Tony Dyson Dies; Star Wars Special Effects Guru Was 68

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Tony Dyson - the designer and technician best known for building the original R2-D2 robot used in the first Star Wars film - has passed away at the age of 68.

Tony Dyson

According to TMZ, Dyson recently attended a convention in Holland, then promptly flew back to his home in Malta, where he seems to have died in his sleep.

His girlfriend contacted police after several failed attempts to reach Dyson.

In addition to his work on Star Wars, Dyson designed robotics and effects for several other films, including Superman II, Moonraker and Dragonslayer.

Dyson was the owner of the White Horse Toy Company and he built robots for several of the world's largest toy and theme park companies, including Disney, Sony, and Toshiba.

He won an Emmy for his work and spent the last years of his life working as a professor, teaching the art and science of robotics to a new generation.

But of course, it's the beloved R2-D2 for which Dyson remains best known.

Working from a design from Ralph McQuarrie, Dyson built four remote control units - two to serve as high-tech costumes for actor Kenny Baker, and two throw-away versions to be used in the famous scene in which the droid is spit out of a swamp.

Baker described his work on the film as "one of the most exciting periods of my life."

No cause of death has been determined, and though police have ruled out foul play, an autopsy will be conducted this week.

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