The enduring appeal of R2D2 and C-3PO

May 1, 2019
r2d2 c3po in TESB

Did you know that R2D2 and C-3PO are the only characters to appear in all 9 Star Wars main trilogy films?

It's actually 10 if you count their appearance in Rogue One and let's not forget C3PO's turn in The Clone Wars movie either...

They've been on their own TV show, starred on the moments and had their tin cans featured on cereal boxes, trading cards and everything in between

What is the reason for their enduring appeal? 


There are many reasons for this but let's begin at the beginning as all stories should.

The Hidden Fortress as an inspiration for the droids


When George Lucas was a film student he was introduced to the films of Japanese director Akira Kurosawa. This study proved to have a strong influence on George and Kurosawa's ideas and styles found their way into George's early work.

The film Hidden Fortress has had a key impression on the development of Star Wars when Lucas borrowed that film's concept that the story was told from the point of view of two bumbling peasants.

Lucas converted that idea into the first Star Wars film being told from the point of view, a pair of robots which ultimately became the famous gold and white and blue pairing of R2D2 and C-3PO. 

And just like that those two robots became a staple of the Star Wars diet. Not just there for comedy relief with their fantastic banter and memorable quotes but at times had central roles in helping Luke Skywalker overcome his various challenges.

These aren't the droids you're looking for

these arent the droids looking for


It's about 20 minutes into the movie when Obi-Wan Kenobi utters his immortal quote to the Stormtroopers in Mos Eisley who are looking for our escapees "These aren't the droids you're looking for".

It gave the first real glimpse that there was something extra special about Obi-Wan, was he truly a wizard and not such a crazy old man?

That line has stayed in pop culture for over 40 years now - and it's part of why R2 and Threepio have managed to stay in the Star Wars consciousness.

And being part of the Star Wars family means you stay in the family (until JJ Abrams decides balls of orange and white are better).

 R2D2 was always ready with an insult and C3PO would give it right back


R2 and Threepio argue and fuss over each other almost like an old couple, especially in the original trilogy.

Often they would find themselves in a strange situation and R2D2 would communicate some pithy comment or insult and C3PO would give it right back at him, case in point this classic from the opening scene of A New Hope when they were about to evacuate the Tantive IV with the stolen plans:

"Don't you call me a mindless philosopher you overweight glob of grease!"

The true stuff of friendship!

early prototype of R2D2
George Lucas with an early build of R2D2

Facts and trivia about R2D2 and Golden Rod


  • Despite creating him as Anakin Skywalker, C3PO only shares a brief moment on screen with Darth Vader. In The Empire Strikes Back, when Han is being frozen into carbonite. Vader gives no indication of recognizing his creation but to be fair, protocol droids in his configuration are everywhere.
  • A lot of people miss it, thinking the C3PO is totally golden but his right knee down is silver. In The Force Awakens, he had a red arm for most of the film. You may not have recognized him?!
  • R2D2 and C3PO were snuck into a scene in Indiana Jones and Raiders of the Lost Ark as well as JJ Abrams' two Star Trek films.
  • The characters were so popular they had their own animated television series for a short time and once appeared in episodes of The Muppets and Sesame Street where R2 oddly appeared to fall in love with a fire hydrant!
  • R2D2 served several masters - starting with Padme and then Anakin, Bail Organa, Leia Organa, Luke Skywalker and for a time, Jabba the Hutt... 
  • When Obi-Wan finds General Grievous on the planet Utapau, his first words are, "Hello, there." This is exactly what said when he first met R2-D2 in A New Hope.
  • In early script drafts, R2D2's name was simply A-2.
  • R2D2’s height is 96cm tall.

Anthony Daniels and a friend
Anthony Daniels and a friend

The Forbidden Plant also inspired C3PO's creation


Forbidden Planet poster with Robby Robot
This was a movie I had heard of for many years due to it being the origin of one of the more famous robots in science fiction (before R2D2 and C3PO came along!) Robbie the Robot.

Released in 1956 this was one of the first big-budget science fiction films.

Apparently a bit of a commercial flop, it quickly gained cult status with repeat showings and is now considered a classic science fiction movie.

While quaint by today's standards it features strong science fiction themes crossed with star crossed would be lovers. Some research for this movie reveals that it was loosely based on William Shakespeare's The Tempest.

Robby the Robot is the key take-away. When he first meets the spacemen from Earth, he volunteers that he could speak to them 'I am at your disposal with 187 other languages along with their various dialects and sub-tongues'. 

George Lucas probably borrowed this concept for C3PO.

I'm not sure if it's my dirty mind but at one point in the film, Robby cannot be found because he was giving himself an 'oil job' which could have been a lewd joke by the filmmakers. A loose Star Wars connection is that C3PO would later have an oil bath at Luke's farm.

We're off to see Jabba the Hutt! The wonderful Hutt of Tattoine


One of our favourite moments with these two droids is in Return of the Jedi when they are framed on their way towards Jabba's palace:


Notice anything?

No?

How about if we add this?

a new hope wizard of oz reference

Yep, we're pretty sure Lucas and director Richard Marquand used our droids in homage to the Wizard of Oz!

What is the design inspiration of C3PO?


Ralph McQuarrie designed C3PO by taking liberty with the Maschinenmensch the film Metropolis:




Here's an early concept draft:

concept draft of C3po and r2d2

The influence of R2D2 and C3PO on films and culture

The 80s were good for Star Wars and with Lucasfilm pushing hard on the merchandise sales, our driod friends we everywhere. 

Even Steven Speilberg got in on the act and included them on a hieroglyphic in the original Raiders of the Lost Act:

r2d2 c3po indianna jones

Speilberg also managed to sneak in an R2 unit into Close Encounters of the Third Kind which he was making at the same time as Lucas was producing ANH:

r2d2 easter egg in close encounters

Indeed, Lucas and Speilberg famously swapped points on those films so Speilberg has made a tidy sum of money from a film he didn't make! 

JJ Abrams was such a big fan of R2, he also snuck him into his reboot of Star Trek.

Robots also appear to be pretty hard to do as cosplay:

worst c3po cosplay

terrible starwars cosplay


0 Rogue Ones:

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