Droids have been a vital part of the Star Wars universe from the very beginning. Whether they came in the form of the lovable bantering duo of protocol droid C-3PO and astromech droid R2-D2, or whether they appeared in smaller roles to aid in the birthing of galactic legends, droids are part of what makes the Star Wars world go round on a daily basis.
Not until The Force Awakens, however, were audiences introduced to a droid whose primary quality appeared to be its undeniable cuteness. (No offense, Artoo.)
BB-8 was a big hit from the moment the BB unit astromech droid was introduced in early promotions for the new trilogy, with fans of all ages fawning over the precious little droid.
By the time the movie came out and audiences saw just how witty and cute the droid companion could be, it suffices to say that there was no point in reevaluating who would win the “best in show” category for the galaxy far, far away.
While we all may love BB-8, there’s a pretty good chance you don’t know everything there is to know about the droid. Here are 15 Things You Didn’t Know About BB-8.
15. BB-8 is basically the Star Wars equivalent of a Swiss army knife
At multiple points over the course of The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, BB-8 surprises viewers by producing piece of technology after piece of technology from compartments within its rounded surface. It appeared like BB-8’s collection of gadgets was endless.
Whether it’s the previously mentioned lighter that the droid flicks out to give Finn a thumb’s up, a series of grappling hook-type devices as the droid desperately clings onto the Millenium Falcon for dear life, or long metallic fingers used to fix ships, there’s no denying that BB-8’s secret stash is quite impressive.
It’s no surprise, therefore, that Neal Scanlan couldn’t help but assess that the little troublemaker is “a Swiss Army Knife that shouldn’t be trusted.”
14. BB-8’s gender is a mystery
Nowadays, gender is more or less understood in certain circles to be a fluid concept, so it would stand to reason that Star Wars, a world so much further progressed than our own, would have similarly flexible understandings of gender.
What you probably wouldn’t expect, though, is that the gender of BB-8 would be a place in which the franchise would show its willingness to go along with the social trend.
At least in this case, it may not be a social message, but rather indecision on the parts of the creators. They have admitted that, initially, BB-8 was conceived of as a girl. At some point, this changed, and BB-8 became a male droid.
13. BB-8 is the most childlike droid
C-3PO and R2-D2 have both been through a whole lot over their years: rebellions, uprisings, returns, betrayals, murders, unfulfilled prophecies, and so much more.
Naturally, they’re both more than a little worldly at this point, aged by their experiences both physically and emotionally, even if they waste no time lapsing into their familiar bantering rapport.
Yet while Threepio and Artoo are, for all intents and purposes, the senior citizens of Star Wars‘ droid world, BB-8 is pretty much the closest thing the saga has to a baby droid.
In addition to BB’s cuteness and squeak-like chirping sounds, one of the men responsible for bringing the droid to life, Neal Scanlan, says that BB-8’s childlike characteristics extend much further: “We always imagined BB-8 as being quite manipulative. I think he knows he’s cute. He knows that he can win people over. And he uses that, like children do, to get his own way.”
12. No, BB-8 wasn’t flipping Finn off in that scene
One of the first moments from The Force Awakens to go viral on social media immediately after its release was a very brief, blink and you miss it comedic relief scene. After BB-8 helps Finn lie his way through a conversation with Rey, Finn gives the little droid a thumb’s up. BB-8, in response, sticks out a freshly lit lighter from a compartment on its front.
Apparently, a large part of the internet believed this to be a sign of BB-8’s displeasure, reading this moment as the astromech droid flipping Finn off rather than returning the thumb’s up gesture.
However, as it turns out, no, internet, BB-8 was merely enthusiastically signing right back to his hesitant new friend in Finn.
According to ILM VFX supervisor Patrick Tubach, “One of the difficult things with animating something like that is you have to be very careful that it doesn’t look like he’s giving you some other sort of gesture! We moved all the pieces around to make sure it was very clearly a thumbs up over any other kind of ‘salute.'”
11. BB-8 is incredibly loyal due to internal programming
When Poe Dameron insists that BB-8 leave and go to safety at the beginning of The Force Awakens, the little droid all but immediately protests. As soon as Rey saves BB-8’s life from Teedo on Jakku, the droid makes clear the fact that it intends to accompany Rey to wherever she is headed.
Later, as soon as BB-8 spots a still alive Poe back at the Resistance base, the droid practically bowls everyone in its way over as it rushes to reunite with its master.
It suffices to say that, in the world of this trilogy, BB-8 is essentially the closest thing we have to a real space puppy. Unrelentingly loyal, protective, and doting toward those the little droid cares about, it turns out that this intense compassion and loyalty is, in fact, a result of a type of an impossibly strong loyalty subprogramming, developed over time as part of the droid’s personality.
10. BB-8’s language is known as 27th generation droidspeak
As hard as droids are to understand if you’re not native in any one of their languages, it turns out that their forms of communication are just as intricately defined as ours, broken up into languages and sublanguages with distinct rules and grammar.
For BB-8, the language of choice just happens to be one known as 27th generation droidspeak, a more advanced form of binary that is made up of shrieks, beeps, and other sound effects arranged in deliberately chosen order.
9. BB-8’s name has some hilariously literal origins
Sometimes, the simplest way can really be the best route to go. Naming characters is hardly ever an easy process, especially in a work that would become globally popular and obsessed over for years and decades to come.
So, in the case of BB-8, rather than labor over what letters to assign the new model of astromech droid, writer and director J. J. Abrams instead opted for a simple naming process: a visual one.
According to Abrams, “I named him BB-8 because it was almost onomatopoeia. It was sort of how he looked to me, with the 8, obviously, and then the 2 B’s.” As BB-8 is, essentially, a small ball on top of a larger one, it doesn’t take a whole lot of work to see how Abrams arrived at that decision.
