Blogs, Informational

Do you want to build a Droid?

During our visit to Batuu in January 2020, @disneypicaday surprised me with a special anniversary present – a visit to Droid Depot in the Black Spire Outpost. He had made a reservation in advance, but one very cold evening we were passing by the Depot and it wasn’t very busy so he stopped and asked if we could change our reservation. We were able to walk right in and get in line!

I was not expecting to take part in the experience – so I had not done any research at all – I was walking in with no expectations and no clue to what was about to happen. As we were waiting in line, I was thinking about what type of droid I would be creating. My initial idea was a droid like Chopper from Star Wars Rebels. We already have a BB-8 remote control droid and many versions of R2-D2 (although none that move), and Rebels is one of our favorite shows. Talking with the citizen of Batuu at the register, I was told that at this time there are only two options – a BB-series droid or an R2-series droid. Since we have a BB-8, I decided that I wanted to create an R2 series droid – but not make it exactly like R2-D2.

The Droid Depot is an eclectic building with a lot going on in a very small space. There is not a lot of room to move around and all of the noise echoes pretty well around you making it a little difficult to hear. The design matches the esthetic of Batuu – an industrial look with a lot of distressed accents. There are many droids and mechanical parts all around the room – on shelves, moving around the ceiling – every inch of the room is being used. The lines for each of the stations weave all around the space.

The first station is the register, where you decide which series of droid you will be building, pay, and receive initial instructions. The cost to build an astromech droid is (or at least was in January 2020) $99.99 plus tax. The price includes the droid, a cardboard carrying case, and remote control. The cast member gave me a basket with a copy of the blueprints for building. He directed me to the depot’s conveyor belt to begin choosing my parts.

The R2 series required four components. There was not a defined line to the conveyor belt, the second station, so you just make your way to any spot where there is room – sort of like picking up your luggage after a flight! There was another cast member standing near the conveyor belt to help with my questions. Random parts were coming by and the blueprints showed me what I needed – I wasn’t sure what all of my color options were – so I was afraid I would miss something I liked better or a matching piece. The cast member reviewed the blueprint with me and told me my color options. He explained that a lot of people like to mix and match their parts in different colors but that many people chose to go with one – either would be a great decision.

I decided to go with my favorite color – purple – and created my R2 unit as a, not so unique, tribute to R2-D2. I picked up the purple dome – but there was not an option for any other parts to be purple. I decided to go with basic white for the two side legs, body, and center leg. This station only took a couple of minutes, it actually felt a little too quick. After all four of the components had been collected, the next station is where the assembly takes place. This was the longest line and it moved very slowly.

Although, time seemed to move a little faster for us because we struck up a conversation with a couple from, I believe, Michigan who was trying to take a picture of one of the cast members at the assembly station – their daughter who was starting her first week in the college program. They could not be more excited – or nervous – about bringing her to Florida to participate in a program she had always wanted to be a part of and was so happy to begin. When it was our turn – their daughter was the first cast member helping me assemble our new R2 unit.

She reviewed the directions for assembly with us that were detailed on the station. There are several people building at a time with just a couple of cast members working at the station, so they are running around behind the station pretty busy.

We followed the steps outlined on the station: Initializing, Assigning, Formatting, Preparing, Priming. I was a little intimidated by the tools at first, but it was much easier than I expected and if I had any questions a cast member helped me when I could get their attention.

After R2-66 (my choice of name for the new droid) was activated, we paired it with the remote control and a cast member showed me how to help him come alive! I was given the cardboard carrying case and sent on my way.

There are a lot of accessories available for purchase in the Droid Depot. (One of which was a really cool sign I wish we had added to our collection.) But I only purchased one additional item – the accessory panels. Available in all of the matching colors, these panels can replace certain pieces on the white components so that the body and legs can match the color of the dome. These purple panels really brought R2-66 together visually – and makes him stand out so much more than having the purple dome and all white body. I believe they cost around $12.00 and I was very glad I added them to my R2 unit. I decided against getting a personality chip on this trip – but I have it added to my list as a possible souvenir for a future visit.

The most fun I have had with R2-66 has been with the app that I downloaded on my iPhone. The Droid Depot app is available from the App Store at no cost and will connect to your astromech droid. There are four activities that you can enjoy with the app. First, Piloting –  it can serve as the basic remote control for your droid. It serves the same function as the remote that comes with purchase – the buttons are exactly the same. Another option is Droid Builder, a basic choose and build activity where you can create a very basic collection of images of droids you can put together in the app.

My favorite two functions are Maneuvering and Strategy. In Maneuvering, you have three choices of songs and can program your astromech droid to dance along with the music. It is just fun to watch!

Through the Strategy option, you can play tic-tac-toe with your droid. There is an easy selection or hard selection, and the noises my R2 unit would make when he loses (and when he wins, if I let him) are really cute. I am looking forward to my granddaughters’ next visit – they love to interact with R2-66 and they are going to have a lot of fun with the app!

All in all, it was a really fun experience. It did not take nearly as long to build a droid as I expected (and it would have been even quicker if that last line wasn’t so slow) so it did feel slightly too rushed for me. The crowd and noise made it feel a little more frenetic than I would have liked. But I am so glad I had the opportunity to experience it. My R2 unit is a lot of fun and it was so awesome to be able to build one personally. It makes him more special that the BB-8 droid we purchased. (And R2-66 is larger and feels sturdier than our BB-8.) If you or someone in your family loves Star Wars, Droid Depot is an experience you do not want to miss. (Trust me, I am going to keep an eye out for when they have an option to build an astromech like Chopper…I will be back!!)

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