MegaCon: Where Even the Droids Cosplay

I'm a big Chopper fan (Photo by Sean Owens)
I’m a big Chopper fan (Photo by Sean Owens)

You know it’s a good con when even the droids go all out with their cosplay…

This past weekend I spent quite a bit of time walking the show floor of MegaCon 2016 in the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. My favorite part of the whole convention had to be the roving R2D2 units, and of course they were in costume just like most everyone else. What I didn’t know at the time was that these amazing R2 units were home-built by a group called the R2 Builders Club.

Come on, the droids want to run and play! (MegaCon 2016 photo by Skip Owens)
Come on, the droids want to run and play! (MegaCon 2016 photo by Skip Owens)

The R2 Builders Club brought quite a few droids with them as you can see from the picture above (insert your own clever “these are not the droids you’re looking for” joke here). Not only did the group bring a whole battalion of their home-built droids for display, but they also operated quite a few of them around the show floor. The R2 units would playfully follow people around and politely stop and pose for a photo. I even saw one stop for a photo with Vader…of all people (my daughter got a photo right after Vader got his).

Look out R2, Vader is behind you! (MegaCon 2016 photo by Skip Owens)
Look out R2, Vader is behind you! (MegaCon 2016 photo by Skip Owens)

So who are the people who make up the R2 Builders Club? To answer this and several other questions I was able to get in contact with Doug Dixon (thanks to GeekMom Dakster Sullivan); Doug has been with the R2 Builders Club since 1999:

Skip: How did you get started with the R2 Builders Club?

Doug: I started in the R2 Builders club in 1999. I’ve been a Star Wars fan since 1977 and got interested in building costumes and props around 1998. I spent a couple of years just reading and researching and planning my build. I started building my R2 around 2003/2004 after I heard how much fun the other members had at Star Wars Celebration 2 in 2002. I wanted to have him done by Star Wars Celebration 3. I finished him at 2:30am on the day we were to leave for Indianapolis for Celebration 3.

Skip: What other types of activities or events does your group participate in?

Doug: The R2 Builders do all kinds of events. Mostly, we take our droids to 501st or Rebel Legion events, such as hospital visits, library events, parades, and other public or charity events. The club is a builder’s club, so we don’t directly take appearance requests. A lot of our members belong to the other costuming clubs, so that’s how we hear about events.

Skip: I just read an article that talked about a droid your club built (the pink R2-KT unit) and that droid got a small part in Star Wars TFA. R2-KT had a very special owner, can you tell us a little about R2-KT? Is that the only droid the R2 Builders Club have built that made an appearance in a Star Wars movie? Any other interesting Star Wars universe contributions?

Doug: All the info you could want can be found at www.R2KT.com. I did a little upgrade work on her in the past. She was at DragonCon a few years ago and I and another R2 Builder put in some new parts and got her running well. I also drove her in the Star Wars Weekends parade at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in 2003.

Almost all of the droids that you see on TV at various events are droids owned by members of the R2 Builders. The R2-D2 and C-3PO that appeared at the Oscars this year were owned/performed by members of the club. We do movie premieres, commercials, talk show appearances, etc.

R2-KT did appear in a few shots in TFA, but all of the other droids in the film, except for BB-8, were built by a couple of club members in the UK. They were hired by Lucasfilm to build the droids based on their work with their own droids.

Skip: If any of our readers are interested in getting involved with your group what is the best way for them to get started and get in contact with the R2 Builders Club?

There is no requirement to join the R2 Builders Club, other than an interest in building your own droid. The club forum is at www.astromech.net. Anyone can join and get all the information they need to build their own droid. There are a lot of very helpful members that will answer any questions you might have on droid building, materials, electronics, programming, etc.

And finally I will leave you with a few of my favorite R2 units from MegaCon 2016…

That's one sharp looking Boba Fett R2! (MegaCon 2016 photo by Skip Owens)
That’s one sharp-looking Boba Fett R2! (MegaCon 2016 photo by Skip Owens)
Steam Punk R2!!! (MegaCon 2016 photo by Erica Owens)
Steam Punk R2!!! (MegaCon 2016 photo by Erica Owens)

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