
- Star Wars Complete Vehicles
- The Droids re-animated, part 1
- The Droids re-animated, part 2
- The Official Star Wars Fact File 121

Tim Veekhoven (Sompeetalay) from Belgium is president and co founder of TeeKay-421, the Belgian Star Wars Fanclub. He’s a contributor to Star Wars Insider (Rogues Gallery), an administrator for Yodapedia, and has written four character back stories in “What’s the Story?”.

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