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.
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.