BDX Droids Coming to Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge!

Disney has announced that the fan-favorite BDX “Duckling Droids,” the new free-roaming two-legged droids that appeared for a day late last year in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge are returning for Season of the Force at Disneyland. This shares the official news, my reaction to seeing them in person, and other commentary about the evolution of Star Wars land.

In case you missed it, the Disney Research Team officially unveiled the ‘Duckling Droid’ robot prototype during the keynote presentation at the 2023 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems. Following that, Imagineering tested a trio of BDX droids at Disneyland last November.

According to Imagineering, the robot is capable of an enormous amount of expression in its child-size body, with a highly-expressive head, two wiggly antennae, and little legs. What sets this bipedal robot apart from others that simple look like it is how it walks. The BD-1 is full of personality, emoting as it moves in a way that makes it look alive and teeming with personality.

These bipedal robotic characters have impeccable balance combined with procedural animation, modular hardware, and reinforcement learning. That makes the droids capable of unique gaits and traits–and they can learn these traits within months.

This isn’t the first time Imagineering has showcased a robot with child-like emotion; we saw something similar with the Judy Hopps Bunny Robot at last year’s SXSW. There was also the Duke Weaselton, who appeared during the grand opening of Zootopia at Shanghai Disneyland and showed his dynamic maneuvers.

The latest news is that Imagineering has shared that they’ll be bringing these BDX Droids to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in Disneyland from April 5 through June 2, 2024 during the Season of the Force!

The BDX Droids will appear at various locations around Black Spire Outpost throughout the day. Like other roaming atmospheric characters, we’d expect to see them from around 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., but there’s not a published set schedule.

I had the opportunity to visit Walt Disney Imagineering recently, which included a tour of the research and development lab. During that, Imagineers showcased the BDX Droids and I was able to interact with them. When Disney calls these “highly-expressive” robots, they really aren’t kidding. I was surprised at just how emotive and adorable the droids are, and capable of conveying so much personality via hops, head wiggles, little light beams, and other movements.

Having seen droid playtesting in the past at Disneyland that, uh, didn’t go so well thanks to ‘overly-aggressive’ guests, I was curious just how durable these droids are. (They definitely don’t look quite as ‘robust’ as some of the earlier droids that WDI playested.) To my surprise, not only are the BDX Droids capable of self-correcting via their footwork, but they’re also fairly resilient when they encounter an obstacle. Or better yet, when an obstacle encounters them.

The Imagineers at the playtest indicated that the goal would be to prevent that from happening in the first place, but it’s still good to know the BDX Droids will be able to take a bit of a beating and keep on ticking. When I first saw the playtest videos last fall, my concern was that they’d be too delicate for daily park use. Very pleased to be wrong about that!

Here’s a peek at the robot in Imagineering’s labs and out in the wild (literally) during the previous playtest:

These are going to be a massive hit with guests given their aforementioned emotions. These will be like Baby Yoda, but in droid form (and minus the television show). The cuteness factor is off the charts, and the advantage that they have over the in-park Grogu is that they’ll actually be able to interact with and make connections with guests.

It might sound odd, but these will draw a huge crowd. I really hope the Season of the Force test goes well and these make their way to Walt Disney World. This is the kind of thing that will breathe new life into Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge!

Adding free-roaming Duckling Droids would bring Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge closer to its original vision. Back when the land was first announced, concept art featured a variety of alien life forms (no, not that ALF), droids, and original characters. Over time, new concept art was released reducing the number of droids (etc.), but anyone who has the The Art of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge book knows what could have been.

Many excuses have been offered over the years for why cuts were made to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. One is that the land had already gone over budget, and cuts are an ordinary part of the development and refinement of any project. Imagineering coffee table books are a veritable graveyard of abandoned ideas.

Another is that Disney feared that the land would be too crowded upon opening, and that droids would simply get in the way, be trampled, or otherwise cause issues. Obviously, this did not turn out to be the case. The first few months were really slow on both coasts. But hindsight is 20/20.

Yet another explanation is that a lot of entertainment planned for Galaxy’s Edge was pulled and put behind the paywall of Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser. A variation of this is that Bob Chapek, a notorious cost-cutter, didn’t feel droids and other entertainment were “necessary” for the success of the land.

