Building Character: R2-D2 + Creating for Films

Building Character: R2-D2 + Creating for Films

Explore the work of visual effects and get a behind the scenes look at R2-D2 with special effects artist Don Bies and Kaitlyn Yang. Arrive early for a special R2-D2 appearance!

Our Building Character series will explore the behind-the-scenes crafts that come together to shape the characters we see on screen.

This program will highlight the iconic character R2-D2, which is featured in the Inventing Worlds and Characters: Encounters gallery.

On Thursday, July 28 at 7pm, join us for a conversation with Don Bies (R2-D2, Star Wars Prequels and Industrial Light & Magic Senior Model Maker) on his extensive work in the film industry and the Star Wars character R2-D2. The conversation will be moderated by Visual Effects Supervisor and Alpha Studios Founder Kaitlyn Yang.

Don Bies

Don Bies has a long history with Lucasfilm and Star Wars. He was first hired in 1987 to operate R2-D2 for a series of Japanese commercials for Matsushita (Panasonic) starring George Lucas and the Star Wars characters. Shortly after, he became the second Lucasfilm archivist, managing the collection and coordinating live character appearances. Simultaneously, he worked as a model maker for Industrial Light & Magic, contributing to such films as Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), Ghostbusters II (1989), Starship Troopers (1997), Galaxy Quest (1999), and the Pirates of the Caribbean film series along with countless commercials.

For the Star Wars Special Editions, he appeared in the films as a stormtrooper, imperial officer, Bith musician, and Boba Fett. On Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999), Bies served as R2-D2 Operator and then as R2-D2/Droid Supervisor for Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002) and Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005) as well as a Senior Model Maker for the prequel trilogy.

Aside from his history with R2-D2, some of his notable Star Wars contributions are the Vader mask that encases Anakin Skywalker at the end of Revenge of the Sith and the battery-holding lightsaber used in the TV commercial Vader Vs. the Energizer Bunny. He also conceived, co-wrote, and co-directed the mocumentary series R2-D2: Beneath the Dome (2001).

Kaitlyn Yang

When Kaitlyn Yang was 9 years old, three events happened that changed her life. She emigrated to the US from China, was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy, and discovered the joy of digital art by learning Adobe Photoshop. A graduate of USC Film School, Yang founded her own post-production company, Alpha Studios, in 2013. She has more than sixty visual effects credits to her name, from Robot Chicken (2012–13) to Grey’s Anatomy (2019). She is a Forbes “30 Under 30” recipient for Hollywood/Entertainment, co-chair of the Visual Effects Society, and a member of the Television Academy.

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