In Memoriam: Tony Dyson, R2-D2’s Original Builder

Tony Dyson walking R2-D2

A younger Tony Dyson walking R2-D2 in Britain, date unknown. Image courtesy Tony Dyson in 2015

We’re sorry to report the passing of Professor Tony Dyson, the British robot genius who originally built Star Wars R2-D2. A convention regular around the globe, 2015 marked his first appearance in the country he had made his own – Malta – for Malta Comic Con. It was an enormous privilege to meet him, even though I think he quickly decided most of the comic writers and artists there were even more barmy than any other creatives he’d ever shared a bill with!

The Times  of Malta reports Tony, who was 68, was discovered at his home in Triq Zirzieb, Munxar, Gozo, after the police were alerted by friends about his absence for a number of days.

The man behind Star Wars R2-D2, Tony was a versatile Emmy nominated film SFX supervisor and the creative genius at the helm of many films, including Moonraker, Dragon Slayer and The Empire Strikes Back.

Tony on set for a Star Wars film, working on R2-D2 with actor Kenny Baker

Tony on set for a Star Wars film, working on R2-D2 with actor Kenny Baker

When it comes to robot technicians he was regarded as quite unique: as well as building one of the most famous robots ever, R2-D2 (one of the very first robots to be honored in the Carnegie Mellon University Robot Hall of Fame), he also designed and built robots for some of the largest electronic companies in the world, including Sony (he was nominated for an Emmy for his work on one of their commercials), Philips and Toshiba.

Examples of his creations are on permanent display in one of the most prestige’s museums in the world, the Smithsonian.

Tony signing authographs at Malta Comic Con 2015. Photo courtesy Malta Comic Con

Tony signing authographs at Malta Comic Con 2015. Photo courtesy Malta Comic Con

In addition to his film work he also wrote books for children, including stories about the magical Bobbekins, some of which were being worked on as animation projects.

It was said of Tony that he was a man who never grew up, which made him interested in almost everything – and that included the wacky world of comics creation at Malta Comic Con. He was bemused that despite attending conventions around the globe, his appearance at the event was his first ever in his adopted country of Malta – but joined in with the fun when able (it was clear, behind the scenes, that he wasn’t well).

Just to give you an idea of the man, here’s a video recorded by Shad Engkilterra, where he talks play and creativity.

 

Speaking to Times of Malta last December, Mr Dyson said: “Be playful. Never stop playing. If you look at life the way it really should be – enjoyed – then you become very creative”.

For the very brief time that I knew him and heard some of his stories, Tony definitely exuded a creative energy and enthusiasm for all things that was near addictive. I’m sure that he will be much missed and my sympathies go out to his family and friends this morning on hearing this sad news.

• Tony’s official web site is at www.tonydyson.com

Tony Dyson

R2-D2 builder Tony Dyson enjoying some leisure time in his adopted country, Malta

The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Explorer (previously known as Star Trek Magazine) and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of "Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies" for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.



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