AT-AT Day Afternoon and Iron Baby

This is a beautifully done piece of combined stop-motion animation/CGI and live action using an AT-AT toy. For those who don’t know, AT-AT refers to the “All Terrain Armored Transport” walker from Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back.

And by the same creator/director, here’s IRON BABY:

The Robot (1932)

Max Fleischer’s early cartoon, “The Robot”, featured his franchise character Bimbo, but if you look closely you’ll see that a nascent Betty Boop is Bimbo’s co-star. I reckon that’s Felix the Cat moonlighting as the referee, too.

The robot that features in “The Robot” (1932)  was rather ahead of its time. Not only is it a robot, but it’s also a transformer and has definite mecha characteristics.

Designs on Korea’s Taekwon V

The Taekwon V Lab has posted a bunch of designs that may reflect how the iconic Korean giant robot Taekwon V will look in the upcoming live-action Taekwon V film. The designs (as seems visually obvious) are by Josh Nizzi, who worked on Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and will likewise be involved in the third of the US Transformers blockbusters.

Taekwon V, South Korea’s giant mecha, which gets its name from its martial art prowess, more traditionally looks like this recently released (and very beautiful) model:

Naturally the robot will be getting a millennial upgrade for the new film, which is still in production but is scheduled for release in 2011. Here’s some of Nizzi’s conceptual design work for that upgrade, with options offered. Clearly Nizzi is going for the current modular look popularised by Michael Bay’s Transformers.

Below is a video of some test animation:

Doll Face

Doll Face, a short film by Andrew Thomas Huang

A machine with a doll face mimics images on television screen in search of a satisfactory visage. Doll Face presents a visual account of desires misplaced and identities fractured by our technological extension into the future.

How To Deal With Giant Robots

Smash ’em!

It’s Spiderman, Iron Man and the Hulk versus a bunch of giant robots. Great animation. It appeared as three webisodes on the website under the title “Iron Man’s Adventure”.

And just for the hell of it, here’s a cutscene from Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2, in which Spidey, Nick Fury, Captain America, Wolverine and Thor take on Doc Doom’s robot army:


In a sense, of course, the classic mecha of Japanese manga/anime/film aren’t robots in the sense that they function as autonomous, self-motivated mechanisms. They are, like cars, piloted by ordinary flesh-and-bone humans — and as such are merely vehicles or exoskeletal enhancements. Yet subjectively, in the fictional world, the mechanisms themselves tend to acquire personalities, and many tales from the mecha subgenre introduce an ambiguity into the relationship between mechanism and pilot that blends them into a single, undifferentiated unit — the whole greater than the sum of the parts, as it were.

So the mecha subgenre definitely has an important place here in our ongoing exploration of artificial lifeforms, which is why I continue to discuss existing and upcoming examples of such tales.

This is Gaiking (or as he is known in his home country Demon Dragon of the Heavens Gaiking (大空魔竜ガイキング, Daikū Maryū Gaikingu). Super Robot Gaiking, invented by a Dr. Daimonji, forms part of the crew of the carrier Daikū Maryū — a huge ship that can partially transform, sections of it detaching in order to form Gaiking (specifically his skull-like chest and horns). The crew of Daikū Maryū battle against a race of aliens, the Dark Horror Army, whose home planet is being consumed by a black hole — which in turn is causing them to mutate. Daiking is piloted by an ex-baseball star, Sanshiro Tsuwabuki, whose latent psychic powers form the basis of his ability to control the huge robot.

Premiering in 1971 Gaiking was the first Super Robot mecha anime TV series produced by Toei Animation that was not based on an existing manga. Toei were responsible for such classic and formative mecha series as Mazinger Z and Getter Robo, which were based on existing work. In the US and the West generally the mecha robot Gaiking was best known as part of Mattel’s Shogun Warriors toy line (and as such appeared in comic form in the Marvel Universe, below fighting alongside the Fantastic Four):

Though the anime was Americanised for US television, it was aired as part of another series and never became as widely known as series such as Tetsujin 28-go (known in the US as Gigantor). [corrected, see Comments]

Just announced is a live-action Gaiking, to be produced by an American crew. According to Slashfilm:

The Gaiking project was originally supposed to be a 7-minute short attached to Fincher’s Heavy Metal, but after that project moved to another studio, Jules Urbach took it and ran with it, and now it looks on track to be a full-blown feature film with Matthew Gratzne directing. (source)

As this picture shows, Gaiking’s new design is darker and even more mechanistic, in true 21st century fashion. Urbach commented, however, that this CG version (taken from the trailer below) is only a concept image:

We are building the robots life size. Matt is one of the last great practical effects guys in the business who can pull this off. … The teaser we have now is CG for the robot. It is to give the fans a taste of the design we are going with, but it is not a true reveal given what we are going to be doing when we build the thing. The real deal is going to be mind blowing, of course. (Ain’t It Cool News)

At the moment the film is in pre-production with a very tentative release date of 2012. If successful, who knows where this may lead?


