‘Star Wars’ Collectibles & Toys Review: Star Wars The Black Series Artoo-detoo (R2-D2) (Dagobah) (Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary Figure)

R2-D2 (Dagobah) is one of the newest releases in Hasbro’s Star Wars The Black Series‘ product line released this year to commemorate the 40th Anniversary of Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. Photo Credit: Hasbro. (C) 2020 Hasbro and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Artoo-Detoo (R2-D2): A Jedi’s Loyal Mechanical Companion

On August 1, 2020, Hasbro released a new “wave” of Star Wars The Black Series toys and collectibles to commemorate the 40th Anniversary of 1980’s Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back and the tie-in Star Wars line of action figures, vehicles, toy lightsabers, and other toys and games created by Hasbro’s predecessor, Cincinnati (Ohio)-based Kenner Toys.  Among the new figures introduced in this wave were the Imperial TIE Fighter Pilot, Rebel Soldier (Hoth), Luke Skywalker (Snowspeeder Pilot), and the Dagobah variant of everybody’s (especially George Lucas’s) favorite astromech droid, Artoo-Detoo (R2-D2)[1] Sold in cardback packaging with “retro” Kenner branding that evokes the look of the 1980-1982 Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back collection, these 6-inch scale figures blend the realistic sculpt-and-paint detailing of modern Star Wars action figures and collectibles with the powerful lure of 1980’s nostalgia aimed at older fans and collectors who seek to recapture part of their childhood (or, in my case, adolescence).

A Hasbro promotional “hero” photo of the Artoo-detoo (R2-D2) (Dagobah). Photo Credit: Hasbro. (C) 2020 Hasbro and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

Introduced – along with his more human-looking counterpart, See-Threepio (C-3PO) – in the opening sequence of 1977’s Star Wars (aka Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope), Artoo-Detoo has been a fixture of the franchise from the early days of the franchise’s creation in the early 1970s. Conceived by writer-director-producer George Lucas when he was writing what he then called The Star Wars, Artoo has appeared – along with his protocol BFF See-Threepio – in all nine films of the Skywalker Saga, as well as various episodes of Lucasfilm Animation’s Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels. (The robotic duo even has a cameo in 2016’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.)

In Empire, Artoo is Luke Skywalker’s faithful companion throughout the young Jedi apprentice’s fateful journeys that take the two from the ice planet of Hoth to the boggy swamps of Dagobah, where Luke trains in the ways of the Force under the tutelage of the 900-year-old Jedi Master, Yoda. From there, Artoo accompanies his master to Bespin’s Cloud City, where Luke has a fateful encounter with the evil Dark Lord of the Sith, Darth Vader.

The Original Figure

This Star Wars The Black Series 6-inch scale action figure is a descendant of Kenner Toys original 1981 Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 3.75-inch micro-action figure Artoo-Detoo (R2-D2) with Sensorscope. Indeed, the package’s back card uses the same still image from the movie on the obverse side, as well as most of the logos and other indicia found on the Kenner figure’s cardback from 40 years ago.

The 1981 Kenner Artoo-Detoo (R2-D2) With Sensorscope figure. The cardback is different from the 2020 Star Wars The Black Series version; the still was taken from a scene set on Hoth rather than on the muddy world of Dagobah. Photo Credit: Dallas Vintage Toys (C) 1981 Kenner Toys (now Hasbro) and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

The original figure from 1981 was, of course, vastly different from its 2020 counterpart. In essence, it was nearly identical to Kenner’s 1978 Artoo-Detoo (R2-D2) action figure in most respects. The astromech droid was rendered as a white plastic cylinder with a blue-and-silver dome attached on top with a few rudimentary blue-and-red details added to simulate Artoo’s radar eye and hologram projector. The figure had two legs which could be adjusted to “lean” Artoo either backwards (to simulate his travel mode (albeit without Artoo’s retractable third leg) or forward to make it look like the droid is projecting a hologram or looking attentively at other character-based action figures.  The silver-and-blur dome could be rotated 360 degrees; when you did this, the head made a click-click-click sound.

Although some markings in blue were added to the little droid’s legs via the sculpt-and-paint job, the detailing of the figure’s “body” was rendered as a sticker that covered most of the little figure’s hollow cylinder. Nowadays, Hasbro’s droid figures feature detailing that is carefully sculpted and painted, a task made easier by computer-aided toy manufacturing methods and tools, but back then, if you wanted to make robots that looked anything like the ones from the films, you had to improvise. The look of the detailing (especially the blue or black markings that indicated where Artoo’s various sensors, tool compartments, and data ports) were fairly accurate, but the label was fragile. It could get smudged or fade if exposed for long periods of time to strong sunlight. It could get worn and torn if the figure was handled too roughly, and you couldn’t clean it with anything but a duster, as giving the figure a “bath” in mild detergent and water would destroy the label.

