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R2-D2 - Nearly Life Size

By Behnam Sadr - images & text © 2006

I'm writing this article to share my love of Star Wars and my little contribution to the franchise: Revenge of the Sith R2-D2 and Darth Vader coolers for Pepsi.

Designing The Product

In late 2004 and early 2005 the company I worked for, Integrated Displays Company LLC (IDC), was asked to design a series of displays for the release of RotS. So Wayne Theobald, one of our senior Art Directors and long time Star Wars fan asked me to participate in the projects, knowing that I pretty much shared the same love and knowledge of Star Wars. I became the main resource center with my books and movies and all my action figures.

[Click to enlarge]

[Please click to enlarge]

^ My customized cooler

Image: Rear view, my customized 'droid

Image: Prototype cooler, front view

Image: Prototype cooler, right side

Image: Test shot of the dome

Image: Line art for the sticker details

Image: I also had to design packaging for shipping

Image: Some of my refernce material ....

Image: I have a lot more references

Image: ... shelves full, in fact

Image: Darth Vader cooler concept; too bad this didn't get approved

Image: Concept based on Yoda's pod

Image: Another in-store display concept, the 'Swamp Speeder'

Image: Interactive Promo display

Image: My office space

Image: 'Nav computer'

Image: Heckuva 'chandelier'

We worked on and End Aisle design, a display that is placed at the end of and aisle, hence the name. Lucas Film gave their resources as well, thru Pepsi. They provided us with an abundance of images, especially the props. (unfortunately, I don't know if I can share them). With these images plus my own resources, I set out to design my main objective: an almost real life sized R2 D2 Cooler!

I used my Kenner 6" R2-D2 as reference, something tangible. Once we got the coolers from Display Industries, I scaled up my AutoCAD drawing up to fit their drum size, and right away I knew some compromises had to be made since proportions to R2 and the drum were not the same. I tried to adjust the line-art to still remain as close to the R2 I was holding, while trying not to go nuts with details! After all, our graphic artist Diana had to fill in the line arts with color and shades to make them come alive. She also used my R2 for reference.

While all this was going on, the Vanity Fair special addition of RotS came out, and of course I had to get it. It was in there that I really noticed the little ring on top of R2's dome. So, I added it to my R2. If you look at my very first Foam-core prototype, you'll notice the opening was on top. Later on the decision was made to have 2 openings, and after a bit of thought, I decided that if the 2 openings were streamlined to match R2's contour, then it'd fit in just right, and thankfully the client agreed.

Speaking of R2's contour, you might have asked, why is his head squashed down?! The answer, is :Production Limits. The company that was producing the domes for us had a limitation of height for their Vac Form mold, so that dictated the height, and the drum dictated the diameter. I did the best I could to stay as true to R2's design as I could under the circumstances. I swear!

The Darth Vader cooler had its own small adventure. Originally a vacuformed wrap in the shape of the Dark Lord's head was designed. A 1/2 scale model was presented to Pepsi. The design wasn't approved, however, due to the fact that his high Sith highness's helmet flare would trip the shoppers or get destroyed in no time!

A full size Vader was the next proposal, which was made and produced. At one point there was actually a discussion of Vac-Forming DV's mask, which involved a phone conference with Gentle Giants Studios. But again, due to budget, that was dropped. The 3 D effect was achieved by creating a SBS (a form of card-board) helmet, which gave the head some dimension. An addition of a cape and a chain , along with 3 graphic cards finished the kit IDC produced. Darth could get attached to the existing square cooler, and the cape attached with Velcro. The chain went thru a pair of slits on the 2 sides of the neck.

Another product we worked on was a Call Upon Yoda display, which was the subject of a P-O-P Times article.

While 3 projects, the R2 cooler, the Vader cooler and the Yoda display were actually produced as per Lucas Film's marketing strategy, they were only a few of the ideas explored. A few other ideas were an in store interactive display that put you (sort of) in the cockpit of a starship, the windows resembling the Falcon's, with the consumer able to activate voice boxes and lighting effects (sounds were bits from Episode One for the prototype, exclusively Ewan McGregor's lines). Another explored the option of having a wrap around vacuum-formed Vader Helmet for an existing cooler, but eventually it was decided it'd be too bulky and not to mention not so consumer friendly, as people would most likely trip over the Dark Lord's headware! None the less I got to, as best as I could in a short time, create a faux vac-form in 1/2 scale pf this cooler for the presentation. I might try to repeat that in 1/4 scale in the future, as I still have the patterns for it, and post it up sometime in the future.

Another idea was to use the swamp speeder as an interactive environment. Not much to tell there, since it never passed the concept stage. Pepsi thought having plastic vac-form blasters would not be appropriate for kids in the stores. Go figure!

One last idea (at least for this article) was a conversion vac-form to turn a cooler into Yoda's escape pod. It never passed the concept stage.

One thing that I did find as a funny coincident (or was it?) was a game piece called "Light Saber Labyrinth" seen on the back of the Kellogg's Star Wars Marshmallow cereal. I say coincident, because one idea that we presented based on "following your path" theme was another interactive display I created which features a similar "maze" thru which you had to maneuver a steel ball to the center, avoiding paths that would lead to the dark side (sensors activating lines from the movie) and a timer timing your progress once you reached your destiny. The Pepsi guys loved the idea, but thought it would be too costly to develop as a display.

I thought it was amusing that someone else at Kellogg's also came up with a very similar maze idea. I'll post a picture of the prototype that was made in the future if I get a chance and get lucky that it hasn't been discarded as trash from my old company. Last I went there for a visit, they had destroyed the Cockpit prototype because it took too much space, so they said. I'm sure a collector would have loved to have that thing.

Later, Back At The Ranch....

After the production was long done and the film was already on DVD, I got to have my own cooler. What did I do? I wasn't crazy about the clear dome, and the fact that R2's 3 holographic eyes had been reduced to only one. So with spare parts at my disposal, I set out to customize my own version. The dome and the eyes were primed and painted automotive silver. The surface-mounted eyes were mounted from the inside of the dome, and this time there were 3 of them! To mimic the holographic and lighted parts of R2, I used holographic papers and special foils, and I'm happy with the results.

For the legs, we were allowed only certain amount of detail to be included into the mold, all for the budget restrictions. Still I think they don't look half bad, eh?


I no longer work at IDC, but new Display company over in Bay shore, NY, but I'll always have my memories of the days developing displays for Star Wars.

By the way, I think there are still some R2 coolers being sold on e-Bay (not my doing!) so if you want one, check'm out!

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This page copyright © 2006 Starship Modeler™. First posted on 3 May 2006.