The R2-D2 that Daniel Deutsch built at age 14 pretty much charted his career in movie props and animatronics. 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.”