When I was a kid around 5, before I ever had any Star Wars droids, my parents bought me a Lost in Space robot by Remco. I was too small to realize the monetary value of that robot, but I do recall playing with it a lot. I enjoyed the television show, and the B9 robot fascinated me. That toy, to my recollection, was my first toy robot. What is it about technology, automation, robots, cool cars, and gadgets that grabs us? Maybe it’s the hope that techno-advancements will allow us to live a more efficient life…or perhaps it’s just ‘cuz its cool.
I now have an R2D2. I bought this innovative voice-command robot years ago from The Sharper Image. The expensive $500+ toy is an excellent idea for a patient person, which I am famously not. R2D2 doesn’t always listen to his 40 potential commands. If I wanted something around me that doesn’t listen to me, I have my 7 kids, four grandchildren, and my beautiful, strong-willed wife around for that.
My initial excitement quickly turned into frustrated repetitive commands. Yet, with all that, I fell in love with the scrappy little thing. I keep him around for decoration and as a conversation piece. Every now and then I turn him on and run through a series of commands until he gets stubborn. Then I shut him down for several months, repeating the process based on my or others’ mood and curiosity. Despite its quirks, I’m partial to the darn thing and will keep it for as long as possible.
In 2015 when The Force Awakens was released, I went out of my way to purchase a BB-8. I love the little guy — and I do mean little. My daughter loves him too. BB-8 sits on a cool charging base and reacts to Star Wars movies when you open the app on the phone. Once off the station, he is somewhat difficult to navigate, and by the time I do figure it out, my ADHD kicks in and I’m ready to play with something else. One of my gripes is that I wish he was larger and came with a separate remote.
The app is incredible, but the controls are not super intuitive for the casual collector like me. Experts should have no problems operating BB-8. Running droids by phone is cool, but I like having my phone battery available for things like texting, social media, and the occasional phone call.
The toy is durable, though often the plastic sounds like glass while it’s rolling about, and on many occasions, it felt like it would break. The worst that has happened is the head pops off from time to time, which is an easy fix. I love BB-8, but it’s not something I would use every day. He is a cool interactive decoration that sits on a really nice looking base. Presently the battery will not hold a charge, and I am not willing to cut him open with a small circular saw. “C’est la Vie” — permanent decoration it is.
Galaxy’s Edge: Droid Depot
My family and I recently went to Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge in Disneyland and loved it. I was determined to buy a couple of Lightsabers, a Rebel pilot’s helmet (which I forgot to get) and a droid for my daughter in the Droid Depot at the Black Spire Outpost. I will discuss building my own Lightsaber at Savi’s Workshop on another blog.
Building a droid for my daughter was a compromise. I purchased a $20 Rey inspired plastic articulating Lightsaber from Wal-Mart so that Mommy and Daddy could build $200 Lightsabers at Disneyland. Besides, after spending that many “credits,” the only responsible thing to do as a parent is to allow my six-year-old to build her first remote-controlled droid. A droid that she will hopefully leave behind when she goes to college so that I may add it to my collection (cue the maniacal laughter while rubbing hands together).
The building experience was a little chaotic, but help arrived whenever we needed it at just the right times. I thought it was pretty cool too pick parts from a conveyor belt, assemble a droid via instructions on a table and activate the droid with some fanfare. There are many accessories and options, and it can be overwhelming — mentally, emotionally, and financially. But it was worth it because the activation process was awe-inspiring for my daughter. You can’t argue with the coolness factor of being able to build and name your own R- or BB- unit. My daughter named hers BB-Flower.
The cast members claim that the robots will start talking when they get around one another, but that only happens in the park. Also, depending on the allegiance of the droid, it will respond to different areas of Galaxies Edge. Example: a Rebel Robot will be nervous in a First Order area and vice versa. I like the droids. For $100 you get a droid and a really nice remote with big buttons and no ambiguity. It’s not as big as my R2D2, and the plastic doesn’t feel durable, but it has survived my daughter playing with it thus far, and that’s all that matters.
The robots are approximately 16″ to 18″ tall and nice to look at. You cannot operate the droid throughout the park so I will suggest getting a $40, err, 40-credit backpack to carry the unit around. The bag allows for the droid’s dome to be exposed so it can respond to the electronic cues within the park. Disney Magic.
Disney licensing finally got it right. One of the coolest things about the droid is that you can purchase personality chips for $15. The droids are an excellent combination of old and new technology, and they operate easily. By mixing the old with the new, Disney has continued to amaze fans. Hey, if it ain’t broke, why fix it?
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