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By Thomas Wheeler

There are two types of Star Wars action figures that I will always welcome into my collection -- Clone Troopers (and by extension, Stormtroopers), and Astromech Droids. I really get a kick out of the little fireplugs, and there's certainly been no shortage of them over the years. I never did get those exclusive sets from Entertainment Earth a few years ago. Maybe someday, but in the meantime, I have no shortage of R2-type droids around here.

Recently a very particular two-pack of Star Wars figures became available, that featured a very distinctive R2-type droid. Unfortunately, it wasn't a set that I could just whip down to Walmart or Toys "R" Us to pick up. It was an exclusive to the Disney theme parks. So, how did I get it? Let's just say that it pays to have friends in the right places.

The set, produced by Hasbro, features an astromech droid by the name of R2-MK, and a Jedi Knight by the name of -- Mickey Mouse.

Now, I can't imagine that I have to explain Mickey Mouse all that much to any of you. Created in 1928 -- and looking darn good for being on the high side of 80 -- Mickey Mouse is today one of the most recognizable fictional characters in history. He is literally known worldwide as the symbol of The Walt Disney Company, which also certainly is known worldwide.

By means of some brief history, since I do like to provide that sort of thing whenever possible, Mickey was more or less the result of some bad fortune on Walt Disney's part. Some bad fortune! He'd been working on a series of animated shorts featuring a character called Oswald the Lucky Rabbit for Universal. With the animated shorts doing well, Walt asked for a budget increase. Instead, he was told that his budget was going to be reduced by 20%, and that most of the animators working with Walt had already signed a new deal. Disgusted, Disney left, leaving Oswald behind, but taking with him two loyal animators named Ub Iwerks and Les Clark. They created Disney Studios and soon after came up with Mickey (briefly Mortimer) Mouse, after going through other various species.

The Disney Company regards Mickey's official "birthday" as November 18, 1928, which was the theatrical debut of the legendary "Steamboat Willie". However, Mickey had actually appeared in two previous shorts, "Plane Crazy" and "The Gallopin' Gaucho". What set "Steamboat Willie" apart was that it was the first to include sound, with Mickey voiced by Walt Disney himself, as he would continue to do until 1947.

Audiences at the time of "Steamboat Willie's" release were reportedly impressed by the use of sound for comedic purposes. Sound films or "talkies" were still considered innovative. The first feature-length movie with dialogue sequences, The Jazz Singer starring Al Jolson, was released on October 6, 1927. Within a year of its success, most United States movie theaters had installed sound film equipment. Walt Disney apparently intended to take advantage of this new trend and, arguably, managed to succeed. Most other cartoon studios were still producing silent products and so were unable to effectively act as competition to Disney. As a result Mickey would soon become the most prominent animated character of the time. Walt Disney soon worked on adding sound to both "Plane Crazy" and "The Gallopin' Gaucho" and their new release added to Mickey's success and popularity. A fourth Mickey short, The Barn Dance, was also put into production; however, Mickey does not actually speak until "The Karnival Kid" in 1929 when his first spoken words were "Hot dogs, Hot dogs!" (He whistled in "Steamboat Willie"). Mickey first appeared in color in 1935.

On November 18, 1978, in honor of his 50th anniversary, he became the first cartoon character to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Throughout the decades, Mickey Mouse competed with Warner Bros.' Bugs Bunny for animated popularity. But in 1988, in a historic moment in motion picture history, the two rivals finally shared screen time in the Robert Zemeckis Disney/Amblin film "Who Framed Roger Rabbit". In 1999-2004, he appeared in made-for-video features, like "Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas"; "Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers"; and the computer-animated "Mickey's Twice Upon a Christmas". Many television programs have centered around Mickey, such as the recent shows "Mickey Mouse Works" (1999-2000), "Disney's House of Mouse" (2001-2003) and "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse" (2006). Mickey was the Grand Marshal of the Tournament of Roses Parade on New Year's Day 2005. Mickey is currently the main character in the Disney Channel's Playhouse Disney series "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse".

He has appeared in a great many animated shorts, toys, video games, comic strips, comic books, and is certainly the centerpiece character of the entire Walt Disney Company, and appears throughout their theme parks, which also feature "Hidden Mickeys", silhouettes of Mickey's head. His appearances and accomplishments are far too numerous to even attempt to list beyond this basic summary.

So -- what the heck is he doing as a Jedi Knight? Apart from the fact that -- well, what HASN'T he done at some point...?

Simply stated, Disney and LucasFilm have an excellent working arrangement, centered around the popular Star Wars-based "Star Tours" attractions in their theme parks. More recently, this has resulted in a series of action figures, produced by Hasbro, the maker of Star Wars action figures, exclusively for the theme parts, which present the iconic Disney characters as Star Wars characters.

