SWCE 2016: Droids of The Force Awakens Panel Liveblog

Oliver Steeples, Lee Towersey, Matt Denton, and Josh Lee discuss creating BB-8, R2-D2, and more for the latest Star Wars film!

StarWars.com Team July 15, 20165:30 am

That’s it! Thanks for joining us!

StarWars.com Team July 15, 20165:30 am

A: Lee says it was probably a creature from The Fifth Element. Denton did a lot of the animatronic creatures for The Force Awakens. Towersey and Steeples both built R2-D2 first at home.

StarWars.com Team July 15, 20165:30 am

Q: What were the first droids you ever made?

StarWars.com Team July 15, 20165:30 am

(The red carpet version was clocked at 7 km/hour; trike goes 11 km/hour.)

StarWars.com Team July 15, 20165:29 am

Time for audience questions!

StarWars.com Team July 15, 20165:29 am

Collins: “I hope we’ll see BB-8 again sometime.”

StarWars.com Team July 15, 20165:29 am

They then took BB-8 to the premiere of The Force Awakens. “It was quite a journey,” says Denton.

StarWars.com Team July 15, 20165:29 am

They debuted it at Celebration. “It was one of those moments where you’re heart’s pounding,” Denton says. Thankfully, it worked, and the audience went wild.

StarWars.com Team July 15, 20165:28 am

They built a protoype and got approval and funding to finish their work — that’s the red carpet version!

StarWars.com Team July 15, 20165:28 am

When Harrison Ford injured his ankle, they were given a month off. During that time, Lee figured out how to make completely remote-operated BB-8.

StarWars.com Team July 15, 20165:07 am

Denton brings the trike onstage! He operates it remotely with his right hand.

StarWars.com Team July 15, 20165:06 am

They had two trike versions, left and right, for camera placement.

StarWars.com Team July 15, 20165:06 am

The first set up of the entire production was Rey with BB-8 by her speeder. Trike version was used!

StarWars.com Team July 15, 20165:06 am

They were able to determine weight and power and torc ahead of time.

StarWars.com Team July 15, 20165:06 am

The first thing they did was build it in a physics simulator. “We showed this to Kathleen Kennedy and J.J. Abrams and said, ‘This is what we’re going to build.’ Bless them, they believed us,” Lee says.

StarWars.com Team July 15, 20165:06 am

The trike version was remote controlled. “It had to go everywhere, do everything,” Lee says. He came up with a concept model — grey with 3-wheel drive. Denton came in and helped!

StarWars.com Team July 15, 20165:05 am

“Best shoot I’ve ever been on.” – Denton

StarWars.com Team July 15, 20165:05 am

For the scene when BB-8 falls on John Boyega, they used a special light version. Otherwise, he would’ve been crushed.

StarWars.com Team July 15, 20164:50 am

They used lots of materials that could withstand sand and the sun in Abu Dabi.

StarWars.com Team July 15, 20164:47 am

Showing a “pushing” model — BB-8 with large handles attached, so you could steer him.

StarWars.com Team July 15, 20164:47 am

By having BB-8’s head as a separate piece, he was much easier to emote than Artoo.

StarWars.com Team July 15, 20164:46 am

By experimenting with the puppet, they figured out how he would move and emote.

StarWars.com Team July 15, 20164:45 am

Lee took half a day to work with a basic puppet – he shows it to the crowd, the first time shown publicly!

StarWars.com Team July 15, 20164:43 am

They came up with 4 main versions, but 7 total.

StarWars.com Team July 15, 20164:43 am

They thought about a “number of ways” to bring BB-8 to life. “But actually for filming, you need something bulletproof.”

StarWars.com Team July 15, 20164:42 am

Lee talks about Neal Scanlan, the head of creature effects. “Can you think about how you’d do R2-D2,” Scanlan asked. But then he said, “You’re not going to be working on R2-D2…there’s a new droid.” And he showed him J.J.’s concept sketch (on the back of a post-it!).

StarWars.com Team July 15, 20164:40 am

Now onto BB-8!

StarWars.com Team July 15, 20164:39 am

Detail and weathering was hand-painted onto the droids.

StarWars.com Team July 15, 20164:38 am

A lot of the droids were prebuilt by fans, except the Artoos, which they all built.

StarWars.com Team July 15, 20164:38 am

They created different Artoos. Some with panels that opened, one that wobbled.

StarWars.com Team July 15, 20164:37 am

Now showing shots from behind the scenes — J.J. Abrams inspecting domes, picking ones he liked.

StarWars.com Team July 15, 20164:36 am

Now operating it onstage!

StarWars.com Team July 15, 20164:36 am

They upgraded the mouse droid, made astromechs, and created a new Imperial-style droid.

StarWars.com Team July 15, 20164:35 am

Towersey recounts the story of how at Celebration Europe, he joked to Kathleen Kennedy that he’d like to work on Episode VII. That’s how he and Steeples were hired.

StarWars.com Team July 15, 20164:34 am

Oliver Steeples, Lee Towersey, Matt Denton, and Josh Lee take the stage!

StarWars.com Team July 15, 20164:33 am

Hi, everyone! Welcome to the panel! David Collins takes the stage!

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