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The real story behind how BB-8 works in The Force Awakens

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Mark Alexander

Star Wars engineering experts have tipped their hand regarding one of Hollywood s best-kept secrets: Exactly how BB-8 works in the Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Force Awakens technical staffers Matt Denton and Josh Lee were on stage at Star Wars Celebration Europe this past weekend in London, and detailed the story of BB-8.

The cute ball that briefly became America s darling in 2015 upon the movie s release was mostly a two-person operation, and was more tricycle than uni-roller in most of its appearances.

Before you get too sad that BB-8 s balancing act isn t the real thing, know that Denton and Lee started by figuring out how they could do it for real, without using any movie magic.

But the realities of filming meant they also need a BB-8 that could nail every take reliably – human actors are hard enough to direct without robots flubbing their blocking.

But before it got that advanced, there was a proof-of-concept made of foam with what look like a pair of ice cream scoop handles affixed to the back to control body rolling and head movement separately.

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