Hi from the workshop! #StarWarsVII pic.twitter.com/9R7JGSfxlC
— Bad Robot (@bad_robot) November 14, 2013
Towersey and Steeples are members of the R2-D2 Builders Club, a worldwide organisation of Astromech engineering enthusiasts. A chance meeting with Kennedy at this year's Celebration Europe event in Germany led to a job working as part of the Creature Effects team for Episode VII.
They'll be responsible for building and maintaining the physical Artoo units seen on film, and are all to aware of the challenge ahead. "We know the pressures of filming, prepping, and being able to assure reliability throughout the shoot," says Towersey, who built the droid seen in the tweet. "We have a good knowledge of Artoo, with a large stock of parts for reference and drawings, plus we know what is involved throughout the whole building process, as well as potential problems we need to avoid."
Their biggest challenge? Building a better version of the beloved tin can. "What we do need to do is improve on the mechanics," says Towersey. "We're currently in a research and design phase where we're looking at drive options for reliability on all possible terrains, whether it be a one-motor-does-all, or a system which is easily adjusted depending on terrain. We have a few mocked up ideas which we hope to road test very soon."
All this seems to be in keeping with Abrams' drive to have a good portion of the film created through practical effects. And as we now know, Star Wars: Episode VII will arrive on 18 December 2015.