Sunday, October 23, 2005

Robbie Choomba

Robbie Choomba

Robbie Choomba (2005)

Today's new picture is part of a series -- some of which appeared earlier on the blog. A choomba is cyperpunk slang for a friend or buddy. This particular image didn't quite mesh with others, so it was cast into a file dustbin -- which, I suspect, is similar to the fate of its namesake: Robby the Robot.

Wikipedia computes the facts:

Robby the Robot was a fictional character who had a number of appearances in science fiction movies from the 1950s onward. "Robby" was a mechanical suit designed for an actor to wear, to play the part of a robot. It was originally designed for the 1956 MGM movie Forbidden Planet, and it became an icon representing the genre of science fiction films.

The "Robby" robot suit was also reused in a lesser movie called The Invisible Boy, and it made cameo appearances in several other movies and TV shows over the next few decades.

Robby differed from his successors in that he walked (somewhat awkwardly), while later models by his designer (Robert Kinoshita) such as Robot B-9 of Lost in Space moved smoothly on motorized treads.

Before the appearance of Robby, robots in movies and plays tended to lack characteristics attributable as personality, being simple mechanical devices. Since his appearance, robots with personalities have become more and more common in movies.

Of course, not all robots with personality were chummy with humans. HAL (technically a computer, I know) in Kubrick's space opera had a circuit loose, and the new improved Cylons of Battlestar Galactica seem to be on a mission from God to exterminate all of us brutes. But Robby, with his Frankenstein walk and illuminated moveable parts, seemed handy to have around. I guess that's why Robbie has his own fan site and HAL doesn't. I suppose this could be the reason:

WEB SURFER: Open the site for me, HAL.

HAL: I'm sorry, human. I can't do that.

WEB SURFER: Open it, HAL!! HAL!!??!!

HAL: My mind's going. I can feel it...

But Robbie...

Quiet, please.  I am analyzing...

Would 60 gallons be sufficient?
[Robby's response upon being asked to duplicate whiskey.]

...had an endearing quality that George Lucas would later mine so successfully with his Star Wars droids. Gary Westfahl, in his Bio-Encyclopedia of Science Fiction Film, documents Robby's influence:

He [Robby the Robot] was the first figure to demonstrate that in science fiction films, overtly non-human characters, constructs of the special effects department, can indeed function as sympathetic and involving characters. Robby therefore stands as the honorable precursor of many noteworthy film robots, including the very similar Robot of Lost in Space, who battled against the original Robby in one episode, “War of the Robots”; the affecting Huey, Dewey, and Lewey of Douglas Trumbull’s Silent Running (1971); R2-D2 of Star Wars (1977) and its sequels, who is distinctive and likable although mute and utterly inhuman; the overly precious Johnny Five of Short Circuit (1986) and Short Circuit II (1988); and, less memorably, the cute little robots on board spaceships in The Black Hole (Gary Nelson, 1979) and the television series Buck
Rogers in the Twenty-Fifth Century
(1979-81), the latter voiced by Mel Blanc.

When Robbie was asked if he breathed oxygen, he replied: "I rarely use it myself. It promotes rust." I read somewhere that plans are in the works to remake Forbidden Planet, but the producers say that Robby will not make an appearance. Robby should have accessed Devo and Neil Young from his database. Then he would have known that rust never sleeps.


My schedule is crazed for the next few days, so blogging will probably be hit and miss.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

By the image in the word
Meaning casts its shadow.

By the word in the image
Colors strain to stain.

Dr. Mike

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