From R2-D2 to the Batmobile to Han Solo in carbonite, Irvine man turns childhood dreams into reality

R2-D2, the Batmobile, Han Solo encased in carbonite and a TARDIS time traveling phone booth — copies of all of them are being built in a little warehouse on an industrial street in Santa Ana next to a body shop and a metal works and across from a tow truck company.

You could pass by the warehouse without noticing the guy who toils away almost every day making images from his childhood come to life. He doesn’t work for a Hollywood company. He’s just a guy who likes to make iconic stuff.

Meet Matt Munson, 44, of Irvine. He has been a documentary filmmaker, developed software for electronic record keeping, traveled the world, worked in a bank, and made enough money so he doesn’t have to be employed full-time anymore. Now he spends most of his time tinkering in his nondescript warehouse.

“There are moments in my childhood that are burned into my brain,” said Munson, in his Batman T-shirt. He traces his spark of creativity to a friend’s birthday party in the late 1970s. He was given a goodie bag with an R2-D2 action figure.

“I didn’t even know what an action figure was,” he said.

So, almost four decades later, he built one. He’s in the R2-D2 Builders Club (check out the details at He said, boastfully, his little droid is the best R2 ever built by a club member. It cost him about $16,000.

When the first R2-D2 was complete, he took it to a kid’s birthday party, and he discovered something about himself: “I didn’t want those kids to touch it. That’s why I’m building the second one,” he said.

The problem with his first R2-D2 was that it weighed about 300 pounds. It was not mobile or agile.

“It was too heavy and too precious, and that’s how I would describe myself,” he said.

So he’s almost finished with the new one, which is lighter, cheaper and built to withstand kid birthday parties.

He was a geek before being a geek had any socially redeeming qualities. He was in the computer club at Mission Viejo High. He worked at a comic book store.

Munson got a computer science degree at UC Irvine. He tried to make it in Hollywood, but, after two years of very little success, he began using the technology side of his brain.

Munson’s career took off when he set up a system in which a bank could store content from real estate transactions.

He’s lived in New Zealand, Australia, Italy and other places his tech job took him around the world. But he’s moved back to Irvine five times — the most recent in November of 2015.

“Irvine feels like home,” Munson said.

In Munson’s Sanat Ana warehouse, he has a bunch of blankets hung in a square forming a small recording area. He does a YouTube channel show in which he interviews filmmakers and techies. His YouTube channel is called “The Project Workbench” and he has hundreds of interview-type videos posted there.

“I’ve found that people are just as into their thing as I’m into my thing,” he said.

While he’s working on the lighter R2-D2, he’s also building a Batmobile (circa 1989) from the Michael Keaton “Batman” movie.

He took a Chevy Caprice and ripped the outer shell off. Then he built a fiberglass shell just like the Batmobile. Today, it’s a dusty shell, and it doesn’t move. His next goal is to get the car moving.

“It’s more about patience and project management than doing the work,” he said.

By the time he finishes, Munson guesses he will have spent about $30,000 on the Batmobile.

He envisions the day when he drives the Batmobile out to kids’ parties, hospital wards, fundraisers and movie events.

“It’s about realizing childhood dreams that I’m too stubborn to get rid of,” Munson said. “Philanthropic and charitable work is a natural extension of that goal because in some small way, I might be making someone else’s dream come true — be it meeting R2-D2 or riding in the Batmobile.”

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