Hasbro's Star Wars action figure line has a long history of including "bonus" pack-ins with each figure: Freeze Frames, 3-D dioramas, Commtech Chips, Force Files, display stands, mini-hologram figures, collector coins, weapons lockers, and most recently...battle cards and battle dice.
But the greatest pack-in ever was the 2008's Droid Factory "Build-A-Droid" concept which was part of 2008's The Legacy Collection (in 2009, "The" was dropped from the name). Collectors could essentially get an extra droid figure if they collected all the parts in a wave. Although this was a challenge for carded completists (since the pack-in changed over time in subsequent releases), a total of 21 different droids (if you count the 2 Walmart-exclusive sets and both versions of U-3PO) could be assembled that might never have been made available in another format.
Since then, the basic bodies have been reused a few times for repaints: a new K-3PO was part of a Hoth multipack, and there have been 6 astromech droids released that use the same design.Celebration V Attendees may also recall another protocol droid was shown, but that droid still has not yet been made available.
After three years, Hasbro finally brings the Droid Factory concept back in a major way, exclusively at Walt Disney Worlds's Hollywood Studios theme park during "Star Wars Weekends." As part of the newly-renovated Star Tours attraction, fans can find a Droid Factory station inside the Tatooine Traders store (the store you enter upon leaving the ride) where you can literally build your own droid, complete on a custom card. With 71 different colored parts to choose from, there are thousands of different droids that can be created!
The cardbacks include the generic starfield that the Star Tours figures have used for years, but there is also a place to add the name of your droid. This is done with an alphanumeric sticker sheet, which has multiple numbers and letters for extra creativity. The figure can then be protected by an attached clear plastic clamshell case, which can be reopened. There are single cards available for $11.95 (roughly $2 per piece) or double-figure cards for $18.95 (roughly $1.60 per part). This is not only a great way for kids to have some fun, but also for collectors to protect their creations.
Thanks to help from some friends in Florida, I was able to acquire 52 unique parts (along with duplicates) last weekend...with 5 more yesterday that are on the way to me. Here's a quick rundown...
The astromech droids are available with different heads (R2, R3, R4, R5, R6, R7, R8, and R9 units), different bodies (R2 and R7...the bodies all have the same "inner circuitry" underneath the dome), but only one type of legs (in multiple colors). There are also several different hats planned for this line, but as this point, only Mickey Mouse ears are available (in 4 different colors: black, red, green, & blue). At the present time, not all parts are yet available. The R6, R8, and R9 heads are due this August (no doubt timed for Celebration VI), as well as several hats (a baseball cap with Yoda ears, Goofy's hat, Indiana Jones' fedora, and Jack Sparrow's pirate hat). Since the previous "Build-A-Lightsaber" and "Build-A-Potato Head" stations were around for several years, it's likely that the "Build-A-Droid" station will continue as well...plus, I have to think that something will be made available for Celebration VI, although nothing is confirmed at this time.
For your viewing pleasure, here is an exclusive gallery of the (Galactic) green R2, R4, and R5 droids that were assembled during the first weekend they were available. Since some parts are not available, substitutions were made...but that's part of the fun!
For longtime collectors, here is a comparison gallery of previously-released B-A-Ds, next to their Disney counterparts. As you can see, there is a unique deco for each of the new droid parts, so completists will definitely want to track them down and get them all!
Rumor has it, the Droid Factory concept is rumored to be coming back to the action figure line at some point in 2013. So with any luck, we will see these droid parts made available again, although most likely with different deco.
I'll be heading down to Disney World for Star Wars Weekends #4 (not to mention Celebration VI), and hopefully I won't hear "these aren't the droid parts you're looking for."
SHARED SPECIAL REPORT
This special report is also shared with a few other esteemed Star Wars collecting sites which feature their own exclusive astromech droid. Make sure to check out their report and photos as well!
STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY DAN CURTO