The Quest For R2-D2: Part One – The Campaign

When the curtains opened on the sixth-but-third movie of the Star Wars saga in 2005, we were treated to the culmination of what would become the Skywalker Saga, and went away expecting that to be the end of Star Wars.

What we didn’t know was the creativity still flowed at Lucasfilm and in 2008 Star Wars moved from the big to the little screen with the release of The Clone Wars animated TV series.

Set between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, The Clone Wars bridged the gap between the events that began the galaxy-wide conflict and the order that brought about the end of the Jedi Order. Primarily focussing on Anakin Skywalker, his padawan Ahsoka Tano and the valiant Jedi Knights struggle to maintain order while Sith Lord Count Dooku and his agent, Asajj Ventress, plot against them, the series also incorporated the politics of the Republic and the issues facing the clones as they followed orders in a war they had no stake in.

Announced by Steve Sansweet (then Head of Fan Relations, now baron administrator of Rancho Obi-Wan) at San Diego Comic-Con on July 27th, LEGO got ahead of the curve when they adjusted their LEGO Star Wars lineup to include new sets from the upcoming animated series. Initially conducted as a soft roll-out, the first few sets didn’t have the blue and white masthead packaging that the LEGO Clone Wars collection adopted the following year when the line was fully launched.

The series proved a huge success and by 2009 sets based on the TV series began to dominate the year’s releases, with nearly 75% of the year’s System sets sourced from the show, and in a joint celebration of the success of The Clone Wars and the LEGO Star Wars theme’s 10th anniversary LEGO planned a very special promotional campaign.

Whether by design or happenstance, LEGO chose a storyline that was seemingly inspired by the sixth and seventh episodes of the first season: Downfall of a Droid and Duel of the Droids, a two-part story arc that saw R2-D2 being cast adrift in space, only to be picked up by scavengers who sell the astromech to General Grievous. Fearing that the Separatists will crack R2’s encryption and discover the Jedi military secrets locked in his memory banks, Anakin and Ahsoka – along with a contingent of clone troopers – embarked on a daring mission to rescue R2 and sabotage Grievous’s plans.

Unbeknownst to fans, LEGO had already got the ball rolling at the start of the year when the January/February issue of the LEGO Club Magazine featured the first part of The Hunt For R2-D2 comic strip, a series that would run through until the November/December issue.

The second part of the campaign began in March when the ongoing web-comic series, which had started in September 2008, began in March with an eight-part strip that followed a group of clone troopers ordered to find the missing astromech. It incorporated the basic plot points of the main story, but made some subtle (and inconsequential) changes so that fans would be spoiler-free when the mini-movie aired.

Fans got their third clue when, in May, LEGO uploaded the training level of a tie-in web-based video game to the LEGO Star Wars microsite. It allowed fans to help train Anakin and teased that the game would be expanded further.

The first inkling that LEGO had even more up their sleeves came in July when LEGO, through Toys “R” Us in Germany and the US, distributed movie theatre-style posters in a special give-away, but it wasn’t until the press release was shared on August 20th that the true nature of the next phase of the promotion was revealed.

The Quest for R2-D2:
LEGO Star Wars Celebrates Ten Years

LEGO Systems, Inc. continues its year-long celebration of 10 years of LEGO STAR WARS, its first licensed property, by inviting fans to join a search for R2-D2 in a fun-filled crossover event featuring the fan-favorite droid. Taking place through online animation comics that culminate in a 5-minute LEGO STAR WARS 3D animation mini movie, “The Quest for R2-D2″ will premiere as a commercial event within Cartoon Network prime time programming on Friday, August 28 at 9p.m.

Kids and kids at heart can visit www.StarWars.LEGO.com to find new comics, which follow the saga of the search for R2-D2.

“To commemorate the 10th anniversary of LEGO STAR WARS, we’ve created an engaging program for fans of any age that delivers the best of the STAR WARS franchise with the humor, versatility and fun of the LEGO brand,” said Michael Pratt, senior brand manager, LEGO Systems. “Each mini movie we have created and premiered on Cartoon Network has become a mini blockbuster, so we’re thrilled to add a new layer of engagement to the event with a series of online comics to tease the story and drive excitement for the premiere.”

