As promised, I did finish building the C-3PO from the Disney Parks exclusive Droid Pack. Honestly, when I first saw the paint modification for this (at least as shown on the packaging), I was not impressed. I just didn’t like how it looked, to be honest. Having built it now, I have a different opinion. It’s one of those cases where it loses something by being photographed. It seems to flat and blah in photos, but in person, it actually looks pretty good. And it really worked for the partially scrapped photos I did for the last post.
I’m hoping that the video above helps you understand what I mean. Seeing the way the light interacts with the dirty spots, etc, makes it seem less… blah. Oh, and I want to tip my hat to the designers – the pattern of the spots is not consistent, even between identical parts. It’s uneven, but in a good way. It looks more natural. They made a good call on that!
As you can see, I had a little fun with taking some additional photos. One with LEGO Chewie quite upset at finding Threepio in pieces (not to mention much larger than he’s used to him being). And another with the full Droid Pack all together for a family photo. Which sorta made me sad that the characters never got to meet up all together, what with Kaytoo’s brutal, but heroic, demise.
Side Note: in case you didn’t see the blurb in my previous news post, I’ve been dealing with a bit of stuff, and so this post has been held hostage by life. Everything above was written fairly soon after completing the build, but then the post just sat here, waiting to be rescued and completed while I found a way free of the physical and emotional exhaustions as well as some not horrible, but not great, health issues. So… sorry if this build review section is a little less thorough than usual.
Before we get into the review proper, I want to explain that I built this model somewhat out of order, in the name of getting all the limbs and body parts into chunks that could be used in the Threepio backpack photo. So, unlike the order in the instructions, I built C-3PO in the following order: Leg Day, Arm Day, Head and Torso Day, and Final Assembly Day, with a Bonus “Oops, I Made a Mistake” session. And because I’ve built him several times now, I built both legs (arms) at the same time (part by part) instead of finishing one leg (arm), then starting the other leg (arm). If you decide to dare this strategy, make sure that you have a way to keep your left and right parts identified and separated as you go. You don’t want to mix them up, trust me.
While I’m prefacing the detailed review, I want to take a moment to speak to building humanoid models like this (or Iron Man, Knight’s Armor, etc). One technique that you will need to master while building this kind of model is the long and tapered cylinder. Mostly for the shin, thigh, forearm and upper arm sections. These can be frustrating to get used to, and I’m sure every builder develops their own approach, but I figured I would just share mine up front.
I like to find a cylinder form tool (drill bits or whatever you have) sized appropriately for the narrower end of the tapered cylinder. I use a little form selector guide that I’ve developed, but you can often just use whatever part is going to be connected to the end of the cylinder to get an idea of the right size. With that forming tool, I work my way around the cylinder adding a bit of curvature as I go, but shifting the forming tool to the side a bit at the wider end as I go (generally lining it up with the curvature relief etching that is often on the inside of the cylinder. I rarely get the cylinder formed in the first pass, or even the second, as I repeat the process several times and try to even up the curve in areas where it seems flat. Anyways, that’s my approach, and I hope that maybe it gives you some guidance. If what I wrote here doesn’t make complete sense, you can scroll down to the bottom where I have embedded full-length build videos. Scrub through until you see me working on one of these and maybe it will make more sense with a visual aide.
Now it’s on to reviewing the build properly! The first bit of work is on Threepio’s feet, and I always have a bit of trouble forming the feet. The bottom platform sections aren’t that bad, though I prefer to curve the rounded sections of the trim before folding them over, personally. Makes slotting the tabs into place easier, and I find it easier to use a forming tool when the bit to be curved is not at a right angle to a surface. The real challenge is in forming the upper part of the foot. It’s much narrower at the back (heel) that the instructions seem to imply, at least in my experience. And I like to go ahead and close up the heel before inserting the shin / lower-leg sections into place. Still, though, this is not too awful of a segment, once you get the hang of the compound curves that make the top of the feet. Be prepared to accept the face that the front edge of the foot top will not meet flush across the whole at the bottom. And the loop at the back over the heel will stick out a bit past the heel of the “sole” of the foot.
Oh, and when you are forming the lower leg section, make sure you get the little triangularish bits (parts 4/5 and 17/18) on the side attached to the correct side of each leg. Pay special attention to the notes about which one has one slot at the top, because you don’t want to mix that up. Don’t ask me how I know.
This leads into the build of the knee joints, which feature quite a bit of layered cylinders. I like to fold/roll the tabs over on the central cylinder (part 8), just out of habit, but you can actually do the twist as listed in the instructions. These will be hidden either under the upper cylinder covering or inside the lower leg. I do know that a simple flat fold up can cause problems as the cylinder cover (part 9) running across the top is a tight fit. It can be done though, but I would recommend rolling the tip over so that it’s flatter.
