|Wood Pattern for Unproduced Kez Iban Companion Droid|
|Among the many Star Wars toys that Kenner planned but never released, the companion droids are some of the most interesting. They were probably planned for release sometime in late 1986 or 1987; that is, after the notorious never-released second series of figures, which would have debuted in '86.
What were they, exactly? Glorified accessories, basically. They were intended to be packaged with seven Droids figures, drawn from both the first and second series, as cheap bonuses for those who bought the figures. In this sense, they would have been similar to the aluminum coins that were packaged with the earlier releases. In fact, I think it's quite likely that, had these companion droids made it to retail, the coin idea would have been dropped from the line entirely.
Most of what we know about these little things comes from a single photograph, published in the hardcover edition of Tomart's Price Guide to Worldwide Star Wars Collectibles. The image shows the seven Droids figures for which companions were to be created--Thall Joben, Kleb Zellock, Kez Iban, R2-D2, Vlix, Jessica Meade and Tig Fromm--posed together with their companions. The companions, however, aren't finished production pieces; they're concept models that appear to have been kit-bashed from the parts of other toys. The Kleb Zellock companion, for instance, incoporates one of the wrenches from the Vehicle Maintenance Energizer, while the Kez Iban model includes parts of the 8d8 figure.
This photo was published in 1997, and since then little evidence has surfaced to suggest that these toys made it any further along in the production process. Until, that is, two wood patterns for the toys surfaced, one of which you see here on this page. It's the one planned for inclusion with Kez Iban, and if you look at the Tomart photo you'll see that in general appearance it conforms closely to the corresponding concept model.
The piece is a 2-up, meaning it was created at twice its intended production scale. Since it's about 5" in height, it's safe to assume that the production item would have been about 2.5" tall. As you can see (well, if you have the Tomart book you can see), many of the details of the concept model were retained in this pattern. In particular, the 8d8esque arm is still present, as is the other arm, which looks kind of like some type of gun. A cape is also present. This too was a feature of the concept model, though on that prototype it was made of flimsy purple vinyl. Here it's been incorporated into the torso of the figure, having been carved directly into the wood of the pattern.
The primary difference vis-a-vis the concept model concerns the lower portions of the droid: it features tank-like treads rather than feet. Why exactly this change was made I don't know. But I think it was probably aesthetically motivated; the folks at Kenner likely thought the treads would look better. It's also worth noting that the other companion pattern we have here on the Archive, the one intended for the Jessica Meade figure, also utilized treads, though it used them in place of wheels rather than legs.
Here you see the top of the piece. As you might be able to tell, it was created in two halves, which sandwhich around the arms and treads thereby holding them in place.
This shot shows it as it looks disassembled. It's a pretty precise piece of work. While the majority of it is made of wood, there are quite a few pieces of detail that look to be made of resin or something similar, and if you look closely enough at some areas you can just make out the marks left by the sculptor.
Lastly, this shot shows the pattern as it might have looked once it made it to production. It's purple to match the color of Kez Iban. Well, it sort of matches anyway.
Love the Droids line or hate it, this pattern is a tantilizing look at what might have been had it continued. How far along in the production process did the companion droids get? It's hard to say with certainty, but I think it's likely that they didn't make it to the tooling stage, meaning, of course, that this pattern is as advanced a companion droid prototype as you'll find. I believe this because of the condition of the two patterns that were found-- they're both immaculate, a fact which probably indicates that epoxy tooling masters were not pulled from them. In most cases, patterns were severely damaged during this process.
|Description by:||Ron Salvatore|
|From the collection of:||Anonymous|
|Category:||Prototypes / Product Artwork|