The impending arrival of Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens has brought joy to millions of fans across the world, but some have experienced heartbreaking tragedies in the months leading up to the film’s release. Many are familiar with the story of terminally-ill Daniel Fleetwood, who had his final wish granted and saw The Force Awakens days before he passed. And earlier this month, Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew penned a supportive letter to a young fan that lost his best friend after planning to see Star Wars 7 with him on Christmas.
While both of these stories are extremely sad, there are heartwarming elements to them. Many joined in the #ForceForDaniel social media movement that allowed Fleetwood to see the film early, and Mayhew’s act of kindness was a classy gesture to help someone get through a rough period in life. Now, the origin of Star Wars astromech droid R2-KT, who will appear in Episode VII, is sure to join these ranks.
In 2004, Albin Johnson (founder of the famed 501st Legion Star Wars fan group) received devastating news when his daughter Katie was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor and only had months to live. Johnson wanted an R2 droid to watch over Katie while she slept, and Katie’s older sister Allie suggested that it be painted Katie’s favorite color pink.
Shortly after, the R2 Builders Club started to collect parts to construct the droid, but it was unfortunately determined that Katie would not live to see it finished. While the R2-KT was being built, R2 Builders member Andy Schwartz shipped Johnson a substitute droid that he painted pink. This droid remained at Katie’s side until she died on August 9, 2005.
R2 Builders completed their R2-KT in 2006 and presented it to Johnson. The droid lives on in Katie’s name by traveling to fundraisers, attending Star Wars events like Celebration 2015, and visiting hospitalized children. She has struck an emotional chord with several people associated with the franchise. Hasbro produced a limited edition action figure of R2-KT, and the droid has also appeared on the Clone Wars TV show. Now, she will be immortalized in live-action form when she appears in The Force Awakens. Johnson shared the news in a personal statement (hat tip Geeks Speak):
“Mary Franklin of Lucasfilm asked me to pitch the idea to Kathleen Kennedy (Lucasfilm President), and after hearing the story of our pink ambassador of hope Lucasfilm requested we ship her off to London early last year. Quick repairs were made and off she went for six months,”
Johnson could not reveal when R2-KT will be shown, but he has been assured she has made the final cut. It’s nice to see Lucasfilm honor Katie’s memory this way. Arguably, Star Wars wouldn’t be where it is today without the passion of the fan base, something that’s not lost on the studio. They’ve gone the extra mile to keep the fans involved as they usher in a new era for the galaxy far, far away, and this is one of the most touching examples of Lucasfilm’s commitment to those who made Star Wars a cultural phenomenon.
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens hits theaters on December 18th, 2015, followed by Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on December 16th, 2016, Star Wars: Episode VIII on May 26th, 2017, and the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25th, 2018. Star Wars: Episode IX is expected to reach theaters in 2019, followed by the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.
Source: Geeks Speak