Disney knows what they are doing, I’ll give them that. They featured a commercial- and you probably saw it, because it was plastered all over Disney & Disney Jr. channels- featuring a kid excitedly building their own droid. My kid started jumping up and down screeching some version of “Mama! BB-8!! A PURPLE BB-8!”
Since she saw that commercial, that’s all she talked about- wanting to build a purple BB-8.
Thankfully, she has some doting grandparents who decided to bankroll this amazing experience for her as a Christmas gift.
When we arrived in Batuu and found the Droid Depot, the first thing I was struck with was the line wrapping out the door. It got to 75 minutes while we were there. Seventy Five minutes!! Thankfully we had a reservation, which meant we got to skip the line and use a second register. A HUGE shout-out to the cast member at the door who allowed the three of us to go together. Technically it is supposed to be just one guest with the droid builder, but Miss Bongo is 4. Note: If you aren’t allowed more than one guest, there is an area outside of what I’m going to lovingly call the “building pen” where you could crane your neck and see your family members. You won’t be in the action, but you don’t have to totally miss out. Remember the rule is one builder and one guest, so please don’t go and expect to take your whole extended family in to build one droid. If Miss Bongo had been older, I imagine we wouldn’t have been able to both go. Still, I’m grateful we were able to do this special build together.
A droid will run you approximately $106 after tax for the base model or $175 after tax for the droid, backpack and the personality chip. We opted for the base model because $175? GEEZ.
After paying we were given a special BB-8 basket which indicated what parts we should grab. We were sent to the conveyor belt, where we were happily the only people there. Everyone else had scavenged their parts and were waiting for a building bay to open up.
We got lucky and a group of purple BB-8 parts came down the belt right as we got there. You can mix and match colors, but that makes my slightly OCD personality twitch. Besides, I’d been listening to her talk about a purple droid for months. We grabbed our pieces and joined the line to wait for a place to build. There were only two builders ahead of us, so we got a place fairly quickly.
Once in our little workspace, a cast member came by from behind the counter to give us a basic rundown on how to build. Both sets of instructions are on your work station, so simply follow the numbers. Of course, if you get confused you can always get help from the cast member. It’s fairly straightforward, with only one step requiring use of an electric screwdriver to put in a few screws.
So, first things first- our BB-8 body wouldn’t screw together! We were starting to feel incompetent as we flagged down our helper- after all, we’ve put together IKEA furniture. Surely we could do this. Eventually, after trying to get it closed for several minutes, the cast member declared the body a dud and put it behind the counter, directing my husband to run back to the conveyor belt to grab a new one. Wouldn’t you know, there were no purple BB-8 pieces to be seen? It took a bit, but eventually one came through. Thankfully this one worked!
It was fairly easy to put together with following the instructions, and we chose 2 complementary pieces to go inside BB-8- you can’t see them, but “free” is free. There are different pieces you can choose from for the R-units. Both are in little bins to the left over your construction area and these pieces aren’t necessary.
After you get your droid assembled, they have to be put into a special box on your station to be activated! Miss Bongo hit the big red button and we watched as each step lit up to indicate our little BB-8 was now functioning.
The cast member gave us a rundown of how the remote works, from simply making our astromech chirp to controlling his movements. We put him in his little cardboard carrying box and headed on our way!
We headed to the droid testing area to spend a few minutes playing. I highly recommend doing this, because we discovered our droid wouldn’t work correctly! Even after several cast members tried to make him work, he would sit in place and just spin his head, or do things counter to his controls. We headed back to the depot and someone replaced his inner mechanism- I forget what they termed it, but for lack of a better term it’s his “engine”. We tested him again and were happy to see him work, though we didn’t spend long- there were small children leaping all over the mat (and droids) and being a bit crazy. Having just spent over $100 on a toy, I scooped him up before he could get destroyed.
I headed back into the small shop attached to the Droid Depot and filled out the paperwork so that our little BB-8 could be delivered to the room. Keep in mind this is a 24 hour process- as in he wasn’t guaranteed for pick-up until 24 hours later. This did not make my little girl happy, but it was infinitely better than hauling him all over creation. On second thought, I probably should have asked to send him to the front of the park, but I didn’t and it all worked out.
To know: We weren’t aware, and no one told us, your droid will go to sleep after 5 minutes of inactivity. In the BB-8 unit, this means you have to unscrew the body and flip the switch. In our droid, sometimes you have flip it several times while mashing on the controller to get it to activate again. I recommend not putting the top of the body back on until you know it’s going to work. Save yourself that frustration. I wish there was an easier way to “wake” him up!
Tip: If you plan on spending a significant amount of time in Batuu or you want to splurge on the backpack and personality chip, I recommend doing your build first thing to get the most “bang for your buck”. We saw several folks wearing their droids and it was cute to see them interact with the land.
Overall, it was fun to make the droid and he’s a neat little toy. I’d love to have an R2 unit myself. The price is a bit steep, but when you consider a t-shirt from Disney can run $35 and purses are routinely $75, it’s not too out there, especially for Star Wars fans, and fans of remote controlled toys. He also is adorable sitting around the house as a bit of decoration.
I find operating him a little frustrating- we’re not talking about fine-tuned controls here, and of course, turning him back on is frustrating. My daughter absolutely loves him (the cats, not so much) and she’s very proud of the building she got to do.