Tag Archives: Robby

Life-sized Planet Robots made in the UK

Shawcraft_LogoAndy Shaw makes fantastic ‘life-sized’ robot replicas which are inspired by 1950s Japanese toy robots. His company, Shawcraft, also makes replica petrol pumps for your classic garage, games room or living room which can be used as storage cabinets, or even a cocktail bar!

Shawcraft_SAM_1408His robots are produced from purpose-built moulds and are designed for strength and simplicity. Where possible pigmented gelcoat is used, making the robots durable and resistant to scrapes and knocks.

The ‘Planet Robots’ are stunning, standing five foot eight inches tall, in gleaming black and red – just like the original Japanese tin toys. The original toys were made by Yoshia KO of Japan in the late 1950′s and were an unlicensed copy of Robby the Robot, star of the 1956 MGM film Forbidden Planet.

Shawcraft_WalkTalkToyThe toys were made in several colours and versions, the most popular being black and red with clockwork walking action and sparks shooting around the interior visible through acetate ‘windows’.

The Shawcraft Planet Robots can be supplied in any colour combination although only the black/red version is pigmented gelcoat. They can be specified with either three fingered hand or replica claw.

Just like the original the chest plate and face grill are finished then added to the robot giving a crisp, clean joint. All arm and leg joints are well defined so the robot looks real.

Shawcraft_T4They can be supplied as a static prop or with flashing lights in the dome ‘ears’. They can also be ordered with a voice, activated by passers-by, and with intermittent head-turn and flashing ‘voice light’. A radio-controlled walking version is also available.

I asked Andy when his interest in robots arose. “At four years old, back in 1967 when my Gran gave me a black and red clockwork Planet Robot.”

When he was 11, he wrote to the BBC for a copy of their Dr Who Dalek plans, which had been printed in the Radio Times. He began building a Dalek immediately then realised the plans were wrong. So he used the Dalek neck section as the torso of his first large robot.

Shawcraft_build1It takes a couple of weeks to build a Planet Robot and they are in great demand. I have occasionally seen them for sale on eBay, so I asked Andy if he has many in stock, he said, “yes, I build them for stock, but they always go before I can make a second!”

If you would like to see his robots out in the real world, they can be seen at a travelling exhibition called ‘Robot’, and they are often seen at art galleries and universities. They’re also at Randy’s Toy Shop, USA*; Metropolis Toys, Burton on Trent; Celestial Toy Store; a barber shop in Essex; Uncle Sam’s diner.

AdventuresInScienceFictionLate next year they will be at Neil Coles Adventures in Science Fiction, a new science fiction museum opening in Allendale, Northumberland.

Finally, I asked Andy how long he thinks it will be before we have domestic servant robots, or robot butlers, in our homes … and would he want one?

“Domestic robots are just about seven years away I reckon. I think they’d have been here now if the global economy hadn’t been shafted by the greedy useless parasitic financiers. I embarked, at four years old, to develop and build a domestic robot for myself. Oh yes, I want one.”

You can contact Andy Shaw by email or visit his website to see more examples of his work.

See also Pikore page.

*If you have an original Japanese Planet Robot toy with missing parts, Randy’s Toy Shop specialise in making replacements. They’re not cheap, but how else are you going to repair one of those rare toys? Prices from their catalogue (click here for website) Antenna, $55; Hands $35 each; Roller wheels $25 each.

Robby Mocks the Monsters

Forbidden Planet, the 1956 film which introduced us to Robby the Robot, is widely regarded today as something of a masterpiece, and certainly ahead of its time. Wikipedia states that in the authorised biography of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, Roddenberry notes that Forbidden Planet “was one of [his] inspirations for Star Trek.” On imdb.com, Forbidden Planet is rated 7.7 out of ten (over 31,000 votes), comparing well to the 1977 Star Wars which scores 8.7 out of ten, and higher than 2004’s I, Robot with Will Smith, which was rated at 7.1 out of ten.

According to the following write-up, taken from Picturegoer, the British national film and entertainment weekly, written shortly after the film was released, newspapers at the time had mixed opinions of the film.

Picturegoer magazine, 14th July 1956

Robby Mocks the Monsters

There may be some giggles, says Sarah Stoddart, but this science shocker never pulls a switch wrong

Monsters of the science fiction world – watch out! You’re being got at – by an upstart called Robby the Robot. He’s the star of Forbidden Planet and, if this isn’t the cheekiest skit on screen monsters, I’ve got a few atomic screws loose. It takes the mickey – and then some.

