Five Great Robots.

I like robots. We all do.

In my tween years, I made a sincere attempt at building one. Using an upside down goldfish bowl for the head, my robot was held together with ten rolls of masking tape, had five or six Micro Machines cars stuck to its bottom, and could only “speak” in Jackie Mason’s voice, thanks to a button-activated novelty keychain hidden on its back.

That ridiculous robot meant the world to me, but it fell short of my grander plans. I grew up on a steady diet of truly awesome robots on television and in movies, and I wanted one just like them. I wanted it to move by itself and think for itself. I wanted it to fetch me things from the kitchen. I wanted it to listen when nobody else would.

Basically, I wanted it to be like one of the dudes featured below. Behold, five great robots that rock my socks:

#1: The Honeycomb Robot!
Seen in: Various Honeycomb cereal commercials of the ’80s, like this one.

Back in the mid ‘80s, Post’s Honeycomb cereal commercials were things of beauty. Having very little to do with the cereal itself, they were thirty-second movies about kids in an amazing clubhouse, dealing with a variety of intruders. (Up to and including Andre the Giant!)

It was called Honeycomb Hideout. It’d been around since the ‘70s, but it wasn’t until I was a kid that the clubhouse got its grandest upgrade: A goddamned ROBOT who apparently lived there.

Mixing classic robot features with an outfit suitable for space aliens, Honeybot (not his official name, but I need to call him something) filled my seven-year-old head with insane, burning hot envy. It was bad enough that these kids had such an incredible clubhouse, but to go and add a robot to the mix?

It was the kind of clubhouse most of us could only dream about, being more like a miniature real house than a simple “shed.” But Honeybot just pushed it so far over the top. I would’ve given anything to be a member of this club.

Honeybot also had the ability to speak, and did so using an adorably mechanized inflection that forced me to love him even more.

Plus, he was covered in all sorts of lights! Vegas in robot form! I especially dug his eyes, which made him look something like an extremely trusting cyborg owl.

#2: Screech’s Robot, Kevin!
Seen in: Saved by the Bell, particularly this episode.

Screech Powers may have been one of Bayside’s biggest geeks, but boy, he had a cool bedroom. It was his sanctuary. Stuffed with technological wizardry and shelves full of mysterious jars that probably housed giant deadly insects, Screech shared his space with Kevin, his Slinky-necked child/friend/maid.

Rolling over the carpet with a blinking LED face, Kevin was spunky, funny and tidy. He didn’t appear often, but when he did, the robot was no mere prop. He was a true character, as involved in the conversations as anyone else in the room. Even Zack treated him like he mattered, and Zack don’t play.

I would’ve loved being able to go home to spill my guts to a giant, compassionate robot. If we take Screech at face value and ignore the fact that he was completely “in” with the hippest clique at school, he was a loser nobody. A talking robot would’ve been a much-needed respite from a day’s worth of Bayside awkwardness. I can relate to that. Kevin would’ve taken the poison out of so many social stings.

#3: Giant Toys “R” Us Robot!
Seen in: At least one Toys “R” Us commercial.

It’s a pity that so few have even heard of this guy. He appears in an old Christmas-themed Toys “R” Us commercial, magically transforming from a tiny, Tomy-style robot into the giant, real thing.

Note that I do mean giant. After telling us about the latest sales, we get a shot of Robot X standing next to Geoffrey, and he’s just as tall, if not taller. Need I remind you that Geoffrey is a giraffe?

This commercial was its own worst enemy. Robot X does a good job of pitching Lazer Tag toys, but if you’re a kid, you don’t leave the ad wanting Lazer Tag. You leave it wanting Robot X. He’d be all you could think about.

Fortunately, there was a robot for sale around this time that was a slight bit like Robot X. The Omnibot was feature-loaded and freakin’ enormous, though of course, it wasn’t nearly as big as Robot X.

It’s also the source of a bad memory.

The Omnibot (which I mistook for a giant version of Nintendo’s R.O.B. peripheral) was sold at Toys “R” Us, stationed with all of the other elusively expensive electronics in those big glass window cases. There with my parents on some ancient afternoon, I begged for “Santa” to bring me an Omnibot. This prompted a very stern and very public “Disappointed Dad Speech” about how I was out of line to ask for a $600 present.

