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REVIEW:
SDCC EXCLUSIVE STAR WARS R2-KT ASTROMECH DROID
By Thomas Wheeler


It's not often that I review a toy that has a very poignant story behind it. In fact, I honestly don't recall a previous time. When I review a toy, my goal is to present the background of the character in question, the concept it's from, and then review the action figure itself from a standpoint of how good a likeness of the character it is, how well the action figure is made, what features it has, and if necessary, any problems that I feel should have been dealt with. I'm not out to write the Great American Novel or some screenplay that's going to become a theatrical tear-jerker.

But here we have an exception. A toy with a sincerely sad but touching story behind it.

This figure was an exclusive to the 2007 San Diego ComiCon. Some toys at the show seem more exclusive than others. Mattel's Justice Leage Unlimited three-pack, for example, seemed more a case of "we don't know what else to do with this stock" situation. The figures were on older packaging, and there was nothing to indicate that it was a ComiCon exclusive.

There was no question that this item was a ComiCon exclusive. It was packaged in very special packaging, designed very distinctly for this toy. And I will discuss the packaging over the course of the review, but we really need to discuss the toy first and foremost.

It's a Star Wars figure. More to the point, it's an R2-type Astromech Droid. In and of itself, there's nothing unusual about that. There have been quite a number of such droids over the years, including a number of online store exclusives. But what sets this droid apart from the others is that, although it has a mostly white body with a silver dome, very much like that best-known of all R2 droids, R2-D2, the trim color across its body is not blue -- it's pink. A rather intense pink, at that.

Now, I could make some remark about this being almost as unusual as the mostly purple astromech droid assigned to Mace Windu, but the backstory to this particular droid doesn't leave a lot of room for my usual brand of hopefully humorous sarcasm. So I'm going to steer clear of that sort of thing as much as possible.

This droid's name is R2-KT. Don't look for it in the movies, or the novels, or the comic books. That's not where R2-KT turned up. R2-KT served a very special purpose, and it wasn't a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. It was right here on Earth, rather recently.

R2-KT was created in 2005 to honor Katie Johnson, a little girl who tragically passed away from brain cancer on August 9, 2005, at the very young age of seven. Her father, Albin Johnson, is the founder of the 501st Legion, a Star Wars costume fan club that performs charity work around the world. They're probably best known for their appearance in the 2007 Tournament of Roses Parade. They were the marchers in the Stormtrooper uniforms as part of the Star Wars floats.

Katie had a special wish - she wanted to visit Walt Disney World. Through the generosity of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Katie's wish was granted. Then another special dream came true. Katie's sister, Allie, was inspired one day by the scene in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, in which the sleeping Senator Padme Amidala is being watched over by R2-D2 in her apartment on Coruscant. Allie thought how great it would be if Artoo could watch over Katie while she underwent treatment, and for such a droid to be named "KT" after her sister.

The R2 Builders Club made Allie's idea a reality by creating a unique R2 droid especially for Katie, giving it pink trim in place of the traditional blue.

The 501st Legion approached Hasbro with the idea of producing a figure to commemorate Katie and R2-KT. This inspired Hasbro and LucasFilm to help make more wishes come true for children like Katie. Hasbro and LucasFilm are donating $100,000 in Katie's memory to the Make-A-Wish Foundations of South Carolina and San Diego.

It's a heart-rending story. No child should suffer such a terrible and ultimately fatal ordeal as this. I can only hope that R2-KT brought some comfort to Katie's life.

The packaging for the toy is superbly well done. The figure is on an elegant card, sealed inside an outer plastic bubble that has been used for special collector-level figures before. The droid is mounted inside a huge curved frame on the card itself. The backdrop on the card is rays of pink, with a variation on the Imperial emblem, with a heart in the center of it. Logos on the front of the card are for the 502st Legion, and one for R2-KT, which reads "The Pink Imperial Droid with the Heart of Gold".

The back of the card features a picture of Katie, the droid, R2-KT's logo, and the backstory which I paraphrased in the paragraphs above, along with a number of Web Sites which I shall relate at the end of this review.

There's also an R2-KT trading card inside the package.

I admit I was reluctant to open the toy, even though I am normally not one for keeping toys in their packages, but I realized that I wanted to be able to give the toy a proper review. And as it turned out, opening the toy -- which I did very carefully to preserve the packaging as best as I could -- revealed a few surprises.

Now, there are several mold sets of R2-droids out there that Hasbro will use when they want to produce a new droid. In this instance, the R2 molds used for R2-KT are the molds that produce a droid with the retractable third leg that retracts or extends by winding the head around a few times. It's really a good set of molds, the "action feature" works well, the figure is nicely poseable, and the legs and feet can be posed to well accommodate either a two-legged or three- legged stance. The three legs all have little wheels under them so the droid can roll along just like any astromech droid is capable of.

The overall color scheme, except for the pink, is pretty much the same as R2-D2's - white body with a silver dome. But then there is the pink. It's an extremely intense pink. The only other time I see this pink in the action figure world (and it's pretty much a precise match for it, too), is each year when Bandai releases a new Pink Power Ranger. It's that color pink.

Somewhat curiously, the pink has a very flat, matte finish to it. This is unusual for a Hasbro action figure. Then again, the last time I saw anything close to this color pink turn up in a Hasbro action figure, it was on Zarana from the G.I. Joe line way back in 1986, and I don't think that was as intense as this. I don't say this to sound at all critical, but it may be that Hasbro had to bring in a special batch of pink paint just for this figure.

I will say that the paint work is very, very neatly applied. I have had far too many reasons to criticize the factories in China that paint toys for Hasbro, including Star Wars. But that is categorically NOT the case with R2-KT. All painted details, both pink and silver, some very intricate, are very neatly done.

As I said, opening the toy revealed a couple of bonuses. There's a couple of interesting additions to the back of the figure. Across the top of the back of R2-KT, in red type, are the words, "R2-KT - In Loving Memory of Katie Johnson". These words are flanked on one side by the emblem of the Empire, with the center altered to look like a flower, and the emblem of the Rebellion, with its lower part altered to look like a rose. Additionally, on the back of R2-KT's right leg, also imprinted in red, is the emblem of the Empire, with its center altered to look like a heart, and the initials "KJ".

Obviously, I recommend this toy, and not just because it's a cool addition to the Star Wars collection of anyone who collects the figures and maybe especially likes the Astromech Droids. There's a story here of a little girl that should not be forgotten, and of how Star Wars as a concept can reach out to people in very positive ways. And of how clubs and companies involved in Star Wars -- The 501st Legion, Hasbro, LucasFilm -- can come together to make a little girl's life a little brighter for as long as they could, and also help a worthy organization like the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

We should all keep this in mind the next time somebody thinks of Star Wars fans as just a bunch of geeks who like to dress up in strange costumes...

The back of the package card to this toy clearly hs the logo of the San Diego ComiCon on it. However, I have heard that R2-KT is also available online for a very reasonable price, and certainly I would recommend this fine droid.

The logo of the Make-A-Wish Foundation is also shown on the package, and this brings me to the Web Sites I wanted to mention. Several are listed on the card back, including the 501st Legion at 501st; the R2-KT project at r2kt; and of course the Make-A-Wish Foundation itself, very easily accessible online at http://www.wish.org.

R2-KT helped a little girl in her most difficult time. You can help other kids see their dreams come true through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and you can also bring R2-KT into your home, and remember what can be done through imagination and people who care.