Sideshow Collectibles: Building a Better R2-D2

Matt Bischof of Sideshow Collectibles discusses the new R2-D2 Deluxe Sixth Scale figure!

If you’ve ever unwittingly muttered the word “awesome” while gazing at a premium Star Wars figure, there’s a good chance it was made by Sideshow Collectibles. The company’s highly-detailed, film-accurate figures are beautiful and, definitely very, very awesome. From likenesses (see Hoth-gear Han Solo, which looks uncannily like Harrison Ford, right down to his chin scar) to clothing (see the stitching on X-wing Luke’s outfit), they capture the look of iconic characters in amazing detail. And now, Sideshow’s done it with a certain blue-and-white astromech droid.

Sideshow’s R2-D2 Deluxe Sixth Scale Figure, now available for pre-order, is a lovingly-made tribute to the overweight glob of grease. Artoo appears fittingly grimy thanks to finely detailed paint apps, and features sequencing lights, a swiveling dome with hinged panels, and accessories from every film of the original trilogy — including, again, awesomely, the serving tray from his stint as Jabba’s waiter. caught up with Matt Bischof, Sideshow project manager, for some select insights into how they made this stunning version of the droid you’re looking for.

The figure sculpt drives the creative process. The first goal is to make a film-accurate collectible; Artoo’s wonderful toys come later. “We started off with a base model design which needed quite a bit of work to get closer to film accuracy,” says Bischof. “Artoo doesn’t change much through the original trilogy, so we wanted to create an Artoo figure whose features encompassed scenes from A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. After getting the outer shell up to speed, we proceeded to add in the features we wanted it to have: the extendable instruments in the head, the panels opening, the tools, bar arm, and tray.”

Astromech lighting is a little harder in this galaxy. Artoo has more than retractable tools and bleeps and bloops in the films. Lights are a key part of his design and character, too, but adapting them to figure-form — without ruining the sculpt — was a challenge. “Lights were a mandatory feature for Artoo — he had to have them,” Bischof says. “We knew we didn’t want an obtrusive light switch on the body, so it was really cool that we were able to get a touch sensor after reviewing a bunch of different ideas. We wanted some type of movement in both of those displays and settled on a light sequence, which I think does a good job of providing movement.”

The accessories tell Artoo’s story. By including gadgets from all the original trilogy films, you get the details of Artoo’s journey that you can’t in a standalone figure. “The goal was to have this Artoo be able to display scenes from all three original trilogy films and to be able to showcase his travels and adventures,” explains Bischof. “Not only do the tools and accessories represent specific scenes from each film, so do the dome features — we included an illuminated holographic light port where Leia’s message was stored, the life form scanner and visual imaging scanner from The Empire Strikes Back, and the lightsaber launcher from Return of the Jedi.”

Research was extensive — and fun. The team worked hard to get every detail just right, using reference provided straight from Lucasfilm. “We repeatedly viewed the original trilogy, reference books, Artoo replica sites, and licensed reference imagery,” Bischof says. “There are a lot of details that you can’t pick up in the films, so we spent a lot of time blowing up images and screenshots to try and match the details as close as we could. We do have access to a lot of great reference imagery, which Lucasfilm has on hand.”

This figure even reproduces movie mistakes. As Artoo was a practical, hand-built prop, there were some oversights during filming. Sideshow has gone as far as to include these in the figure. “Due to inconsistency during filming, Artoo’s horseshoe-shaped shoulder panels are switched in different scenes,” explains Bischof. “We made these same panels removable so that they could be swapped between the two shoulders. I would imagine 98 percent of people wouldn’t notice or even care, but this feature is for those 2 percenters who might appreciate this subtle nod.”

Check out an unboxing gallery of R2-D2 below, featuring Sideshow’s Erik Scoggan:

Dan Brooks is Lucasfilm’s senior content writer, and spends his days writing stuff for and around He loves Star Wars, ELO, and the New York Rangers, Jets, and Yankees. Follow him on Twitter @dan_brooks where he rants about all these things.