Robby’s a kind of steel-plated, maid-of-all-work reception party for the crew of a space ship exploring a dead planet. Working for his master-brain boss (Walter Pidgeon), he is an ultra-polite, English-speaking, ball-bearing Jeeves who manufactures anything on demand – even crates of whisky.

There may be giggles – but only in the right places. That’s the amazing thing about this science shocker: it never pulls a switch wrong.

There’s a Jules Verne kind of crazy logic running through the plot. It gets the enthusiasts, the disbelievers, the intellectuals and the thrill seekers and takes them all for a ride.

For SCIENCE there’s Walter Pidgeon’s crazy professor. He has decoded the secrets of a lost race of supermen on a dead planet. And his collection of electronic equipment threatens to blind and deafen you with science.

For PSYCHOLOGY there are fragments of Freud – the Ego, the Id and all that. For SEX there’s Anne Francis, dressed most of the time in sequined scanties, as a brazen reply to all those dreary blue-stocking science women who get caught up in space.

For THRILLS there’s a welter of trick photography that really staggers. Monster-sized footprints suddenly crater the ground, a tiger disintegrates in thin air, massive metal doors melt into candy floss.

And I’m giving away no vital secret when I reveal that the unknown horror, when it finally appears, turns out to be a snarling lion’s head. But MGM doesn’t appreciate the joke about its Leo the Lion trademark. In fact it seems slightly red-faced and ashamed about Robby.

Forbidden Planet gets what’s called ‘outside theatre’ treatment. That means it wasn’t shown at MGM’s own London showplace, the Empire, Leicester Square. It’s being released as a double bill with Lana Turner’s Diane. Curious mating.

MGM is doing wrong by Robby, I think. Some film critics have done the same. The press has been divided about Forbidden Planet, but the majority has agreed that it’s a wonderful piece of mickey-taking hokum. “Glorious balderdash,” said the Daily Sketch; “triumphantly entertaining,” said the Daily Express.

But there were some reviewers whose sense of humour seemed to have been dazzled by a ray-gun. The Daily Mail thought the film silly while the Evening News threw the word boredom at poor old Robby.

For my money, Robby’s the best thing to happen for years in the rather blasé world of screen space fiction. He’s a tonic indeed after all those routine, serious and dedicated space adventures.

It’s the best way to handle the tricky subject of science fiction – with tongue-in-the cheek (but deadpan) earnestness.

Collecting robots on postcards – 8

Lost in Space was a television series from Irwin Allen Productions, set in the then future year of 1997. The show first aired in 1965 and ran for three seasons with no less than 83 episodes! This was the first science fiction series that I ever watched (at 10 years old) and my favourite character was, of course, the Robot.

Lost in Space postcard front

I wonder if this was the first Robot to ever have a famous ‘catch phrase’? The Robot saying “Danger Will Robinson” is well known, but apparently that exact phrase was only said once, and not until the third-season episode Deadliest of the Species.

Altoids mints - Danger Will Robinson!The catch phrase was even used to advertise ‘Altoids’ mints. The brand was created in London in the 1780s, but is better known in the USA. What would they have made of the robot B-9 in the UK back in 1780 I wonder!

The Robot was officially known as “B-9, Class M-3 General Utility Non-Theorising Environmental Control Robot”. If the robot seems familiar, it will come as no surprise to find that it was designed by Robert Kinoshita, who also designed Robby the Robot for the film Forbidden Planet.

Thanks to Wikipedia, we have these details of the robots (fictional) capabilities:

1. The Robot possessed powerful computers that allowed him to make complex calculations and to deduce many facts;

2. He had a variety of sensors that detected numerous phenomena and dangers;

3. He was programmed with extensive knowledge on many subjects, including how to operate the Jupiter 2 spaceship;

4. His construction allowed him to function in extreme environments and in the vacuum of space;

5. He was extremely strong, giving him utility both in performing difficult labour and in fighting when necessary. Moreover, his claws could fire laser beams and, most frequently, a powerful “electro-force” that was similar to arcing electricity.

Lost in Space postcard back

One final very interesting piece of trivia is that the open and closing theme music was written by John Williams, the composer behind the Star Wars theme music, who was listed in the credits as “Johnny Williams”.