Rolling Like Luke
The R2-D2 that Daniel Deutsch built at age 14 pretty
much charted his career in movie props and anima-tronics. It also foretold the day he would cruise the
streets in his own full-sized, drivable landspeeder.
Deutsch, 43, moved to Orlando, Fla., in 1987 to
work for Disney, and was soon tapped to build the
R2-D2 that has appeared for years at Walt Disney
World. He’s created dozens of mechanical animated
characters since then.
Today he does custom design and fabrication,
out of a shop with “all the toys we need to fabricate
anything”: a multi-axis CNC mill, a laser cutter,
chrome-plating equipment, and the Dimension
1200 3D printer and NextEngine 3D scanner he
bought from Jay Leno. “We recently were sent the
original stunt Ark from [Raiders of the Lost Ark] to
be re-gold-plated — that was a really cool project!
A piece of cinematic history,” he enthuses.
Deutsch invented Tireflys, those little LED lights
that screw into tire valve stems, and lately he’s been
developing special effects using soap bubbles.
In 2007 he got the idea to build his landspeeder.
“I realized that nobody had built a faithful replica of
the speeder that would actually drive. So, why not?”
With its electric motor and aluminum chassis,
Deutsch’s three-wheeled speeder will do 30mph. To
make the body, his team of five designed a “buck”
model in CAD, laser-cut it from wood, and filled out
its curves with urethane foam. Then they cast the
final parts in fiberglass and resin. The side grills are
water-jet-cut PVC, and the windshield is PET plastic
vacuum-formed over a drape mold.
For the fanboys, Deutsch and colleague “Super
Ted” Hyde added digital sound effects and engine
lights. The build was done in six weeks, just in time
to debut at the Star Wars Celebration IV convention
in Los Angeles.
But wait. Star Wars Celebration V is this August
in Orlando. Is Deutsch working on anything special?
“I intend to have a full-scale replica of the speeder
bike done before the event,” he says. “Although this
time it won’t be drivable.” —Keith Hammond