8. BB-8 was brought to life through puppetry and robotics
With a character who moves as much as BB-8 does (and have you really seen the little thing when it really gets going?), there’s no question that bringing it to life is so much more than just a one man or woman job.
As it turns out, a full staff of puppeteers and robotic engineers were needed to produce the BB-8 we see on screen. At least six or seven puppets were used, along with green screen technology and a host of functional robots.
In fact, for some of the puppets, these were maneuvered by men wearing green screen suits as well, as they would run alongside the droid and push it further across the scene as needed, even if it meant running across sinking sands or rough jungle terrain.
7. BB-8 is a skilled fighter and has saved lives countless times
With BB-8 as loyal as the droid is, and as protective as it has shown itself to be to top it all off, it was really only a matter of time before the droid got itself some real, er, hands on experience in saving the galaxy… even though there are no hands involved.
At the very least, BB-8 has been known to intercede and save Poe Dameron’s life on more than one occasion in the comics that accompany the new trilogy.
The droid proved itself to be an adept piloting aide and surprisingly skilled at demobilizing enemies and threats within fraught confrontations with members of the First Order. BB-8 is a skilled fighter who you’d want on your team.
6. BB-8’s popularity can be adorably explained by science
It’s not always easy to tell what characters will be a success or not. Marketing is a risky business, and it’s pretty easy to find that your test results don’t match what the population at large will feel. At least with human characters, it’s perhaps harder to discern which ones the audience will respond to in any meaningful way.
However, with non-human characters, there’s apparently some scientific reasoning behind which kinds of creatures and droids become cult hits among viewers.
In an article in Forbes, evolutionary biologist JV Chamary reasons that BB-8 became such a hit with viewers and children everywhere because the droid itself resembles a child. The adorably appealing qualities of rounded features, baby bird-like chirping, and infant-esque stumbling movements guaranteed that BB-8 would be a real smash hit.
5. BB-8’s patterns were designed based on soccer balls
BB-8’s design is relatively unique for droids, particularly in the vibrant colors that adorn its body, as well as the notable pattern of circles upon circles that span across its surface.
However, if that patterning and arrangement seems at all familiar to you, there’s a good reason for it. During the development process, the minds at work behind the creation of BB-8 used the distinctive design of soccer balls as inspiration for BB-8’s ultimate appearance.
Explaining the functionality provided by the copying of the vibrant and loud patterns of a soccer ball, Scanlan noted that, “If you had parallel patterns that ran around the circumference, they would be less informative as to the direction BB-8 was traveling than a slightly more chaotic pattern.”
4. BB-8 led to a financial surge in the toy industry
Whenever there’s a breakout star character in a series, it goes without saying that fandom collectors everywhere are going to want to get their hands on as much merchandise as possible, as soon as possible.
When that same character turns out to be irresistibly adorable and perfectly marked for a younger demographic, it’s a no-brainer that children of all ages will ask their parents for the latest toys of that same character.
According to The Denver Post, Star Wars toys in general sold at the end of the 2015 calendar year in conjunction with the release of The Force Awakens led to a real financial surge in the toy industry at that time.
Above all else, however, was the pricey collectible Sphero BB-8 app-controlled toy, which quickly sold out in retailers everywhere. Naturally, it wasn’t long at all before Sphero rolled out new versions of the same toy, with an updated BB-8 now joined by a BB-9E in honor of The Last Jedi.
3. An early name for BB-8 hinted at the droid’s loud personality
Characters’ names are likely to change at any point in the development stag. Within the new trilogy alone, for example, Rey’s name began as Kira, and Finn was originally known as Sam. Change is a natural part of the editing and rewriting and refining process that goes into the making of any creative work.
In the case of BB-8, the cheery little droid originally had a much different name that set a very different, yet still very personality-driven tone: surly.
While BB-8 is definitely opinionated and unafraid of showing it, for the most part, it is a happier, more welcoming droid, unless you present a threat to one of its owners or friends. Surly, however, likely would have been a lot more aggressive, and used its taser a whole lot more.
2. J.J. Abrams is responsible for the original design of BB-8
Inspiration can strike in the most unlikely of places. How many of you can actually claim that you’ve never doodled in the margins of a notebook or on a napkin, just to get some nervous or creative energy out?
J. J. Abrams is apparently not even immune from the doodling phenomenon, as he has long been credited with designing the basic outline of BB-8’s eventual look in the form of a simple sketch.
According to Neal Scanlan, “Much like Picasso and the famous serviette drawing, it was a very simple sketch, beautiful in its simplicity of a ball with this little dome on top.”
As we’ve seen, just a few scratch marks on a piece of paper or a napkin can go a long way. Without them, who knows what BB-8 would have looked like…or whether the most beloved droid would have even existed at all?
1. BB-8 is voiced by some comically familiar faces
Droids aren’t exactly easy to understand in Star Wars. As much of their dialogue consists of an array of beeping, booping, trilling, squeaking, and shrieking, you can try your best to suss out a meaning based on context, but unless you have a protocol droid like C-3PO around, it’s unlikely you’ll have anyone available to act as a mediator for your conversation.
Yet even though these little droids may be so fundamentally unintelligible to human (or humanoid) ears, it turns out the men responsible for bringing BB-8’s voice to life are incredibly familiar within our world.
The wonderfully quirky comedic talents of Bill Hader (Saturday Night Live) and Ben Schwartz (Parks and Recreation) were used in the making of BB-8’s voice, and their recorded dialogue and sound effects were later filtered through programs that would make them sound more droid, less human.
Based on how unrecognizable BB-8’s language is compared to anything human-like, we’d say that was a job well done.
What’s your favorite fact about Star Wars‘ BB-8? Let us know in the comments!
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