pop culture robots, a historical study: robby the robot

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Robby the Robot is a science fiction icon that first appeared in the film Forbidden Planet (1956) and he was one of my favourite childhood robots. I fell in love with him in Lost in Space (1966 TV Series) that was played in high rotation in the 1980’s. Perhaps Lost in Space was the gateway drug for my later life long addiction to SciFi!

Robby was a protective robot and he was anthropomorphic (resembling human form, head, limbs and torso) so we could relate to him. If we were to talk to him we would know where to look and how to interact with him. He is a First-generation robot designed to take care of children and his catch phrase reflects that… “Danger Will Robinson”, he was always looking out for Will Robinson in their wacky space adventures.

Robert Kinoshita, a Japanese-American engineer, designed Robby the Robot and the original version cost $125,000 to build.

Frankie Darro, a legendary actor who started out as a child star in the silent film era and later became a character actor and voice over artist played Robby the Robot in Forbidden Planet. The actor Marvin Miller added the voice of Robby in postproduction. Here is a picture from 1955 showing how hard it must have been for Frankie Darro to get into costume…
Frankie Darro as Robby The Robot 1955

Dick Tufeld voiced Robby the Robot in the 1966 TV Series Lost in Space and he later returned in the Lost in Space film remake in 1998. Starring Matt LeBlanc the film was not a huge success only getting 4.7/10 on Rotten Tomatoes?

Robby the Robot also appeared in a 2006 AT&T advertisement along with Rosie the Robot form The Jetsons, cementing their place in the pop culture psyche of the western world.

Did you know that Robby;
– speaks 188 languages,
– uses Gyroscopic Stabilisers for balance
– is powered by Krell Energy
– is cooled by 44 head Mounted Cooling Fans
– was inducted into the Robot Hall of Fame in 2004

If you want your own Robbie the Robot you can have it for just $32,000. This is a special edition, life-size, fully animatronic remote-controlled version of Robby. A bit out of my price range but for a big fan I guess it’s a good investment. Check it out >>>

Robby was a true trailblazer in the introduction of robots into popular culture. He is as popular now as he was in the 1950’s.

I will be publishing 15 robot profiles over the coming weeks. Feel free to share on social media (please link back to my site).

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pop culture robots, a historical study: marvin the paranoid android

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Album artwork for Marvin’s 1981 music debut

Marvin the Paranoid Android is a ship’s robot aboard the starship Heart of Gold in Douglas Adams’s classic series The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1978), a radio show that was originally broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in the United Kingdom. The series was hugely popular and was later made into a TV Series (1981), a series of novels, a computer game, music releases and a big blockbuster movie (2005).

Marvin was originally a failed personality prototype who suffers from severe depression and boredom, in part because his brain is so big, in fact he has a “brain the size of a planet”. Apparently Marvin is 50,000 times more inelegant than any human and 37 times older than the universe (due to time travel).

The 1978 vision of Marvin was a tall humanoid robot with a large square head but he was reimagined for the 2005 movie. In the movie he was short and stocky with a giant round planet-like head. I love both incarnations of Marvin… but perhaps I prefer the movie version just a little bit more 😛 .

“I ache, therefore I am.” – Marvin

Marvin is racked with depression and suffers incredible pain due to the diodes on his left-hand-side never being replaced. His brain is woefully under-utilised and he occasionally writes music… in his track <<Marvin>> he references his pain with the lyrics “Nothing left to be enjoyed, every diode rheumatoid, Marvin.
Listen for yourself…

Marvin also wrote lullabies…

Now the world has gone to bed,
Darkness won’t engulf my head,
I can see by infrared,
How I hate the night.

Now I lay me down to sleep,
Try to count electric sheep,
Sweet dream wishes you can keep,
How I hate the night.

If by some freak of nature or because of a horrific laboratory accident you haven’t yet seen the 2005 movie then do yourself a favour. I can watch it again at any time… I just love it. Narrated by Stephen Fry and starring Martn Freeman, Zooey Deshanel and Mos Def, it’s one of my all time favourite modern reimagining of a classic Sci Fi tale. Here is the trailer…

While it’s hard to choose a favourite character in such a rich and fun filled tale, you can’t imagine this story with out the depressing and pessimistic voice of Marvin keeping everyone’s optimism in check.
I will be publishing 15 robot profiles over the coming weeks. Feel free to share on social media (please link back to my site).

