Mechanized Droid Factory Conceptual Mock-Up:
This particular item was the brainchild of one of Kenner's senior engineers. Around the time of The Empire Strikes Back, Kenner was doing a lot with wind-up motors and the engineer felt that the Droid Factory could really be spruced up with some motors of it's own since sales of the original playset were not as strong as hoped. The engineer felt that the Star Wars Droid Factory was pretty weak and had less play potential than one where a child could build Droids that actually moved on their own. It's questionable whether or not the playset design itself would have been better or more interesting than the released version though. This playset really isn't much more than a glorified storage case for small parts.
The task of designing and building this was set given to a junior engineer who came up with what you see here. He worked with a designer on this, now full-blown, project. The base is made of vacu-formed plastic and is about 14 inches square. The center section opens vertically to reveal compartments for the varoius Droid parts. On the right side you can see that the crane hook from a standard Droid Factory was modified into a sort of small lift. This lift seems to be able to seat in each base's four feet. When fully opened the set is about 9 inches tall. The Droid parts inside come from all kinds of different toys and model kits and some are even custom-made. Some of these parts are even from the Droid Factory playset itself. Two wind-up motors and a wind-up R2-D2 make up the heart of this mechanized concept.
The set is filled with various parts pulled from other toys, model kits, or whatnot. The beauty of a conceptual mock-up is that it can be made of whatever is onhand. Just as with the standard Droid Factory set, the pieces can be rearranged into a multitude of Droid configurations. The two Droids shown above are mobile with one having wheeled legs an the other having more crab-like forward motion. Each is no longer than about 2 inches.
Shown above is one of the more famous of the Kenner Droids, namely FX-7. The photos above show FX-7 assembled and disassembled. Being a mock-up piece, it doesn't bear a striking resemblance to the real figure or character, but the main parts are there to give the overall shape and function. It is pretty small and is really no taller than an R2-D2 figure.
And speaking of R2-D2, the one shown here would have actually been able to walk with the aid of a wind-up motor. Here he is shown both assembled and disassembled into his component parts. I believe this is a modified version of the Takara wind-up figure. The legs and motor have been reworked here so that R2 rolls on small wheels rather than walks on the small feet. As you can see, the wind-up key is quite large but remember that this is only mock-up piece done for conceptual purposes only so it didn't have to look perfect.
This playset idea was abandoned in 1980 by Costing Engineers for the second time. Costing Engineers look at all aspects of the toy in question and determine how much the toy would cost per unit to produce. This Droid Factory, because of it's many wind up motors and intricate design, would have cost about $15 each to initially produce. The final consumer cost of about $30 each was thought to be too much, and was therefore cancelled.
The set is very strange, but despite it looking very homemade it is definitely a legitimate piece of Kenner history that can be fully documented back to Kenner and the junior engineer who developed it. Years after the set came into the collecting hobby, the presentation board was discovered from an unrelated source and the artwork really makes the entire toy come to life. All four droids are showcased on the board including FX-7 which looks a little more recognizeable. Rarely does a piece like this survive which includes so many parts, a handmade structure and artwork to accentuate the entire package. It's quite a treat to see.
Description: Chris Georgoulias and Dave Fox