LEGO STAR WARS: The Quest for R2-D2 was produced by M2 Films.

Originally broadcast on Cartoon Network, the mini-movie was shown in two halves during the commercial breaks of Destroy Build Destroy, with both the first and second parts made available in Flash format (which has been deprecated since December 31, 2020) on the LEGO Star Wars website as well as the LEGO channel on Youtube (and much later as a bonus feature on the Blu Ray/DVD combo of LEGO Star Wars: The Padawan Menace) the following week.

In a separate story arc to The Clone Wars animated TV series, the mini-movie centers around Anakin Skywalker and R2-D2 who are attempting to escape a Separtitist battleship in his Jedi Starfighter and evade the pursuing vulture droids so they can deliver a very important secret stored inside the droid. A lucky shot penetrates Anakin’s shields and causes R2-D2 to eject.

With his sidekick/navigator lost in space, Anakin returns to Coruscant to report the mission’s failure to his Master, Obi-Wan Kenobi, who sends Anakin and Ahsoka Tano to recover R2-D2, and Supreme Chancellor Palpatine dispatches an elite squad of clone troopers to increase the chance of success. Having learned of the two operations, the Separatists leaders make their own plans to retrieve the plans stored in the astromech’s memory banks before the Republic discovers what Count Dooku, Asajj Ventress, and General Grievous are up to. The quest for R2-D2 is on!

Readers from the 80s will remember Saturday morning TV shows (like GI Joe and He-Man) that were program-length commercials aimed to sell toys at kids, and, except for the fact that it was a commercial-length program, The Quest For R2-D2 was not much different. Packed in the 5 minutes and 30 seconds were product placements for 17 sets (including 5 that weren’t even related to The Clone Wars), most of which were available through the 2009 waves:

As loaded as the mini-movie might appear, only 50% of the Clone Wars sets from 2009 selection were actually featured in the mini-movie, with 7752 Count Dooku’s Solar Sailor, 7753 Pirate Tank, 8014 Clone Walker Battle Pack, 8015 Assassin Droids Battle Pack, 8018 Armoured Assault Tank (AAT) and 8036 Separatist Shuttle getting ignored.

Regardless of the true nature of The Quest For R2-D2, it was highly enjoyable and if you couldn’t put aside the commercialism, the multitude of gags, Easter eggs and hat-tips made up for any lingering sense of crassness.

Having converged on the Separatist battleship, Anakin, Ahsoka, and the clone troopers battle their way through waves of Separatist droids to rescue R2-D2 before Dooku, Grievous and Ventress can delete the secret plans stored in R2’s dome. Outgunned and outnumbered, the outlook for the Republic forces and Jedi knights doesn’t look good – until Yoda and Obi-Wan turn up to tip the odds.

With the rescue mission complete, R2 shares the important data he has been carrying – the plans to Grievous’s own flagship, The Malevolence, a ship armed with ion cannons powerful enough to disarm an entire fleet.

With the news delivered, R2 celebrates their victory with VIP tickets to the newly opened Skywalker World (a Star Wars theme park that – in all likelihood – inspired Disney to open Galaxy’s Edge).

The beginning of the closing scene delivers the mini-movie’s final hat-tip; parked at the front gates to Skywalker World – alongside Ahsoka’s and Anakin’s Jedi starfighters, the clone troopers Republic Attack Shuttle, and Y-wing Starfighter – is a banana yellow 1932 Ford Coupe hot rod which as, any George Lucas aficionado knows, appeared in American Graffiti.

That wasn’t the end of The Campaign For The Quest For R2-D2 though, because LEGO and Three Melons had been working together to develop a tie-in game. Allegedly due to be released in August to coincide with the mini-movie, delays caused the full version of The Hunt For R2-D2 web-game – the subject of The Quest For R2-D2: Part Two – to be finally released on September 26th.

Do you have fond memories of the comics or mini-movie? Do you remember the excitement as each new chapter and element was added to the story? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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