Moreover, even though Artoo-Detoo (R2-D2) (with Sensorscope) could be used to represent the plucky and often heroic little droid in various scenes from Empire, the label was made to look pristine, a look that Artoo is rarely seen sporting in the nine Skywalker Saga films. You could customize it by carefully “distressing” the sticker, of course. The downside to doing that was that the “distressing” was permanent, so if you wanted to recreate different scenes from Empire with your figures, you needed to buy several Artoo-Detoo action figures.[2]

The only difference between Kenner’s 1980 Artoo and the original figure from 1978’s Star Wars collection was, besides the new cardback, the “sensorscope” housed inside the little figure’s domed head. It wasn’t particularly detailed and actually stood in for two different add-ons: Artoo’s periscope and his long-range radar/signal detector. Other than that, the two figures were nearly identical.

Star Wars The Black Series’ Artoo-Detoo (Dagobah)

ARTOO-DETOO (R2-D2) (DAGOBAH): After landing on Dagobah, R2-D2 slipped into a murky swamp and was attacked by a giant serpent-like creature before managing to escape. – Hasbro product blurb, Artoo-Detoo (R2-D2) (Dagobah)

Hasbro promotional “hero” photo of the Artoo-detoo (R2-D2) (Dagobah). Photo Credit: Hasbro. (C) 2020 Hasbro and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

Of course, this 2020 figure is not a remake of the original Artoo-Detoo (with Sensorscope) 1980 figure – Hasbro has a separate product line called the Retro collection, which consists of almost-exact replicas of the 3.75-inch figures from the late 1970s and early 1980s. Instead, Artoo-detoo (R2-D2) (Dagobah)[3] is an all-new rendition of the astromech droid who served various members of the Skywalker family, including Padmé Amidala (Luke and Leia’s mother), Anakin Skywalker up to his fall from grace at the end of the Clone Wars, Princess Leia Organa, and Luke Skywalker, for many years.

40TH ANNIVERSARY FIGURE: Celebrate 40 years of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back with this Artoo-detoo (R2-D2) (Dagobah) The Black Series action figure featuring 1980s-inspired design – Hasbro product blurb, Artoo-detoo (R2-D2) (Dagobah)

Essentially, Artoo-detoo (R2-D2) (Dagobah) appears to be a simplified version of the 2017 Star Wars The Black Series 40th Anniversary figure of the popular astromech droid. It has three legs – the third one is in its “retracted” position, so in the cardback blister pack. Artoo is seen in his two-legged resting stance. Artoo’s white-and—blue cylindrical body (and part of his silver-blue dome) have been distressed to simulate the messy aftermath of the plucky little droid’s close encounter of the worst kind with a serpent-like dweller of Dagobah’s marshy swamps.   

When you buy your Artoo-detoo (R2-D2) (Dagobah), you will see that he comes with his periscope accessory in its “up” position and his center leg retracted. A second accessory – a replacement dome piece) “floats” off to the right in its own compartment in the transparent bubble that holds the figure in the cardback package. Underneath the figure is a folded document, perhaps with instructions on how to extend or retract the accessories and other information.

The figure has quite a few points of articulation, so R2-D2 can be placed in realistic – or, better said, movie-like – poses. With careful handling, you can retract the periscope attachment to make your little astro-droid look like the movie still from Empire on the front of cardback packaging. You can also have Artoo stand on “tippy-toes” just like when the droid is looking through the window in Yoda’s hut on Dagobah. And if you want, you can pose Artoo in “travel mode” using all three legs, although we don’t see him doing that in any scenes set on the bog planet.

My Take

Imagine the biggest battles and missions in the Star Wars saga with figures from Star Wars The Black Series! With exquisite features and decoration, this series embodies the quality and realism Star Wars devotees love.

The Star Wars saga captured the hearts of millions with iconic characters, impressive vehicles, and a galaxy of stories that has passed the test of time again and again. Commemorate the 40TH Anniversary of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back with figures from The Black Series, featuring classic design and packaging! (Each sold separately. Subject to availability.)

Recall intense moments from the Star Wars Galaxy with this Star Wars The Black Series 40TH anniversary 6-inch-scale Artoo-detoo (R2-D2) (Dagobah) action figure that features premium deco across multiple points of articulation. – Hasbro product blurb, Artoo-detoo (R2-D2) (Dagobah)

Photo Credit: Hasbro. (C) 2020 Hasbro and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

In essence, the figure is an accurate rendition of Artoo-Detoo as he appears whilst he is trudging about on Dagobah with his Jedi-in-training master, Luke Skywalker. He is extremely detailed, with a movie-accurate look that is ready-made for a diorama set on Dagobah, on which you can pose the figure along with Luke Skywalker (Bespin) and Yoda to recreate scenes from The Empire Strikes Back.

