Robbie the Robot Superstar

Is there any robot more famous than Robbie the Robot? Maybe R2D2 is a famous robot, but it didn't have the same career: Robbie had several main roles in very different movies and has been a guest in dozens of shows. On the other side, R2D2 has always been presented as the small droid from Star Wars.

While its first appearance was in Fordidden Planet, the robot movie-star played in more than 25 series and movies: Lost in Space, Hollywood Boulevard, Gremlins and more recently in a CM for AT&T.

What makes this big clumsy humanoid robot so great and famous? Is it its super gadgets and technology? Is it the feeling of superiority that seems to be in its every sentence? Or is it a marketing effort made necessary by the price of the original robot?

Robbie the Robot in the Forbidden Planet

1) What makes Robbie so cool?

Unlike what is suggested by the award winning movie poster above, Robbie the Robot is no evil. Actually, it is described at one point as "a housewife's dream" for its ability to "cook". As Dr Morbius explains, the robot can analyze the chemical composition of any object or food and recreate it piece by piece from the molecular scale to its full size. It's not just about cooking here, it's the solution to hunger in the world.

Later in the movie, Robbie the Robot shows that it can not only recreate an object, but it also has a talent to design brand new clothes. It will indeed make the first decent dress for the sexy daughter of the Dr Morbius.

The cook wants something from Robbie the Robot

What would YOU ask Roobie to create for you?

Some other tricks of the famous robot include using some sort of laser to disable laser guns and being insanely strong. And that is all just in the Forbidden Planet, so I'm pretty sure it has a lot more in its other robot movies.

2) Robbie: slave or master?

Without saying it explicitely, Robbie the robot has to follow the 3 laws of robotics (1: do not harm a human, 2: obey the human, 3: protect yourself), or at least the first 2. It is again demonstrated by Dr Morbius to show how safe the robot was.

But even though the movie robot has to follow every order, the fact is that it is more intelligent and knows more than most people. The way it always answers like "it's so easy everyone knows that" looks very annoying for the people who talk to him (but very funny to watch). But in the end you wonder if it's not the robot that is leading the humans without letting them notice...

Robbie the robot and the 3 laws

The 3 laws are strong in Robbie

3) How to build Robbie the robot?

Back in 1955, people thought it would be impossible to build such a robot to act in a movie. It was made with advanced plastic technology and was filled with electronics (I read 8 kilometers of wires somewhere). It is Frankie Darro, a small but strong actor who was the first person to enter the humanoid robot to control it from inside.

Robbie the robot can be so cute

Actually, due to its weight and size, this movie robot was very hard to move. That's why you see it move like C3PO or the humanoid robots of today. It makes it look a little clumsy and cute somehow.

Also, you may wonder why this robot was chosen to play in so many movies afterward. Its success may only be part of the reason. Actually, this robot cost more than 100'000 USD to build. While it's normal to build such an expensive robot in research, it is not for a movie company. Therefore they wanted to use it again and again to make it profitable for the company.

I guess it was a good idea, since Robbie the Robot has now become part of the movie and science-fiction culture that everyone should know about.

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