Regardless of the real reason(s), I’d love to see Imagineering and Operations find a way to make more entertainment and droids “work” in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge on a permanent basis at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Season of the Force is a good start, but it’d be great to see the BDX Droids–and other droids–out on a daily basis.

The land is at its best with characters; without them it can feel soulless, impersonal, and lifeless at times and in spots. Characters are a great addition to Galaxy’s Edge, whether in human or droid form, and have already improved the guest response to the land. For ‘evidence’ of this, look no further than the Mandalorian and Baby Yoda in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Walt Disney World.

When the BDX Droids first appeared last holiday season, we speculated that they were part of a plan to actually introduce droids to the land on more than just a playtest basis. While Season of the Force isn’t a permanent event, I’m still going to claim this as a (partial) win.

Beyond this, my sneaking suspicion is (still) that these droids are part of a bigger picture plan to do a soft reboot and relaunch of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. There are a number of reasons for this, from Galactic Starcruiser closing to the strengths of Avengers Campus being evident to Disney not having much in the near-term and needing stop-gap ways to keep guests coming to the parks.

In fact, Josh D’Amaro has hinted in recent interviews that he wants to bring back atmospheric entertainment Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, but hasn’t committed to anything. Performers from Starcruiser are one way to accomplish this; droids are another. Those two relatively simple things would both breathe new life into the land and bring it more closely in-line with its original vision, before elements were cut due to concerns about crowds and/or a desire to put them behind the Starcruiser paywall.

It’s not difficult to envision a scenario where an announcement is made at the 2024 D23 Expo about a soft reboot of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge to launch the land to exciting new time periods and places–breaking the sacred timeline (but tastefully!) and using the setting of the land as a jumping off point for new adventures. (I know this is controversial with fans and I’m not looking to relitigate that argument. See Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Needs to Break the Rules for my take on all of that. Spoiler: my opinion is right there in the title!)

It may seem like an eternity ago at this point, but there were credible rumors of this back in late 2019. At the time, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge was underperforming expectations and there was already a desire to “fix” it to better comport with guest expectations and generate interest. Obviously, it’s been a few years for then and other events “intervened” back in 2020 to prevent any changes from happening.

Fast-forward four years, and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is no longer new. Not only that, but after Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, there’s nothing major in the pipeline. As we’ve previously pointed out, Disney construction timelines being what they are, the company will necessarily have to rely on entertainment, overlays or reimaginings as the tentpoles for their big marketing pushes in 2025 and probably 2026.

A reboot of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge could offer exactly that. In addition to droids and performers, there’s also tangible technology that was produced for Starcruiser via Imagineering R&D that Walt Disney World and Disneyland might want to reuse in the land. New entertainment could be created for the catwalks in the land, Savi’s Workshop, Oga’s Cantina, and elsewhere.

They could also do a new mission for Millennium Falcon Smugglers Run. Add to that a land that feels more lived-in thanks to droids, more performers, and timeline tweaks…and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge could be reinvented. I wouldn’t even be surprised if its given a new name–everyone calls it “Star Wars Land” anyway, so it’s not like the “Galaxy’s Edge” subtitle is a strong brand.

It shouldn’t be too difficult for Imagineering to take the lessons learned and convince company leadership to invest more into Star Wars Land. It’d be worth the investment as a marketable addition that generates new interest. It’s also simply the smart move–Imagineering had this mostly right from the beginning, and guests would love that version of the land even more. Of course, all of this is speculative and wishful thinking. Back in Realityland, we’re excited for Megatron to “meet” the BDX Droids–she loves real ducks, so hopefully these little fellas are a huge hit. Look for the BDX Droids at various locations throughout the day in Black Spire Outpost during Season of the Force at Disneyland from April 5 to June 2, 2024.

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What do you think of the BDX Droids? Excited to meet the Huey, Dewey and Louie robotic ducklings in Galaxy’s Edge? Expect to see these duckling droids in Disneyland or Walt Disney World on a permanent basis if this event goes well? Think that Bob Iger and Josh D’Amaro will sign off on a soft reboot of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge? Should more be added to the land, or is it time to move on to other projects? Do you agree or disagree with our assessments? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

16 Responses to “BDX Droids Coming to Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge!”
  1. Emilee April 7, 2024
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    • Tom Bricker April 5, 2024
  4. George Mells April 4, 2024
    • MrNico April 4, 2024
    • George Mells April 5, 2024
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