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pop culture robots, a historical study: gnut

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Gnut first appeared in Farewell to the Master, a science fiction short story written by Harry Bates and published in the October 1940 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. The story was then made into a film called The Day The Earth Stood still (1951) and Gnut’s name was changed to Gort. This giant killer humanoid robot is a bodyguard for a mysterious alien call Klaatu (a humanoid alien ambassador of peace). Here is the deliciously kitsch movie trailer…

Gort does not speak but he can pulverise anything with his awesome laser beam that shoots from his visor. He is made from one sheet of metal and stands over 8 feet tall. Even in black and white Gort was an intimidating character. He is part of an interstellar police force trying to preserve peace by destroying anything he perceives as a threat.

“In matters of aggression, we have given them absolute power over us. This power cannot be revoked. At the first sign of violence, they act automatically against the aggressor.” – Klaatu

Klaatu comes to earth on a mission of peace but is confronted by humanities tendency to panic when facing the unknown. While Gort never speaks, his mission of destruction destruction is halted the words Klaatu barada nikto. This phrase was never translated and it’s true meaning remains a mystery.

The 2008 remake staring Keanu Reeves and Jennifer Connelly is a much more polished big blockbuster affair but it lacks the examination of the human condition of the original film. Casting Mr Reeves might seem a logical step as his wooden performance might perfectly suit the role of alien but I don’t buy it. I’ll let YouTuber AlternatingLine sum it up for you “do yourself a favour and avoid the remake”. Love his blunt comparison…

Gort (originally Gnut) is a pioneer in pop culture robotics and is as iconic today as he was in the cold war era. While it’s not official I can see that Gort may have influenced the design of another pop culture robot classic the Cylon… what do you think?

I will be publishing 15 robot profiles over the coming weeks. Feel free to share on social media (please link back to my site).

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pop culture robots, a historical study: rosie the robot

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I wasn’t allowed to watch a lot of TV growing up… it was restricted to Friday afternoon and weekends. Every Saturday morning I’d wake up super early and watch cartoons for as long as I could. I loved reruns of The Jetsons and I particularly loved Rosie the Robot.

The Jetsons hit TV screens in 1962 and started out in black and white. It fed off the belief that in the early part of the 21st century we would all have robot maids… well that hasn’t come true (at least not yet). In the 80’s The Jetsons was played in high rotation (by then they were in colour). Here is an original ad from 1963…

Rosie also appeared in a 2006 AT&T advertisement along with Robby the Robot form Lost in Space, cementing their place in the pop culture psyche of the western world.

Rosie also appeared in Kanye Wests Heartless video (2009). This is a rather lovely video clip and the animation is so illustrative it’s wonderful.Kanye West Heartless (2009)

I will be publishing 15 robot profiles over the coming weeks. Feel free to share on social media (please link back to my site).

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pop culture robots, a historical study: optimus prime

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The Transformers started out as a toy line in 1980’s Japan that evolved into comic books, a TV Series and eventually big Hollywood blockbuster movies.

I loved comic books and cartoons growing up and as soon as The Transformers hit our chunky 80’s TV Screens I was hooked. The bright colours + transforming alien technology + that catchy theme song guaranteed The Transformers cult status. I didn’t expect it to last as long as it did but it franchised really well with ongoing comic books and the cinematic reboot starting in 2007.

Transformers… more than meets the eye! This is the catchy theme song from the 80’s cartoon series… I can still remember singing this in the playground.

Advancements in CGI made 2007 the right time for the big screen adaptation of Transformers… any earlier and it could have been a bit hokey. These movies really were great and they propelled Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox’s careers to the next big box office level. Here is the trailer for the first non-animated movie Transformers (2007)…

Not unlike his transforming buddies, Shia LaBeouf has transformed himself into somewhat an enigma and is now trying to motivate you to ‘just do it’… don’t forget, anything is possible.

Pop Culture Robots, a Historical Study is an anthropological review of the robots that have graced the pages of our comic books, entertained us in novels and dazzled us on many different types of screens in recent human history.

I will be publishing 15 robot profiles over the coming weeks. Feel free to share on social media (please link back to my site).