He was right, but damn. Save that shit for when we’re out of earshot.

(Admission: I’m pretty sure it was the Omnibot, but it could have been Maxx Steele. Either way, too expensive for anyone outside the sons of kings.)

#4: The Killbots!
Seen in: Chopping Mall.

I only recently discovered Chopping Mall. It happened to be one of the eight movies on that terrific DVD set I covered a while back.

It’s not like I hadn’t heard of the film; I just never got around to watching it. As they say in caps, that was a BIG, HUGE MISTAKE.

One viewing was all it took to make Chopping Mall one of my all-time favorite slasher films, though I suppose that the “slasher” moniker can only be applied loosely. It’s more like a slasher film disguised as a scary sci-fi movie, where security robots go haywire and spend a night stalking a bunch of trashy teens all around a shopping mall.

Colloquially known as Killbots, the mechanized terrors roll around on little tank wheels, shooting electric fire at anyone they spot. Chopping Mall is cheapo ‘80s horror at its sleaziest, stuffed with sex and exploding heads and so many other things that I cannot believe I’ve ignored for so many years.

Jeez, even Murray Futterman is in this thing! The guy from Gremlins!

You’ll notice that the three previous robots are all kind of “cute.” The Killbots? Not so much. They are malevolent murder machines, every bit as vicious as any slasher icon. But in their defense, they also look very, very cool.

It seems like every ‘80s horror flick has a cult following, so if you’re unfamiliar with those movies, it can be tough to determine which are truly worth pursuing. Chopping Mall definitely is. Picture Dawn of the Dead with robots instead of zombies, and tell me that it’s not awesome.

#5: Robosaurus!
Seen in: Assorted car-related stunt shows.

The best thing about Robosaurus? He’s real.

It’s Transformers come to life, as an enormous semi trailer twists and turns into a giant, fire-breathing dinosaur. In dino form, Robosaurus stands around forty feet tall, effectively becoming a 100% legitimate Monster-on-Earth.

Paraded around at stunt shows and similar events, Robosaurus is always a draw. With huge claws and jaws, this thing literally picks up and eats cars.

The photos above come from Robosaurus’s official site, where you can keep abreast of his schedule. As soon as he hits the east coast, I am THERE. I am not at all kidding. I swear on all things holy that I will see Robosaurus bite a car, live and in person.

In the meantime, I’ll make do with the Robosaurus Activity Book. I can’t believe it exists, but I’m not complaining.

Anyway, thank you for reading this thing about robots.

Have a wonderful afternoon.


52 Responses to Five Great Robots.

  1. Having a robot that moves around of its own free will is all fun and games until it corners you in the shower. I don’t think you’ve thought this through.

  2. “Malevolent murder machines”. Lovely.

  3. I still think the Pawn Stars guys should have bought Robosaurus.

  4. Holy crap, someone else who saw Chopping Mall! We actually made fun of it on our show (click my name for the episode, and to see clips from the movie). It was a goofy movie, but a lot of fun.

  5. How could you not include Johnny Five from Short Circuit? Click my name to see a Short Circuit fan page.

  6. I don’t care what he’s called, I will always call Robosaurus, Truck-a-saurus because of The Simpsons.

  7. @Paul: These are five great robots, not the five greatest robots. ;) If it was, I’d need to slug R5-D4 in there, and defend the decision every day for the rest of my life.

  8. “Disappointed Dad speech”. We’ve all been there, brother. Except mine was asking for a Turbo Express. This is after my parents shelled out 200 for a TurboGrafx-16. UGH, hindsight.

  9. Chopping mall! There is so much great in that movie.

  10. I am hoping someone is able to donate an Omnibot to Matt, would LOVE a review of that thing.

    Also, Matt if you catch wind of the Car Eating Robot T-Rex coming out east, please let us know! I’d love to get tix too.

  11. Amazing.
    Truck-a-sauras!! I saw that guy at a monster truck rally years back and the fire he blew out of his nose accidentally caught a few unintended security vans ablaze. Bad Track-a sauras!

    I love the end of the Honeycomb commercial. Something about a Smurf orgy?