(Now that Disney owns Marvel Comics, and Hasbro is the current licensee for Marvel-based toys, I keep wondering how long it's going to take for that crossover. Is the world ready for Spider-Mouse, Iron Duck, and Mr. Gooftastic? And maybe I shouldn't say that too loud...)

So -- Mickey as a Jedi Knight. Okay -- the Jedi Order certainly has a wide range of assorted alien life forms among its ranks. Mickey might be pushing it a bit, visually speaking. Admittedly, I can see the appeal for one certain Jedi Master. The figure of Mickey, which is presumably to scale with the 3-3/4" action figure line, is about 2-1/4" to the top of his ears. I've got a Clone Wars Yoda figure here, and he can basically look Mickey right in the eyes. That's not something Yoda can do with very many people -- not if they're standing up, anyway.

Even so, I mean -- no offense to Mickey, but try to picture him taking Obi-Wan's place in that confrontation on the Death Star. Darth Vader comes along and in that wall-shaking baritone of his, says, "When last we met I was but the learner. Now I am the master!" And Mickey squeaks out in that high-pitched falsetto voice, "Only a master of evil, Darth!" Let's face it, Mickey's best shot for victory at this point is if Vader collapses to the ground in hysterical laughter.

Okay, so how's the figure? Well, it certainly looks like one would expect Mickey to look if he was trying to be a Jedi Knight. The headsculpt is excellent. There's something about Mickey's head that is strikes me would be just a little difficult to render effectively in 3-D, but this is really very well done. Mickey's brow is turned down, giving him a decidedly determined expression. Mickey as a Jedi is enough of a stretch without giving him his usual happy-go-lucky expression. On the whole, though, the colors and proportions are just as they should be.

The body is well done, too. Mickey is wearing a loose-fitting Jedi rove, and his arms are the sleeves of the robe, and there's Lucas and Disney copyrights out the wazoo on the underside of the robe, but it is possible to raise the robe and see the body design underneath. Mickey is wearing the same sort of tan woven garment common to many Jedi, complete with a belt across the middle. He also has brown shoes, with those big feet. About the only really "Mickey" part of his wardrobe are his white gloves with the little black lines on the back.

The only downside is that Mickey isn't especially articulated. Now, this isn't any great surprise. These figures are certainly more intended for display than play. And Mickey would not have been especially easy to articulate. He is poseable at the head and the arms. And really, the arms only look properly posed when they're holding onto the lightsaber that Mickey comes with. Any other position, and the clenched hands make Jedi Mickey look like he's getting ready to strangle someone.

So, Jedi Mickey doesn't move all that much. He still looks good, and certainly is a very capable rendition of the legendary Mickey Mouse as a Jedi Knight.

Now, let's consider the droid, R2-MK. Again, no disrespect towards Mickey, but this was what I was especially interested in with regard to this set. Why? Well, apart from my general enjoyment of the Astromech Droids, throw in the fact that here was a Droid whose colors were very similar to Mickey's own traditional colors, and then the absolute clincher was the fact that R2-MK is wearing a Mouse-Ears hat! I couldn't pass that up!

I decided to have a little fun and see if there was any sort of entry for R2-MK on the extensive Star Wars-based Web Site, "Wookieepedia". I honestly didn't expect to find anything. And yet, there was an entry, if a brief one. It reads:

"R2-MK was a red, white and yellow, astromech droid with black outlines that is owned by a Jedi Knight. The droid's dome was decorated with stylized 'ears' inspired by its master."

The entry is very careful not to mention who that master is, and it also indicates that R2-MK is a "non-canon" character as far as the Star Wars universe at large is concerned. Okay, fine, whatever. Not going to keep me from standing him right alongside the rest of my Astromech Droids while Mickey and Yoda trade short jokes.

By means of a brief history, within the Star Wars universe, courtesy of the excellent book "The New Star Wars Essential Guide to Droids", the Astromech Droids are the product of a corporation called Industrial Automaton. They started out with the R1 droid, which looks very little like any of its successors, in fact being the same height as a standard human, and a rather clunky looking contraption at that. Hasbro actually made an action figure of one some years ago.

The Astromechs really caught on with the R2. As their name implies, the main functions of Astromech droids are interstellar navigation and, when needed, starship repair. The waist-high R2 fits perfectly into the standard socket of a military starfighter. Once plugged in, it can monitor flight performance, fix technical problems, and boost power from shipboard systems. It can also hold up to ten sets of hyperspace coordinates in memory, and possesses the intelligence to perform engine start-up and pre-flight taxiing.