Get in touch via Twitter, Instagram or by email 🙂

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pop culture robots, a historical study: wall-e

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WALL-E is an adorable robot who is left on earth to clean up all of the garbage left by the long-gone human race. Set 700 years in the future, this lovely Pixar/Disney film (2008) explores the life of this lonely robot, how he finds love and helps save the human race. It’s all very lovely and despite the fact that it’s a kids movie, there is plenty in it for the grown ups. I love this film… if you haven’t already seen it then rent it and watch it with your kids… and if you have seen it, watch it again 🙂

Here is the trailer for the film…

Pop Culture Robots, a Historical Study is an anthropological review of the robots that have graced the pages of our comic books, entertained us in novels and dazzled us on many different types of screens in recent human history.

I will be publishing 15 robot profiles over the coming weeks. Feel free to share on social media (please link back to my site).

Get in touch via Twitter, Instagram or by email 🙂

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pop culture robots, a historical study: astro boy

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Astro Boy (AKA Shin Tetsuwan Atomu if you’re Japanese) is a firm favourite from my childhood. This was my first experience with Japanese animation and this style later evolved into anime (another childhood love of mine). In the story (original manga and subsequent TV series) Doctor Tenma loses his son in a car accident and decides to build a robot to replace him. After a year of testing and manufacture Astro Boy is born. This 4 minute video shows the creation and birth of Astro Boy from the 1963 TV show.

This is the opening sequence of the 1980 TV show that I grew up with… with lyrics like “Stronger than all the rest, this mighty robot will pass the test, oh villains fear him, so we cheer him, the amazing Astro Boy!” no wonder a 7 year old me fell in love with this colourful do gooder.

It seems that hollywood only does remakes now days and Astro Boy is no exception. The Australian animation studio behind The Lego Movie, Animal Logic will make a live-action superhero movie based Astro Boy and is scheduled to start shooting it in 2016 (ref. SMH).

Pop Culture Robots, a Historical Study is an anthropological review of the robots that have graced the pages of our comic books, entertained us in novels and dazzled us on many different types of screens in recent human history.

I will be publishing 15 robot profiles over the coming weeks. Feel free to share on social media (please link back to my site).

Get in touch via Twitter, Instagram or by email 🙂

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pop culture robots, a historical study: k-9

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First appearing in Doctor Who in 1977 in an episode called The Invisible Enemy, K-9 was a robot dog companion invented by Professor Marius in the year 5000. He became a faithful companion to the fourth Doctor played by Tom Baker. K-9 helped out the doctor with a handy concealed laser in his his nose and an encyclopaedic knowledge and artificial intelligence that helped the doctor immensely. The initial K-9 unit was know as “K-9 Mark I” and in 1978 in an episode called The Invasion of Time he decided to stay on Doctor Who’s home planet Gallifrey. More advanced versions of K-9 appeared in later episodes of the series, as well as in a few spin offs.

Pop Culture Robots, a Historical Study is an anthropological review of the robots that have graced the pages of our comic books, entertained us in novels and dazzled us on many different types of screens in recent human history.

I will be publishing 15 robot profiles over the coming weeks. Feel free to share on social media (please link back to my site).

Get in touch via Twitter, Instagram or by email 🙂

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pop culture robots, a historical study: bender

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I LOVE ROBOTS. I LOVE SCI FI. I LOVE DRAWING.

It was only a matter of time before these three loves would come together in one awesome project.

Pop Culture Robots, a Historical Study is an anthropological review of the robots that have graced the pages of our comic books, entertained us in novels and dazzled us on many different types of screens in recent human history.

Bender is a very cheeky industrial metalworking robot built in 2996 and is a leading character in Matt Groening’s much-loved Futurama (1999 TV Series). He was made in Fábrica Robótica De La Madre (Spanish: “Mom’s Robot Factory”), a manufacturing facility of Mom’s Friendly Robot Company in Tijuana, Mexico but he ends up living in New New York City working with his friends, the crew of the Planet Express delivery space ship. Bender’s wit and disregard for humanity doesn’t get in the way of eventually looking out for his friends. If you haven’t already watched Futurama, then do yourself a favour.

I will be publishing 15 robot profiles over the coming weeks. Feel free to share on social media (please link back to my site).

Get in touch via Twitter, Instagram or by email 🙂

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