Hasbro promotional “hero” photo of the Artoo-detoo (R2-D2) (Dagobah). Photo Credit: Hasbro. (C) 2020 Hasbro and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

Hasbro’s Star Wars The Black Series 6-inch scale figures have bowled me over time and time again with their verisimilitude and attention to detail since I first received some as part of my Christmas 2017 collection of presents. Indeed, I had stopped collecting figures for a while for a wide range of reasons, but after I saw how nicely sculpted, painted, and accurately detailed they are, I buy a few every so often to add to my modest Star Wars collection.

I like this pre-distressed Artoo-detoo (R2-D2) (Dagobah) figure, and I will probably keep him in his 40th Anniversary cardback. I love the fact that Hasbro used the Kenner indicia on the packaging – it takes me back to my teenage years, when I collected the original 3.75-inch figures.

I think Artoo-detoo (R2-D2) (Dagobah) is a well-made specimen from Hasbro’s Star Wars The Black Series, and I recommend it wholeheartedly.


[1] In this iteration of the Kenner-branded packaging, his name is given as “Artoo-detoo (R2-D2) (Dagobah)”

[2] This wasn’t a problem if you were, say, 16 or 17 and had any sort of age-appropriate job, whether it was a part time gig working at McDonald’s or Burger King, mowed neighbor’s lawns or washed people’s cars, or were lucky enough to get generous allowances from parents. If you earned your own money and could afford to buy three or four Artoo-Detoo (R2-D2) with Sensorscope figures to customize or keep as backups, more power to you. Younger children and even many teens, though, were not always fortunate enough to have stable home lives with the ideal two-parents, two-incomes financial setup. So more likely than not, most kids who collected Star Wars figures rarely ever had more than one “major character” action figure. (During Kenner’s 1978-1985 Star Wars figure production, I only had one Darth Vader figure; the one I bought in the summer of 1978. It never occurred to me to buy the same figure’s Empire or Return of the Jedi re-releases, not even for “insurance” purposes.)

[3] That’s how Hasbro has decided to write R2-D2’s phonetic name; it’s usually “Artoo-Detoo” with a capital “D.” Yet, on the cardback it is written as “Artoo-detoo.” Whether this is a goof only seen in one batch of figures or if it’s on every figure’s cardback, I have no idea. That’s the way it is on the figure I own, and that’s the way that I will refer to it in this review.

 

Published by Alex Diaz-Granados

Alex Diaz-Granados (1963- ) began writing movie reviews as a staff writer and Entertainment Editor for his high school newspaper in the early 1980s and was the Diversions editor for Miami-Dade Community College, South Campus' student newspaper for one semester. Using his experiences in those publications, Alex has been raving and ranting about the movies online since 2003 at various web sites, including Amazon, Ciao and Epinions. In addition to writing reviews, Alex has written or co-written three films ("A Simple Ad," "Clown 345," and "Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss") for actor-director Juan Carlos Hernandez. You can find his reviews and essays on his blogs, A Certain Point of View and A Certain Point of View, Too.

4 thoughts on “‘Star Wars’ Collectibles & Toys Review: Star Wars The Black Series Artoo-detoo (R2-D2) (Dagobah) (Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary Figure)

    1. My 1978 Artoo is not in that bad of a condition, but its sticker was a bit worn along the bottom edge and a bit yellowed from age. It’s in a box somewhere in the house.

      Now, of course, I sometimes wish I had been able to keep my figures in their original packaging. But that’s not much fun…not when you’re 15, and still not that much fun at 50-plus.

      Like

      1. Sadly, while I have TWO Landspeeders, a late Nineties Power of the Force update of the 1978 Kenner vehicle and a Star Wars The Black Series one for the 6-inch scale Luke, I no longer have my original one. That Landspeeder met an unfortunate fate in the ’00s when a shelf collapsed and fell to the floor. The body survived, but the windshield broke in three places. My X-wing from the same Kenner collection also fell from that shelf and lost its canopy. The TIE Fighters shed their solar panel labels from the hexagonal wings, and even though the stickers came off almost in one piece, they were so brittle with age that they literally disintegrated.

        I still have my Millennium Falcon, Rebel Armored Snowspeeder, most of the Rebel Transport, my original Empire Strikes Back walker, and Return of the Jedi AT-ST “chicken walker,” as well as my Y-wing (which needs repairs). From my house, I have most of the stuff I acquired in the 1990s and 2000s, including the A-Wing, Luke Skywalker’s Red Five X-Wing, Hasbro-era TIEs (Fighter, Interceptor, Bomber, Darth Vader’s Advanced TIE X-1) and a few newer things made between 2015 and now.

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