After that, you just have to form the thigh segment and attach it to a another partial cylinder (part 14). Take note that it is very important to fold the tabs over in this connection, as this partial cylinder will lay right over the upper partial cylinder on the knee joint. Which you will do right after connecting the knee join to the shin section, something that depends on you having put everything together on the correct sides. It’s also an interesting bit of fun getting the folded-out tabs of the knee joint through the slots on the connecting parts on the lower leg without deforming the lower leg too much. It’s possible, though. Just be patient and careful. Finally, when attaching the thigh assembly to the knee, I would suggest that you fold the tabs down towards the knee, rather than up towards the thigh. It’s not as pretty, but it is much more secure.
In my memories of building C-3PO previously, I remembered two things being of particular challenge, the head and the arms. My memory was not wrong about either, but Arm Day came first, so… let’s discuss the arms. Now, in reality, the arms are not a whole lot different than the legs. In fact, they are simpler in some ways. But they do have one major difference – the pistons that stick out on the sides.
There are two types, as I see them. One type is actually just sticking out on the sides of the forearms. These are quite delicate, get in the way of forming the curve, and are easily mangled a lot during the construction of the arm. The other type are attached to the forearms, through a pair of tabs that are secured inside the forearm. These are a challenge in their own way, being hard to keep tight and straight (without glue), and their tabs make it very difficult to get a good shaping on the curvature of the cylinder.
Further complicating the construction of the arms is the way the elbow joints are secured. I don’t know if I am consistently building the parts of the arm incorrectly, or if it’s just a small design flaw, but it always seems like I can’t fully secure the tabs. The opening in the back of the forearm seems to be too wide. I slot the tab on the inside of the elbow first, and then the tab going to the outside of the elbow doesn’t even make it through the slot unless I squeeze things in funny seeming ways. I usually end up with a bit of tab not fully seated, and so the forearm hangs a little loosely from the upper arm.
Finally, one of the easiest mistakes to make while building this model is to attach the upper arm to the shoulder at the wrong angle. The first build of Threepio that I attempted, I thought I had attached it wrong and so I tried to fix it. And made it worse. So I removed and reattached again. It may actually be that I had assembled the shoulder incorrectly, too. But now, on the third Threepio build, I figured I had a good chance of avoiding that mistake. But, as it turns out, Metal Earth had my back. There are very big callouts for the correct alignment of parts in the shoulder joints (though it took me a minute to figure out that they were referring to the holes around the outside of part 31). And they even delay attaching the left arm to the shoulder until final assembly to make sure you get that one right. So pay attention to these callouts!
Head and Torso Day
As I said before, I built Threepio all sorts of out of order. And that mostly meant skipping over building the various parts of the torso, and then coming back to do it later. Which means I spent a lot of time skipping around and trying to find which page I needed to be on. But it was worth it, to me, so that I could get that photo opportunity. And it made for a fun supposed-to-be-final build session.
Of this section, the most challenging part, in my experience, is forming his head. Or maybe slotting all the tabs after getting the form as close as possible? I’ve gotten used to forming non-standard curves and shapes at this point, so shaping the head wasn’t as challenging this time around, but it’s definitely going to test your patience if this is the first time you’ve approached something like this. If you have a marble or something like that, it can serve to help a little in shaping the form. I used Animate Orange’s dome shaping tool to get started, then regular cylinder tools to fine tune, as well as just hand-bending. After that, you just have to magic all five bajillion tabs into their slots at the same time. It’s fun!
Now, the instructions do have a good bit of advice (with the back half, but it can be applied to the front half, too) on making this alignment easier. Start by slotting the top-most two tabs, and then work your way down the sides. When working on the front of the head, go ahead and twist those tabs to get a secure connection, and it wouldn’t hurt to do a light twist on the top two tabs before proceeding to slot the rest of the tabs. On the back, you are once again going to want to start with the top two, and you are definitely going to want to do a light twisting on those tabs, just barely enough to get them to stay in place.
Then work your way down, seating each pair of tabs partially. If you try to seat them fully, you won’t be able to align the next set of tabs, or at least it’s going to be a pain in the butt. Anyways, once you get the lowest two tabs slotted, fold them outwards to secure them (folding inwards leaves a slightly loose connection). Work your way back up to the top, pressing the parts in for a tight fold outwards on the front, finishing with the top two tabs by removing the slight twist first, then folding them out. And now you are ready to pretend that C-3PO is cosplaying as the Statue of Liberty! Okay, kidding aside, I suggest that you try to roll the tabs over the edge, if you can, so it doesn’t look nearly as silly. Still better than having all those pokey twisted tabs sticking out around the face, as the instructions suggest!