There are R-Series droids all the way up to R9's. R3's were designated as military models. R4's were more civilian oriented, and generally intended for land-based vehicles. The R5's were disasters for the company. Apparently R5-D4, seen briefly in the first Star Wars movie, wasn't the only one to pop his top. The R6 was more or less an apology of sorts, but was an effective series. R7's were designed to work primarily with the New Republic's E-Wing fighters. R8's were another general-use droid, while R9's were produced in the wake of the Yuuzhan Vong invasion for use in StealthX starfighters.

Hasbro has made at least one droid from most of these types, except for R6, R8, and R9. The two R7's were "Droid Factory" series where you had to collect the parts.

Most of the droids Hasbro has made are of the R2 variety, and for this, they have several sets of body molds with different capabilities. In my opinion, they chose the best of the lot for R2-MK. This particular version features a retractable and extendable third center leg that can be extended or retracted by turning the dome head. It's an excellent representation of how the leg "actually" works on the droids themselves.

R2-MK's body is predominantly white. Many of his panels are outlined in black, which is quite unusual, but it brings one of Mickey's main colors into the mix, as well as almost giving R2-MK a sort of "cartoonish" look, which isn't entirely inappropriate given his master. R2-MK has black stripes down the sides of his legs, and yellow wiring and markings around his feet -- including the third center one. This is in keeping with Mickey's traditional yellow shoes. Some of the details on his body have been painted in red, another color frequently associated with the Mouse.

R2-MK's dome is not just red, though, it's CHROME red. Very striking! Very, very few droids in any of the modern Star Wars lines have been given chrome. The red color, alluding to Mickey's traditional shorts, really helps the overall look of R2-MK as being property of Mickey. Most of the details on R2-MK's head are painted in black, again well in keeping colorwise, with just a few little hints of yellow.

Of course, what really makes the droid is the hat. Anybody who knows much of anything about Disney knows that one of the most popular Disney theme park souvenirs of all time has to be the Mouse-Ears hat, a (usually) black cap with plastic Mouse Ears attached to it. These hats are often embroidered with the name of the recipient, in yellow thread on the back. I have one myself.

The hat was molded as a separate piece, and is secured to the top of the dome by using the protruding tip of the sensor scope as a peg. It's a perfect fit. The hat could be a little better secured -- I honestly expected it to be glued in place, but for display purposes, there's no reason that it shouldn't stay put. The hat is a perfect design, right down to the ears.

There is an emblem on the front of the hat, but it's not for Mickey Mouse or the Mickey Mouse Club, or anything like that. Rather, it's a Star Wars symbol, and interestingly enough, based on the symbology used by Dark Horse Comics for the various eras of Star Wars history, the symbol on R2-MK's Mouse hat is the same one used to represent the so-called "Legacy" era, which actually takes place over 130 years after the Classic Trilogy.

Now that's fine and well, but it would seem that the result of this is one time-traveling Jedi Mouse and his Droid. The text on the back of the package for this two-pack reads as follows: "Whether he is fighting the Separatist forces in the Clone Wars, or helping the galaxy with their struggles against the Galactic Empire, Jedi Master Mickey Mouse is ready to use the Force at anytime. Aided by new friend, astromech droid R2-MK, these allies can complete any mission in the galaxy. Join Jedi Mickey and R2-MK on their many adventures across the stars! May the Force be with you."

So, we've got the Clone Wars, the Imperial Era, AND the Legacy time period referenced in one form or another here. This Mouse and his Droid get around, don't they?!

R2-MK's hat also has his name stamped on the back, in neat type. Nice touch, really. I got a kick out of that. Overall, R2-MK's painted details are superbly done, and I really like the chrome red. He doesn't have all that much articulation, but this is not due to omission, but simply because there's not that much on these droids that you can articulate. His legs move back to allow for his "three-legged" mode, the feet are flexible, the third leg descends and rises as the head is turned, and that's about it, but that's about all that's needed. He also has little wheels under all three of his feet to allow him to roll along a bit. This is an impressive bit of additional workmanship from this particular set of droid molds that I sincerely appreciate.

There's also a nice circular plastic display base, black with the STAR TOURS logo in silver, with foot pegs for both Mickey and R2-MK. Additionally, it is possible to save the interior packaging as a small diorama, even once you've (carefully) removed the outer plastic shell to access the toys, if you so choose.

So, what's my final word? If you're a Disney fan, a Star Wars fan, or even specifically an Astromech Droid collector, you need to get this set. Better still if you fall into all three of those categories, as I do. Granted the set is not going to be found at Walmart or Toys "R" Us. But there's ways to get it. And if you happen to have a friend that's planning a vacation to a Disney theme park, before they go, perhaps you can ask them for a favor. Even better, if you're going yourself, be sure to track this set down.

The STAR TOURS JEDI MICKEY and R2-MK two-pack definitely has my highest recommendation!