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Glendale-Based Disney Research Brings BB-8 to Life


Last weekend, millions of audience members flooded theaters throughout the nation to experience J.J. Abrams’ hotly anticipated Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The film garnered an overwhelmingly positive response from both a critical and box office perspective, earning a stellar 94% aggregate rating on and raking in a record-breaking $238 million opening weekend. The latest entry in the pop culture phenomenon known as Star Wars, The Force Awakens introduces audiences to a new cast of characters and represents a new era for the popular film series. One of those characters is the lovable BB-8, a soccer ball shaped astromech droid who has been featured prominently in both the film’s promotional materials and merchandising. He’s taking the world by storm, and became a reality within the confines of the cutting-edge laboratories of Glendale-based Disney Research.

Ever since its humble beginnings, The Walt Disney Company has always been at the forefront of innovation, consistently incorporating advanced technology into their various divisions. Disney Research is one of their key R&D components, a series of laboratories dedicated to conducting cutting-edge scientific and technological research.

(The Disney Research Lab in Glendale, CA | Courtesty of Disney Research)

According to their website, Disney Research “combines the best of academia and industry, by doing both basic and application-driven research…We honor Walt Disney’s legacy by innovating and deploying our innovations on a global scale.”

BB-8 was initially conceived in a rough sketch by director J.J. Abrams. Prominent special effects artist Neal Scanlan, who served as head of the Force Awakens creature shop, characterized it a beautifully simple concept.

(BB-8: From Sketch to Screen - Star Wars: The Force Awakens Featurette )

Once BB-8’s design had been finalized, the engineers and technicians of Disney Research got to work physically realizing the design. They ended up creating several different model variations – a puppet, several radio controlled versions, and some static prop units.

View the featurette highlighting the creation and design of BB-8.

(BB-8: From Sketch to Screen - Star Wars: The Force Awakens Featurette)

Disney Research is located in an unassuming building right next to the Los Angeles River and near Disney's Glendale-based Grand Central Creative Campus. To learn more, please click here to visit their website.

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