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The R2-D2 costume

Jedi-Con 1997 in Munich

Timothy Zahn,
Steve Sansweet,
Rancho Obi-Wan
Harold Weed,
Lorne Peterson,
Anthony Daniels,

A cardboard droid?

An R2-D2 it should be! I had built a small version out of cardboard, but at the con you would find perfect models for which my skills and resources were simply not sufficient. Not to mention the time involved. Somehow I had to find a way to build an R2 the easy way! A white fabric hose found in the basement finally gave me the idea for the costume.

Only six days time

On the basis of numerous R2-D2 models I drew all the patterns with pencil on the fabric until everything was right.Then the strokes were traced with a felt pen. I cut out the blue and silver parts of self-adhesive foil.

To get the costume into its round shape, the fabric was put over a bicycle tire of suitable size. I stuffed one part into the tire as padding and fixed everything with a few quick needle stitches.

Because holders on the shoulders kept falling off, it was also a balancing act.

The fabric body on the bicycle tire

A head is needed

For the head, I decided on a hemisphere made of paper-mache. For this purpose, an appropriately sized balloon was purchased and then pasted in layers and covered with newspaper. The "camera eyes" - cardboard tubes covered with silver foil - served both for orientation and ventilation. The large lens came from a magnifying glass. I simulated the LED fields with hot glue, which I pressed onto a diamond pattern of rubber, leaving a corresponding imprint on the material.

The head was glued onto a second hoop of suitable size so that the dome and hull could form a unit. A few strips of double-sided tape provided hold. Nevertheless, the head could be easily removed again for getting in and out. Unfortunately, the dome ended in an unsightly widening. A mistake that was not corrected due to the lack of time.

View inside the dome

The photo session

In Munich, I had quite a bit of dragging to do on the unwieldy costume. Until shortly before I left by train, I wasn't sure if I would really take it with me. But now that I had already done the work, I wanted to try it out among all the fans. I found the idea of showing up to the photo shoot in costume quite amusing. In fact, even as I joined the long line of people waiting, there were many great reactions. I don't know if I'm the first to build R2 as a costume, but surely one of the first.

Of the star guests, Anthony Daniels in particular was very enthusiastic. I will never forget the look on his face when he saw me for the first time.

Brought to the stage

With Anthony Daniels after the competition

I didn't want to take part in the costume contest at all. So I was sitting in the audience in costume when suddenly Anthony Daniels ran through the rows of the audience looking for me. "Why aren't you on stage?"

There was no turning back now. The situation was on the one hand great - because C-3PO personally took me by the hand and escorted me into the spotlight - and on the other hand terribly embarrassing - because I just couldn't think of more than helplessly running back and forth at that moment.

"You must act like a robot", Anthony said to me afterwards. He said that for him my costume reflected the spirit of Star Wars.

Where did the shirt come from?

But that was not the end of the evening! Again Anthony came. This time he led me to the stage entrance. The presenter announced the award ceremony: "The jury has decided to award an additional special prize". I was presented with a T-shirt from ILM by Lorne Peterson. He promised they all would sign it the next day, because in the rush they had not had time to do so.
I strongly suspect he gave me his own, because he said if it was too big he could get me another one. The next day he offered me the exchange again, but the others had already signed it...