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!!)


Changes for my blog, Twitter, and Instagram Feeds!

Something awesome is occurring.  I have just hired an editor to help me do a better job with my scheduled tweets not having so many typos. This person, like myself, is a professional writer for non-Disney outlets (she has a doctorate in education), and is an excellent editor. (I am actually a pretty good editor when it is not my own writing. I find typos everywhere in news, advertisements, tweets, etc… but editing myself has always been a challenge.)

Luckily for me, she comes at a very reasonable price. I just have to take her along with me to the Disney parks when I go, and vice versa! Luckily for me, she is also my wife, and unless she is stuck working on some project when I have a conference in the Florida region, is always there with me on my trips to Walt Disney World, and in our upcoming January trip to Disneyland for our 30th anniversary.

Nothing big will change, but there is going to be more blog content. I still will try to tweet a photograph or more every day at 3:00 PM Eastern Time, and the pictures will still be shots with very few people in them. If we share the rare picture of ourselves, like normal, they will not likely be our featured picture of the day. I will still be the primary tweeter, and she will man the Instagram feed, where she will repost the pictures and sometimes expand a bit. It is important to me that both locations have pictures that you can see directly in the feed without clicking a link. I enjoy Twitter for the stream of quick communication, not to click back and forth just to see a picture (a blog or youtube video that takes more than a second is not bad at all!)

Her name is Val, but her nickname in our family is Pal Val. Why Pal Val? Because she reminds us of the old Pal Mickey doll. If you accidentally squeeze her hand or bump into her tummy, you will get 20 minutes of backstory about the parks, life, or some topic you don’t remember asking her about (We do mostly enjoy it!)

Pal Val

She is a huge fan of a certain ride in Walt Disney World. I would tell you what it is, but starting tomorrow she will write a blog series counting down the top 20 things she is most excited about on our next trip (with perhaps a wee bit of snarky commentary added by me!)


Embracing (mainly) the Happiness of Disney

This is my last, “why am I doing this” post. No one has yet read the previous blogs as I am writing this one, and maybe they never will. I am a writer, and it is fun to do some writing just to try out a new medium, writing about something that I enjoy, not as a creator of something, but just an admirer.

The last thing I want to highlight about why I am doing this, is that I want to curate a feed of content that is mainly happy stuff. I don’t want to follow people who constantly show the bad sides of things, or talk about how much better the

So I clearly don’t work for Disney, other than working to make money to go to their parks and hotels. There are plenty of negatives that can be shared, as the parks are not perfect, to say the least. They get rid of rides that I love. They get rid of food I love (Cupcake in a Cup, which my gluten free spouse would eat 100 of and gladly pay the price). Sometimes cast members are jerks. Sometimes it rains, sometimes they cancel your favorite parade because of it when you are there just one night having spent a fortune.

But generally speaking, there is so much good stuff to say, that that is all I want to talk about. Not corporate shill level happiness, to be sure (unless I start to draw a paycheck from Disney to write about the parks, in which case I would turn it up to 11…while doing more complaining to Disney about their products, just like I do with another company whose products that I write about in my other side work.) And I occasionally will reply about things that I don’t love. But like I said before, I just want to cultivate a group of Disney friends and enjoy all that there is to have fun with in the parks.


I disagree with you, but let’s be Disney friends anyhow

I have feelings and beliefs on lots of stuff. You do too. We may agree on some stuff, and disagree on other stuff. If we discussed _____________ you might feel like punching me. I may feel the same about you (I wouldn’t, as that isn’t the right way to deal with an argument.) But if we can agree on one thing, that Walt Disney had a vision for a beautiful park that you could hang out in all day, get a little dizzy, and eat some ridiculous food.

So just like my post a few days ago on why I may not follow you, this policy of mine is just the opposite. I will talk Disney with you regardless, and will not follow you unless Disney is primarily what you talk about.

Note too that my retweeting or replying or discussing Disney with you is not an endorsement of ANY other beliefs or actions you may have done or will do. This means conservative, liberal, or libertarian opinions, crimes, or even if you preferred Captain EO over the Animated Film Festival, or even if you are for getting rid of all of the rib offerings at the Animal Kingdom. I really love the ribs in Africa. Really.




No news here, just memories!

I don’t live in the Orlando area, and I am not in the news media, so I am never going to scoop anyone when it comes to news. I only truly plan to retweet news when it has an interesting photograph of a part of Disney World.

This does not mean that I don’t care about the upcoming stuff. Today’s Throwback Thursday post was a picture I took a “few” years ago when I was still salivating at the new roller coaster coming to this interesting theme park called Animal Kingdom. Little did I know just how great that coaster would be (and that it would be that rare Disney ride that you can hit 50 times in a day sometimes).

When I am (hopefully) in Orlando this year in early May, I will take more pictures of the coming stuff around the parks, and in July I will be there with our larger family to see Toy Story Land.