And just a few quick notes on the chin / neck section. First of all, I don’t know why they say to twist the tabs on the chin and the back of the neck. Looks much better if you fold them. Oh, and start by slotting the front two tabs, and then align the back tab. Much easier than the other way around. As for the thin neck cylinder, make sure to fold the tabs on either side (not the front and back) instead of twisting them when securing to the chin plate. I didn’t do that, and they ended up causing problems by trying to take up the same physical space as the side of the head when you try to attach the head to the chin plate.
The pelvis area is a little fiddly, being an interesting compound curve, but it’s not the worst. Just take your time, and be gentle. Use some cylinder forming tools to get a start on the curves, then use your fingers to adjust the curves to what it should be, especially where the two curves come to cross each other / meet up. The midriff part is also pretty straight-forward, just remember that it’s oblong. Though the offset of the seam on the back does throw me a little bit. So used to that sort of thing being centered.
The chest assembly does present a slightly interesting challenge, but its nothing compared to some of the armor series or iron man. The shoulders are a pretty basic curve, but the trim at the bottom on the front is a little odd. It’s not a right-angle fold, despite what the instructions look like. And the ambiguous curve in on the sides of the front and back are… well, ambiguous. One thing you can do is use the shoulder sections of the arms and test fit them to the shoulder part of the chest. This gives you a good sense of whether you’ve got the curve right. The lower part of the chest is much simpler, and the shoulder section just drops right over it.
The last part of the torso is the backpack, as I think of it. It’s really not that complicated, to be honest. Nice and simple straight folds… at this point that should be pretty refreshing, right? It is an interesting fit when attaching to the back of the chest plate, but not anything that really seems like it’s worrying about at this point. I mean, look at all the curving that it took to get to this point!
Final Assembly Day
And now, I finally get to put all these parts together and calm the wookiee back down. Though Threepio was not happy with the way I put his left arm together, but we’ll get to that when we get to that.
So, one thing that always turns out interesting with most armor or humanoid form models (at least the ones that have bases to stand on) is that the legs don’t really line up with where you are supposed to attach them. This model does not buck the trend. The legs, at least every time I’ve built Threepio, want to be spread far too wide apart. At least securing the legs to the pelvis is a pretty easy process, Fascinations designed the connections well. As for attaching the legs to the base, I find it easiest to slot one foot’s tabs completely, but only secure the outer tabs. Then align and slot the other foot’s tabs and secure it’s outer tabs. After that, you can use a bit of brute force to convince the inner tabs to go all the way through their slots and secure them, too. Oh, and you definitely want to use a twist to secure these, folds will not hold up to the strain that will be put on them.
Attaching the arms to the chest plate came next, which wasn’t too bad (at least I thought it didn’t go so bad…). I did find that I wanted to curve the corners of the upper section of the chest plate in more to match the shoulder joints, but it’s not a must. Be careful with the pistons, and don’t bother trying to straighten them out if you mangle them. Wait until you are done with the full assembly, because you’ll probably mangle them again before then. At least, if you are anything like me.
Securing the head to the chest plate is both easier and harder than expected. It looks like lining up the tabs is going to be a complicated matter, but it actually seems to go fairly easily. However, managing to twist the tabs deep on the inside of the torso is a bit of a challenge. However, you can make it a little easier on yourself if you bend all four of the tabs inwards a little before slotting them home. Ironically, this makes it a little harder to align the tabs to the slots, but alleviates the problem of having the tabs so close to the walls on the inside that you can’t grip them with anything.
And now we come to the final step of the assembly… Threepio’s exposed midriff. This seems like it should be a pretty darn easy bit to accomplish, but it’s not. The first four tabs are not bad, because you can get inside to brace the part as you fold the tabs over. But when you get to the second four, those are interesting. I find it helps to not have them angled inwards a little so they are already pre-disposed to the direction you are going to fold them, And then it’s just a matter of being gentle and patient.
One final note: every time I build C-3PO, I end up with a droid that seems to be trying to fall over backwards. I think it’s something about the ankle joint. I try to leverage him forward, but at the same time, the general position of the body curves backwards… which I think is intentional. Threepio does have a really weird way of standing, and that looks right. But to stand like that, he’s still got to have his feet under his center of balance. So… a little more brute force and you can make him lean forward a little. Just don’t pull the tabs out of the feet!
Everybody Makes Mistakes
So, if you haven’t figured it out by now…. I didn’t get the left arm attached at the correct angle. I stopped recording the build and was admiring the results of my work… until I realized something was off. And then I took the arm off at the shoulder joint to fix it. Yup, I got so carried away that I completely forgot to check the instructions while assembling the last bits of the build. So… here’s a nice little video proving exactly what I always tell people. I make plenty of mistakes along the way.
And that’s it for this build. All told, including the “fix the arm” session, the Droid Pack Threepio took me just under 4 hours to complete. I’ve saved the build videos (other than the mistake correction above) till the end, as they are more for reference than for actual content value. Here’s all 5 videos, though, paired up with the 5 sections of the review from above.