Sources and Further Reading:

The Blonde’ll Get the Robot Every Time

Sex Kittens Go to College [aka The Beauty and the Robot] (US-1960; dir. Albert Zugsmith) was a piece of fairly harmless comedic sexploitation starring Mamie Van Doren, Tuesday Weld and Bridget’s sister Mijanou, dressed out in classic 1950s pointy bras and tight sweaters. Mamie Van Doren plays a brilliant science professor who is promoted to head of the science faculty by THINKO the campus robot, and gets to share at least one poignant and life-changing moment with him.

It turns out that THINKO was played by a real robot (of sorts) — Elektro, a robot built by Westinghouse Electric Corporation as a publicity “frontman”.

In 1937, Pittsburgh-based Westinghouse Electric Corporation started construction on a robot designed to mimic many basic human actions. Within one year, Elektro was created — a giant steel and aluminum contraption adept at blowing up balloons, and smoking cigarettes and able to move its head, arms and legs. Some of Elektro’s more impressive feats included the ability to use a camera to distinguish between red and green lights and a motor skeleton to walk on command. Less impressive were the bad jokes broadcast over its speakers via microphone. (Popular Mechanics)

Apparently his smoking was a great attraction for visitors to the Westinghouse Building (see below), though he clearly had a high opinion of himself as he was known to say things like “I-am-Elektro…. my-brain-is-big-ger-than-yours”.

Elektro, who was created by Barney Barnett, remained the face of Westinghouse for many years, making appearances at places like the 1939 New York World’s Fair, where he wowed some 3.7 million visitors. But fame is fickle. Elektro’s fortunes declined over time, and he was finally reduced to accepting a small but pivotal role in Sex Kittens Go to College. Soon after the filming, however, Elektro was bought by a small, privately owned sideshow-type museum and later sold for scrap — though apparently his head survived. In 2009, the son of a Westinghouse engineer built a nonworking replica of Elektra, which is now on display at the Heinz History Center.

The whereabouts of his robot dog companion Sparko (designed by Don Lee Hadley) is, however, unknown.

For the curious, here is a schematic of Elektro’s workings:

And here’s Sparko’s inner workings:

Above: Barney Barnett with Sparko and his own creations, including daughter Mary Lou

South Korea’s Giant Robot

Mitsuteru Yokoyama’s 1956 manga Tetsujin 28-go (and subsequent anime series — known in the West as Gigantor) may have started the whole giant-robot mecha genre (though many consider it was defined by Mazinger Z, created by Go Nagai in manga and on TV in 1972), but politically South Korea wasn’t content to let the Japanese have sole rule of it. In the 1970s, Kim Cheong-gi took the mecha concept and created “a Korean hero for Korean children” in Robot Taekwon V (known in the US as Voltar the Invincible).

The show achieved great popularity and today Robot Taekwon V is present in Korean culture as a full-size sculpture, on ads and in various remade forms. For some time talk of a big budget live-action feature film directed by Won Shin-Yeon has been around, originally slated for release in 2009. It hasn’t yet appeared but evidence of its coming keeps cropping up, most recently with the establishment of a website — very basic as yet, but sporting an awesome poster of the Giant Robot in action, battling an enemy in the Han River — the body of water that spawned the monster from the Korean giant monster film The Host (click to enlarge):

As the robot’s name suggests, its combatic movements reflect those of the martial art Taekwondo, and this aspect is apparently being played up in the film version, as displayed by videos of test animation that have appeared on YouTube and elsewhere. Here is one where the test animation, created via motion capture, is compared to the movements of actual practitioners of Taekwondo:

The following trailer — which appears to be for a game version — sports footage that comes from the film or at least reflects it:

Below is Taekwon V as he is set to appear in the new film:

See Undead Backbrain for further information, images and videos.

Gallery: this gallery includes pictures of the film’s creators as well as other CGI images of Robot Taekwon V (not related to the film).

  • Source: Writing: Robert Hood  |  Research: Avery Guerra


Here’s a great little animated film by Luke Randall. It uses the idea of a newly “born” robot to create a brief, poignant mediation on ambition, desire and “in-built” limitations.

Reach (Australia-2009; short [3:50 min]; dir. Luke Randall)

The Evolution of Robots

This is a commercial for SATURN, a German electronics retailer. It was directed by Carl Erik Rinsch for advertising agency Scholz&Friends.

In case you think the evolution of robots into sexy humanoid form is unlikely, check out this real-world one: