In one of Entertainment Weekly’s last Star Wars: The Force Awakens pieces of the day, the creators of the film discuss BB-8, the soccer ball droid that has already captured so many people’s hearts.
As we already know, BB-8’s initial design came from a sketch J.J. Abrams made. That sketch was destined by fate to become the Star Wars saga’s newest (and cutest) astromech droid.
"“Much like Picasso and the famous serviette drawing,” says [Neal] Scanlan [head of The Force Awakens creature shop]. “It was a very simple sketch, beautiful in its simplicity of a ball with this little dome on top.”"
As with all things in Star Wars, every part of BB-8 was designed with a specific purpose in mind. The patterns on the bottom part, for example, which garnered BB-8 the nickname, “the soccer ball droid,” were chosen because they are easier for the eye to track than parallel lines. In this way, you’re always able to tell which way the droid is going.
BB-8’s eyes are also a defining feature, though they went through many adjustments before the desired effect was produced.
"“You could move one component and the face would start to have a slight sad look about it or slightly aggressive,” Scanlan says. “You want them to be able to talk to you before they move. And if they can do that, then the movement adds extra on top.”"
Though BB-8’s body looks seamless, there are many panels that together make the little droid a regular “Swiss Army Knife.”
"“We haven’t absolutely defined what each panel does,” Scanlan says. “Each has a specific purpose, whether it be a data port, or a docking station, or a welding torch. He might have his own self-defense mechanism.”"
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Among his other capabilities are a “Taser-like probe,” and grappling hooks that eject and allow him to climb up walls Seriously, this astromech has everything.
By the way, you may have noticed Scanlan using the word “he” to signify BB-8’s gender. Though The Mirror reported BB-8 was a girl, the folks at Star Wars lean a little more towards BB-8 being male. But it’s still not completely clear.
"“I’m still not sure, dare I say, whether BB-8 is male or female,” Scanlan says. “BB-8 was female in our eyes. And then he or she became male. And that’s all part of the evolution, not only visually, but in the way they move, how they hold themselves.”"
Anthony Breznican of EW adds, “as of now everyone working on the movie calls BB-8 a ‘he.'” Given how canon is determined by the creators, and given the creators are referring to BB-8 as a male, it’s probably safe to say he is, in fact, a “he.”
Male or female, however, there’s no denying that BB-8 is already beloved by fans, partly because he’s just so darn adorable. According to Scanlin, that’s no accident by any means.
"“We always imagined BB-8 as being quite manipulative,” says Scanlan. “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. In this film, he has a very important mission that he has to accomplish and so he uses his personality, his coyness, and all of those things.”"
I don’t know about you, but overall, BB-8 sounds like a cat to me: Cute, full of personality, and as manipulative as Emperor Palpatine.