JJ Abrams and BB-8 on the set of Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Ever since BB-8 was revealed in the first Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser trailer, the world has been obsessed with the newest droid in the galaxy. How was BB-8 created? What was the story behind his creation and development? Hit the jump to find out what we learned from a recent longform article about Lucasfilm. For instance, did you know that JJ Abrams was still unsure a practical BB-8 would work right up until a week before filming began?

You can read the entire Creating BB-8 article on StarWars.com, but here is all the cool information we took away plus some added bits from the past:
Ralph Mcquarrie R2-D2 concept design inspired the Force Awakens ball droid

The article doesn’t mention this, but we believe the droid has origins in an old design from legendary Star Wars: A New Hope concept artist Ralph McQuarrie. Many aspects we’ve seen in the Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailers seem to be inspired by McQuarrie’s early work on the series. I know the above concept art doesn’t look like an exact match, but you’ll want to read this interview excerpt from McQuarrie talking about how his initial design for our favorite droid R2-D2 was very different than the one we eventually saw on screen:

“I think Artoo was just described as a small robot. I thought of him as running on a giant ball bearing — just a sphere, a circle, wheel-like. He had gyros so he could go in any direction on this ball.”

Cut to 2013, BB-8 started as a sketch on a napkin drawn by Star Wars: The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams:

“The sketch was basic — two circles atop one another, with a tiny dot for an eye”


Internally BB-8 was originally called “Ball-Bot”. JJ Abrams previous explained why he named the droid BB-8:

“I named him BB-8 because it was almost onomatopoeia. It was sort of how he looked to me, with the 8, obviously, and then the 2 B’s.”

Lucasfilm concept designer Christian Alzmann (A.I., MIB II, Attack of the Clones) played “with a lot of different designs” developed on Abrams’s idea of a droid rolling on a sphere:

“He would give direction on the kinds of shapes to use, and that led to a personality for the droid. Of course, the original sketch had very pleasing, round shapes, so you kind of figured it wasn’t going to be a very serious or angry character. Ultimately, BB-8 developed out of a back-and-forth process with J.J. where he gave feedback on each iteration of the design.”

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