    One of my favorite robots was the jerk robot who shot Max and the space camp kids into orbit in the movie, Space Camp. (said robot and space camp twice in the same sentence)

  12. Awesome post, I have to go see Robosaurus, he looks menacing.

  13. I love seeing the mention of Robosaurus. I’d totally go and see that if it came to the East Coast too. Maybe I’d drag a nephew along as an excuse to go. But then again, with kids in tow I couldn’t drink, scream, and generally act irresponsible. But you know the greatest secret about Robosaurus? He once starred in his own made for tv movie. Which was supposed to be the pilot for a series. And it was about a semi post-apocalyptic future, where a hippie time traveller teaches a man to channel the power of his dead son to summon Robosaurus. No, I’m not kidding. At all. It was called Steel Justice.

    http://www.cracked.com/blog/the-craziest-tv-show-ever-greenlit-by-television-network/

    You can see the whole thing on youtube.

  14. “Evolver” is another good killer robot flick. It’s about a toy robot designed by a scientist who developed military weapons. A kid wins a chance to test out the prototype, and of course things go a little haywire!

  15. One of my favorite new robots is the “80s Robot” from the last Muppets movie. He looks like every 80s robot in one, and talks about 80s products and catchphrases.

  16. I was obsessed with the idea of owning a robot too as a kid. I drooled over the ones in the Sears catalogs. They could actually move around, bring you a soda and defend you from any bullies with their steel-claw grip and laser eyes. I made my own as well but on a much smaller scale using legos and other random toy parts.

    Screech’s robot Kevin! YES! Man, that dude was cool. He always had some good advice. Who didn’t need a friend like that waiting for you at the end of the day? I adore Saved By The Bell. I just recently started watching it again. So, so great. There will never be a show like that again.

  17. Since everybody is talking about their favorite robots, I have to give a nod to the “Happy Birthday Paulie” robot from Rocky 4

  18. As I was reading entry #3 I started formalizing my comment in my head wherein I was going to reference Chopping Mall then the very next entrant was the Killbots! Further proof we were separated at birth.

  19. I have very fond memories of the first three – yes, the Toys R’ Us robot, too. The commercials used to show up from time to time on Saturday mornings. I’m not a horror fan, so “Chopping Mall” is completely out of my sphere. While I don’t recognize Robosaurus, my brother, stepfather, and best friend, all of whom are much bigger car fans, may know him.

  20. The Old Robots has an archaic layout but there’s some real nostalgic gold if you dig around. Real robots, educational robots, tons of toy robots. Just keep scrolling down. Like I never knew the TXR-002 existed but now I want one SO BAD. IT HAS A BB GUN ARM.

    Also if you look at the guy’s personal collection apparently he has a thing for making horrible photoshops of his robots, often multiplied for no reason

  21. Update on site loading issues: Not really an update. Just letting you know that it’s still being looked into. Ugh.

    @steve: Yep, I got that speech more than once, but probably never with such disgust. Looking back, $600 in an era where $100 was wildly expensive was never going to happen.

    @Joker: I actually did see a show with a similar “monster car dino thing” once, but I don’t think it was this one, since it was at a normal indoor car show. Plus I don’t know that Robosaurus was even “alive” back then. But yeah, I’m totally going to see him if he’s ever around these parts.

    @King JLA: I didn’t see that movie but I saw a pic of the robot in question, and he’s tremendous.

    @Brian and other Chopping Mall fans: Yes, what a movie. My immediate thought was that it would’ve been awesome even without the robots. Granted, there are a few horror movies set in malls, but this film totally would’ve worked with Random Killer #10010. But you toss in robots, and wow. (I especially loved that extremely delayed title screen coming in over one of the robots’ heads.)

  22. I was also disappointed to not have seen Johnny 5 on the list. Where would I have liked to have seen him? Why, at Number 5 of course! Great job though on the article. I see that others have already mentioned Rocky IV’s “Happy Birthday Paulie” robot and Max from “Space Camp.” Man, the 80s had a lot of kickass robots. I am surprised no one has mentioned Vicki from “Small Wonder.” The only thing I ever wondered about that show was how would the writers have come up with the explanation of why she was going through puberty had the show lasted any longer than it did!

  23. I build my robots out of an erector set, and they were usually piloted by Mego action figures, and usually helped guard the giant monster — one of those control by wire walking dogs — in his Lincoln Log fort.

