R2-D2 (called "R2" for short) is a robot character in the Star Wars universe. An astromech droid (referred to in the novel as a 'thermocapsulary dehousing assister'), R2-D2 is a major character in all six Star Wars films. Along with his protocol droid companion C-3PO, he joins or supports Anakin Skywalker, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Obi-Wan Kenobi in various points in the saga. Along with Anakin Skywalker (Darth Vader), Obi-Wan Kenobi, and C-3PO, he is one of only four characters to appear in all six Star Wars films.
R2-D2 was designed by Ralph McQuarrie and John Stears, and others on the production team. The original 1976 models were built by the small English company Peteric Engineering with some detail work by C&L Developments. R2-D2 was frequently played by Kenny Baker, but many scenes made use of radio controlled and, in the case of the prequels, CGI versions of the character. Original props of R2-D2 and C-3PO were later used as audio-animatronics in the queue area of Disneyland's Star Tours: The Adventures Continue attraction.
George Lucas's creation of R2-D2 was influenced by Akira Kurosawa's 1958 feature film The Hidden Fortress (USA release 1962), particularly Tahei and Matakishi, the two comic relief characters that serve as sidekicks to General Makabe. Lucas also drew inspiration from the robots Huey, Dewey, and Louis from Douglas Trumbull's 1972 film Silent Running.
The name is said to derive from when Lucas was making one of his earlier films, American Graffiti. Sound editor Walter Murch states that he is responsible for the utterance which sparked the name for the droid. Murch asked for Reel 2, Dialog Track 2, in the abbreviated form "R-2-D-2". Lucas, who was in the room and had dozed off while working on the script for Star Wars, momentarily woke when he heard the request and, after asking for clarification, stated that it was a "great name" before falling immediately back to sleep.
R2-D2 stands for Second Generation Robotic Droid Series-2, according to a Star Wars encyclopedia published after the release of the film Star Wars: A New Hope.
In Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, both R2-D2 and C-3PO are introduced on board the Tantive IV, along with Princess Leia of Alderaan, when they are fired upon by an Imperial Star Destroyer. Leia inserts in R2-D2 an information disc containing the plans for the Death Star battle station, along with encoding a distress message on the droid's holographic projector. The droids then escape in a pod that crashes on Tatooine near Kenobi's desert abode.
R2-D2 and C-3PO are then abducted by Jawas and bought by Owen Lars, step-uncle of Luke Skywalker. While Luke cleans the sand out of R2-D2's gears, he discovers a fragment of Leia's message, and removes the droid's restraining bolt to see more; once free of the bolt, R2 claims to have no knowledge of the message. That night, R2 leaves the farm to seek out Obi-Wan Kenobi. Soon, by way of fate, Luke is forced to leave Tatooine with Obi-Wan, Han Solo, and Chewbacca, and they attempt to deliver R2-D2 to the Rebel Alliance. Along the way, they are pulled in by the Death Star's tractor beam, but eventually rescue Princess Leia and escape. R2-D2 delivers the plans to the Rebel Alliance, and becomes Luke's astromech droid during the attack on the station. R2 is severely damaged during the battle, but is restored before the ceremony at the end of the film.
In Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, R2-D2 accompanies Luke to Dagobah, and later to Cloud City, where he helps to rescue and repair a heavily damaged C-3PO and to override city security computers. He also manages to fix the Millennium Falcon's hyperdrive, resulting in a last-minute escape from Imperial forces.
In Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, R2-D2 plays a critical role in the rescue of Han, Luke and Leia from Jabba the Hutt, and later joins the Rebel strike team on Endor. He is badly damaged during the fight between the Imperial troops and the Rebels, but is repaired in time for the celebration marking the second Death Star's destruction.
R2-D2 is male, as far as by state of androids. In A New Hope, Obi-Wan Kenobi states in gender specific, "Plug-in, he should be able to interpret the entire Imperial network."
In Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, set 32 years before A New Hope, R2-D2 is portrayed as belonging to the Naboo defense forces and is one of four astromech droids deployed for repair duty on Queen Padmé Amidala's starship as it attempts to get past the Trade Federation blockade. The sole survivor of the four, R2-D2 becomes part of Qui-Gon Jinn's party on Tatooine and meets C-3PO and Anakin Skywalker. Later still, he serves as the astromech droid for Anakin's starfighter during the Battle of Naboo.
In Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, set 10 years later, R2-D2 still serves Anakin and Obi-Wan. He accompanies Anakin and Padmé to Naboo, and then to Tatooine when Anakin tries to rescue his mother Shmi. Here, he is reunited with C-3PO, and the two get into various misadventures on Geonosis. He and C-3PO are later witnesses to Anakin and Padmé's secret wedding.
In Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, R2-D2 helps Anakin and Obi-Wan in their mission to rescue Chancellor Palpatine from Count Dooku's capital ship, the Invisible Hand. He is attacked by battle droids, but defeats them through ingenious tactics. After the Galactic Empire is established at the end of the film, C-3PO's memory is erased to keep the knowledge of the locations of Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia a secret from their father, who has fallen to the dark side and become Darth Vader. However, R2-D2's memory is not wiped. (As a result, R2-D2 is the only surviving character at the end of Return of the Jedi who knows the entire story of the Skywalker family). Both R2-D2 and C-3PO end up in the possession of Captain Raymus Antilles on board the Corellian corvette Tantive IV.
- R2-D2 and C-3PO had their own animated series, Star Wars: Droids, set before they came into Luke Skywalker's possession.
- In the various Star Wars novels and comics, the droid duo have played a small but significant role. In the Star Wars Expanded Universe novel The Swarm War, R2-D2 inadvertently helps Luke and Leia come to grips with their heritage when an electronic glitch unearths long-concealed images of Anakin relating his fear of losing Padmé, and of Padmé's death.
- In issue #12 of Star Wars: Legacy, R2-D2 is revealed to have survived the resulting 88 years after his last appearance and has been upgraded to the latest technology. In this series, he now serves another member of the Skywalker family — reluctant Jedi Cade Skywalker.
- R2-D2 appears in the 2008 animated film Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and the spin-off series of the same name, which provide a canonical bridge between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.
There were a total of 15 R2-D2s on the set of Attack of the Clones. Eight were radio-controlled; two were worn by Baker; the remainder were stunt models that could be moved by puppet strings or towed by wires. The robotic R2s were prone to failure, particularly while shooting the Tatooine scenes in Tunisia.
The sound effects for R2-D2's "voice" were created by sound designer Ben Burtt, using an ARP 2600 analog synthesizer, as well as his own vocalizations processed through other effects.
Although Kenny Baker is credited, Anthony Daniels (who portrays C-3PO), has stated that Baker did not film any scenes in Revenge of the Sith. Baker himself has said he probably only appears in footage caught while shooting the previous two movies.
R2-D2 was inducted into the Robot Hall of Fame in 2003.
Ewan McGregor, who portrayed Obi-Wan Kenobi in the prequel trilogy, said in an interview, "As soon as R2-D2 comes on the set, everyone goes a bit silly." He recalled how his then four-year-old daughter announced she was in love with R2-D2, and then confessed his own affections for the droid: "...there is something about him that makes you feel great affection for him. I think it is a combination of his shape, his high-pitched voice. He's just incredibly appealing. In fact, I believe he is George [Lucas]'s favorite actor." Lucas confirms this in the audio commentary of the Episode III DVD. In this discussion on the audio commentary, George Lucas also notes that it is intentional that R2-D2 saves the day at least once in every film.
- R2-D2 and C-3PO guest starred in a series of segments of episode 1364 and 1396 on the children's television series Sesame Street, aired in 1978, where he falls in love with a fire hydrant. In this appearance, the three-legged remote controlled R2-D2 was used.
- R2-D2 and C-3PO were featured as presenters at the 50th Academy Awards.
- R2-D2 and C-3PO have appeared in numerous Star Wars-based commercials, television specials, and productions.
- Wallace, Daniel. (2002). Star Wars: The Essential Guide to Characters. Del Rey. p. 138. ISBN 0-345-44900-2. Note: Canon sources are mixed as to whether R2-D2 has a gender, but Wallace (an official source) indicates that the droid has masculine programming.
- Film Freak Central Interviews Editor Walter Murch (page 4)
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