Tag Archives: Film

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.

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Christmas is coming, why not treat yourself?

With the holiday season rapidly approaching, now is the time to think about presents . . . and while you’re about it, why not treat yourself too?

I have a great suggestion; why not invest in a subscription to Robot magazine? My first paper copy has just arrived here in the UK. It is the January/February 2016 edition, so I reckon that is a pretty good service as the magazine is printed in the USA. Digital editions are also available, for instant download.

Along with comprehensive news pages, this edition features an eight page ‘Holiday Gift Guide’ including Robot Kits, drones, engineering kits, a Star Wars app-enabled Droid, Lego mindstorm education kits, PCBs and a robot arm.

There is a full review of BB-8, featured on the magazine cover, this is the mini version of the ball droid that will be in The Force Awakens due out in December.

On the more serious side, we have an interview with Martin Ford, the author of Rise of the Robots. Here is the first question and answer from that article by Rebecca A Hill:

Tell me the premise of your book, Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future.

The main premise of the book is that technology in the form of robots and artificial intelligence is gradually going to displace more and more of workers who are doing routine and repetitive work.

Read all about Robot magazine at their website www.botmag.com

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.