    I’d set up and play that again at this very moment, but I think the Mego figures are probably more expensive then I’d care to acquire, and I’m not sacrificing my pristine Shogun Warriors.

    That all sounds pretty sad!

  24. OMG, CHOPPING FUCKING MALL. Man, I love it so much! I’m with Brian (Review the World). It popped in my head right away as soon as I started reading this and I’m so glad to see it make an appearance.

    Another one I’d pick is the little waddling robot in the department store showdown at the end of Gremlins. I’ve always loved that little guy.

    I’m also with Bill on that spastic interjection of Smurfs at the end of the Toys R Us commercial. It was absolutely the best part of that vid. It was like the whole vid was a building 80′s orgasm, and the random smurf scream was the unexpected money shot.

    Wow, I just wrote that.

    Guise, I’m dying to know more about SpotOfTeaMan.

  25. I love robots. A couple of hours ago, I watched the premiere of the new Sci-fi show “Robot Combat League”. Last month I saw previews for “Robot Combat League” that was set to preimere on Feb. 26 at 10PM EST and I counted down the days. There was a really strange thing about the episdoe. There’s a robot with a skull head inside a astronaut helmet called Thunder Skull that was shown in the opening credits with all the robots and teams but I didn’t see him or even hear his name in the rest of the episode. When the teams were receiving a robot each, I waited for a team to receive Thunder Skull and it never happened and all teams had their own robot to use for the duration of the championship. Where’s Thunder, show people? D:

  26. Remember the scene in Chopping Mall where the girls head got exploded? That was a shock. The movie was up on youtube a few weeks ago and I saw it. I remember having a Tomy robot as a kid and getting it to deliver me sheets of paper in its pinchers, good times.

  27. Oh, I just remembered. There was an awesome 80s horror called Phantom of the Mall, filmed in the same one as Chopping Mall. It was about a burned misfit who lives in the abandoned attic over the mall, sneaking around at night to eat and play with stuff, who starts killing when a business is going to demolish the mall. I got it on dvd for 50p a year or so ago. The guy even got a punk theme tune by the Vandals.

  28. Some robots I love:

    -Nintendo’s Robotic Operating Buddy. Dude helped save the US game industry, and he’s a blast to play as in Mario Kart DS and Smash Brothers Brawl.

    -The WarMech/Death Machine from the original Final Fantasy. A very neat design, and he’s stronger than most of the bosses despite being a random encounter. Gotta respect that.

    -All of the main-eventers from BattleBots and Robot Wars, but especially Mechadon, Snake, Toro, Diesector, Warhead, Sir Killalot, Gravity, and Firestorm.

    -An obscure one: Browny from the Sega Genesis game Contra Hard Corps. That game is brutally difficult no matter which playable character you go with, but Browny helps make it a bit more survivable with a jetpack and a powerful homing weapon only he can use.

    -Lastly, I have a soft spot for the robot (simply named “Robot”) from the first two Toy Story movies, as well as his spiritual successor Sparks from the third film.

  29. best robot is yul brenner from westworld

  30. Holy shit, Screech’s robot! I had *completely* forgotten about that thing until this article!

    A couple years back I actually found an Omnibot for $22 at a thrift store (called a flea market although it really wasn’t). I was seriously walking around clutching that thing like someone was going to take him away from me, even though no one else was there. I was under the impression that Omnibots were still worth hundreds of dollars to collectors, but when I got home I read online that the things are basically useless without the remote, and to this day I wonder if the remote was lost years ago or if it was somewhere in that thrift store, and I just missed it.

    Either way, $22 well spent, IMO.

  31. I remember having an issue of Boy’s Life magazine that had instructions on how to build your own robot. I thought it would be cool, but…yeah, it looked like a lot of work and I was a lazy kid who didn’t have the money to buy all of the stuff required to make said robot, so…yeah, it never happened.

    I had one of those R.O.Bs that came with my NES…that thing was useless. Sure, it was cool to have and all, but it only worked with what, two games? Well, I only had one of them and it was maddening to use that damn thing to play the game. You had to use it to raise and lower pipes, if I remember correctly…then I discovered that you could just use the “A” and “B” buttons on the second controller to raise and lower the pipes. Boom, problem solved, robot rendered obsolete.

