A while back, Leanne and I saw a droid riding by our table at a convention. Following along behind it, with a big smile on his face, was a man holding a remote control. Children and adults were giggling. Some children were running up to this replica R2D2 and excitedly pulling faces or trying to talk to him, others were hiding shyly behind their parents’ legs and watching in fascination. If Leanne and I could feel like we were looking at something that had glided right off the movie screen, then how magical was this for the little ones?
Jason Pangborn is the man behind our first closeup R2D2 experience. He’s one of many R2 Builders around the world who have devoted hundreds, maybe thousands, of hours into creating droids from Star Wars and transporting and sharing them with others at charity events and pop culture conventions. Through Jason, we’ve got to know Artoo both inside and out. This is as serious a hobby as they come. As Jason has been one of our supporters over the years, we not only wanted to give him an appreciative nod in the strip, but share the following interview with our readers. I hope you enjoy!
Blue Milk Special: What was your first Star Wars memory?
Jason Pangborn: Seeing ESB at a drive-in theater with my parents when I was 5 yrs old.
BMS: When did you realize Star Wars was a big part of your life?
JP: SW has always been my favorite movie. Growing up in the 80’s I had all of the toys, but got rid of them as I “out grew” them. For about 10 years or so, I didn’t think about Star Wars too often. Then, In 1995 when the POTF action figures came out, I started collecting them. Doing that renewed my interest in the “vintage” SW action figures which I started collecting as well. From that point on SW has been with me all of the time.
BMS: What is the R2 Builders club?
JP: The R2 Builders club is an international, internet based group of fans who build their own replica R2-D2’s. We have plans available for reference, we share ideas and methods for droid building and we collaborate to make parts available within the club.
BMS: What should potential R2 builders know before taking the plunge?
JP: Do as much research as possible before deciding how to proceed. Most club built droids look similar, but they are all built differently. Material choice, drive systems, electronics are all different. Budget and skill level are important factors here.
Parts can be made from aluminum, wood, styrene, resin castings, or 3D printed parts. All will require different tools, skill sets, and budgets.
BMS: Did you plan to make just an Artoo prop, or fully working remote control version from the beginning?
JP: The intention was always to make mine fully functioning. What changed was my choice of build material. I had originally planned to use wood for the frame and legs, with resin details, but ended up doing all aluminum instead.
BMS: We’ve met your family at some of the shows you do. What do they think of your obsession?
JP: My wife is usually supportive. Sometimes she can get tired of talking about R2 “stuff” And there are times when she would rather I didn’t do as many events as I do. But she also knows that this is my way of relieving stress and that I need it.
My kids love having an R2 in the family. It’s made my son a bit of a celebrity in his school. Some of the kids, and even some of the teachers, call him “R2”.
Part two of this interview to follow on Friday.