What’s not to love about BB-8? This little droid has taken the Star Wars fandom by storm, and has also had a huge impact on mainstream audiences. I’d like to take a moment to dig deep into the internet, to old rumors, and the latest spoilers to present 8 “tricks” that this new little droid has up his, ahem, ports.
First things first, BB-8 is a male. There are a lot of instances of people referring to him as a “he”. For example, there is a recent interview with JJ Abrams where he refers to BB-8 multiple times as a “he”. There is a recent post by Making Star Wars, that is supported by others, suggesting that BB-8 is in fact male. The report initially said female, but the update at the top says that there is some evidence that rules out him being female. So hereafter, I’ll use male pronouns to refer to BB-8.
Although we have known about this droid for a while, the full details are still being fleshed out. BB-8 begins this movie as Poe Dameron’s astromech droid. We see him in the same spot that R2 is known to sit, behind the cockpit in Poe’s X-wing.
After Poe lands, he goes and talks to the Vicar, and is able to get the Luke’s saber, the MacGuffin of the movie, from him. At this point, Poe sees the First Order troopers coming in and landing. The First Order comes to wipe out a village that they believe harbors the saber. Poe tells BB-8 to run away with the saber, while he is taken captive (mirroring Leia in ANH, perhaps?). Of course at this point, Poe is taken back to the First Order ship where he meets Finn. At some point, BB-8 is captured by Teedo, and is then found by Rey. Rey then seems to rescue BB-8, thinking that she could make some money off of the droid. Actually, this particular point I’m not sure about. She could have genuinely been trying to help the little guy and save him from captivity.
We all know that R2D2 has a ton of gadgets. So what kind of equipment does BB-8 have? Here is our list of the top 8 features of BB-8:
1. A compartment for storing a lightsaber. BB-8 shares this functionality with R2D2. We know this because he carries Luke’s saber for half the movie. Poe Dameron gives him the saber and tells him to run away with it.
2. A buzzsaw (see toy photo below). One possibility is BB-8 will use this buzzsaw to try to get out of the net he is trapped in by Teedo (photo above). This could be reminiscent of R2 using his buzzsaw to escape from the Ewok trap in RotJ. This scene is pure speculation on my part, but it seems all the pieces are there for this to happen. From the photo above, it is clear that Rey let’s him out before BB-8 can seal the deal and cut all the way through.
By the way, the taser thing was featured on a new promotional campaign/special effects app from Bad Robot! Twitter user @GonzagoRaSa‘s tweet made me aware of this:
— Gonzalo Ramírez S (@GonzaloRaSa) November 5, 2015
OK, so technically toys and apps aren’t “canon”, but I think it’s a strong indication that we’ll see something like this in the movies.
4. Escape mode: BB-8 has the ability to bring his head inside the ball for “escape mode”. We know this from a Walmart exclusive T-shirt. Again, this could come in handy to escape from the incoming stormtroopers in the Jakku village, or from the thugs in Cratertown. There are other functionalities labeled on this shirt, but it’s hard to read:
5. Possibly pufferfish spikes. There was an old Making Star Wars rumor about a year ago about BB-8 shooting out spikes in all directions like a pufferfish, then using these spikes to take out a Stormtrooper that tried to pick him up. That would indeed be cool to see, and presumably there would be some CGI involved in that shot.
6. A full articulated hand: There is an old report (again from MSW) that suggest that he has a foldable hand with articulated fingers. What will he use this hand for? One can only imagine. Maybe to pick something up, or to pull some lever on the Falcon. Anybody’s guess is good at this point, I guess.
7. A “scomp link” or data arm to interface a dataports on a computer terminal. This is probably similar to R2D2’s scomp link. At least, there is a recent Verizon commercial where BB-8 has this functionality. Somehow, I think if they built this functionality into the puppet for a commercial, I think this means that we’ll see it at some point in the movies as well:
8. Grappling Hooks! OK so this one is possibly the shakiest one on this list, but worth mentioning. There is another functionality seen in the #ActionMovieFX app, and in this video for example, BB-8 shoots out two grappling hooks, or some sort of cable that enables him to pull himself up and through a trap door:
— Tim Sarquis (@PromoTim) November 12, 2015
Will we see this in the movie? This one isn’t as clear as the taser thing because it isn’t in the toys, but it would certainly be a cool thing to see! Let’s face it, if he does half of the things on this list, he will be nothing short of one badass little robot.
So the cool thing is BB-8 is practical. You probably already know that (although there was a time not too long ago when this was debated), but did you know there are in fact multiple puppets used for different scenes? The droid that came out and wheeled around during SDCC was actually built after filming. For example, in this scene from the first trailer, we can see that the head is lifted up higher, suggesting it is a different type of droid for going those kinds of speeds. Actually, this puppet could be based on a model more similar to this early drawing by Jason Ward here, so that it would be stable for fast speeds.
This version could be the “trike” mentioned in StarWars.com, in a list of versions of the droid:
There was the “wiggler,” which was static, but could twist and turn on the spot and was used for close-ups. There were two trike versions, which had stabilizer wheels, allowing them to be driven by remote control without a puppeteer in the shot. There was a version that could be picked up by actors and controlled via remote for specific reactions and movements. There was the “bowling ball” version, which could literally be thrown into a shot and never fall down (like a Weeble toy). Finally, there was the rod-puppet version, which was operated by Chapman and Herring — one controlling the head, adding nuance and attitude, and the other the body — who would then be digitally erased.
We’re now less than a month until The Force Awakens! Less than a month until we officially see this little guy in action. Speculation and anticipation is half the fun!