    “It’s Transformers come to life, as an enormous semi trailer twists and turns into a giant, fire-breathing dinosaur.”

    Wait. So the thing starts as a semi trailer and transforms into fucking Truckasaurus??? Is there a video of this transformation anywhere??? I need to see this!

  32. Robosaurus was on an episode of Pawn Stars, and it was awesome. They even had the guy who owned it do a demonstration with a car. But in the end they didn’t buy it. I think the guy wanted like 2 million bucks or something to that effect.

  33. RetroBJ :
    As a one-off joke, on Small Wonder it was demonstrated that VIKI could increase her size, so as to simulate growing up. Of course, the effect was just cheap, resulting in a badly Chroma-Key’d Tiffani Brissette looking ten-feet tall.

  34. My favorite childhood robot is the one in Rocky 4.

  35. Doctor Who is filled with awesome robots like K-9, Daleks, and the Cybermen.

  36. Oh, it’s a robot. They are the beginning cornerstone of my society. Many of the items you cannot do without them I wanted a. Sandwich and Deli to let go. We talk about using the robot in others on clothes. Not to eat for the children, then eat our lawn cleaning paste also please.

  37. Ever heard of one called “Evolver?” I saw it on Sci-fi as a kid and thought it was awesome at the time, though looking back, it was probably terrible by my current standards.

    The robot was a ripoff of the ones from Chopping Mall, but he was the “home version” of a Virtual Reality arcade game and was designed to learn as you fought him.

    Naturally he learned that he could swap out his rubber toy bullets for deadlier things.

  38. Another Evolver mention! Okay, I’ll check it out.

  39. From what I remember BB from Deadly Friend was really cool. I think he was yellow and could have a conversation with you. I forgot Mama Fertelli was in it too until I just watched the trailer.

  40. Don’t feel jealous of the kids with Honeybot…if I remember correctly, Andre launched that thing into orbit.

  41. also, though he may not count, i still gotta say torchie from puppet master 2 is my favorite ex-nazi turned into a robot puppet that set a child on fire in a charles band movie.

    you’d think that was a criminally specific type of robot, and you’d be right.

    but i just love torchie.

  42. Oh! Also, I kept hearing you guys (and in the article) talking about Omnibot like it was the end all be all of robot toys. Out of curiosity, I just googled an image of said robo buddy. As it turns out, I actually DID have Omnibot as a kid!
    I remember vividly being elated one Christmas morning when I opened my gifts and there he was in all his glory. Hard to believe he cost $600 though! Did my dad just go temporarily crazy or something?
    EDIT: Another quick look shows that I actually had Omnibot JR. I don’t care; that thing still kicked ass and made me very happy for years. I remember trying to use his serving tray to pass out hors’ dourves at parties and being crushed when none of my relatives wanted any. How can you refuse a robot that badass?

  43. You know I am quite surprised C3PO and R2D2 weren’t mentioned.

  44. I remember killbot, but had no clue why I remembered him.

    thanks for reminding me

  45. NUMBER 5 FURIOUS, LIVID, PERTURBED!

  46. If you’re ever out in L.A., check out the Beverly Center. It’s where most of the Chopping Mall interiors were filmed. (and you can almost recognize them too)

    Oh, and of course Dick Miller is in Killbots! It’s a Corman flick. ;)

  47. I’ve always said that the 80′s was a long decade that didn’t end until 1997, and you were a child of that 18 year stretch if you remember the following kid-obsessions:

    1. Robots (the future was around the corner, so robots were everywhere).
    2. Ninjas
    3. Rapping (back when it was family friendly proto-rap, before Dr. Dre changed the whole game).
    4. Australia (don’t question me, we had a weird obsession with Australia).
    5. UZIs… it wasn’t a proper action movie unless everyone was armed with an UZI sub-machinegun.

    Of these, robots may have been the best. I had one called “Verbot.” It came with a microphone and you could voice command it.

  48. i remember that commercial.

  49. You know who you left out? That robot from Revenge of the Nerds. I don’t remembed him doing much except sweeping and printing out info on who should look for which place to rent and where, but that’s still pretty cool to me.

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