Everyone loves Wall*E. That includes me. I just saw it last night and like all the world over, I am smitten with it.
Let’s not forgot that lovable robot from the 80’s though that, in appearance, kind of looks like Wall*E’s dad. Johnny 5. They’ve both even been compared to Christ figures! For those of you that have seen “Wall*E”, does that make EVE the Mary Magdalene?
Though the two bear some striking similarities, career-wise, they are quite different. Whilst Wall*E is a trash-bot, Johnny 5 is a reformed warmonger. Anyway, as you can probably guess, our twelfth entry into the hall of greatness is:
12. Johnny 5
Please keep in mind that I was ten when I saw this film. It was really the perfect age to enthuse over a sassy robot with a heart of gold.
This was also an era when we saw the potential of real robots as toys…sure they weren’t very advanced–mostly models like Radio Shack’s Robie the Robot and an assortment of robot pets that could essentially go forward, reverse, and make noises. Still, the promise of having your very own Johnny 5 seemed like it would only be months away! Additionally, the late 80’s was a time when films came with hit soundtracks (or at least singles). Chart-toppers like El Debarge’s “Who’s Johnny” from “Short-Circuit” and Cyndi Lauper’s “Good Enough (Goonies Are)” from “The Goonies” served as a pleasant flashback to the film everytime you heard them on top 40 radio or spun the 45 on your turntable. This only served to deepen my obsession with movies.
Johnny 5 was, of course, a robot who was intent on learning about the human experience. Hit by an electrical surge, he becomes ‘alive’, rejects his original purpose, that of destruction, and ambles on his robot treads into the lives of Stephanie Speck and Newton Crosby. His heartwarming and comedic adventures include protecting his human friends from the destructive forces of NOVA robotics (usually whilst screaming ‘no disassemble Stephanie’), watching “3 Stooges” films, and learning how to disco dance. Coincidentally, the director of “Short Circuit”, also directed “Saturday Night Fever”. You can watch him recycle his footage here!
You notice how Stephanie keeps pushing Johnny 5 to go to bed? Do robots have a bed time? I guess if he really wants to learn how to behave like a human, he’ll have to at least pretend to sleep in the evening. But, if you’re gonna get that pushy, you may as well demand that he go to the toilet as well. And that would just be nuts.
Or…maybe I’m missing something here and she’s actually lonelier than we thought and is just trying to get him in the sack. It’s rated PG, so that’s probably not the case. Though he is definitely a more appealing option than Steve Guttenberg in that regard.
I also like how a Johnny 5 out-acts Ally Sheedy in that scene. Her line readings are actually more robotic than the robot’s.
FYI, Tim Blaney–a puppeteer–supplies the voice for Johnny 5. He was the voice of Frank the Pug in the “Men in Black” films. He also played the voice of The Navigator in “Flight of the Navigator”, which, in my opinion, is close enough to playing another robot that we might be able to consider a pattern here. To my knowledge, he has never played any gorillas.
It’s full of all kinds of excitement…old articles from Starlog magazine, interviews, photos, video clips. Even some promotional stuff like this Five Alive tie-in. What a great pairing, robots and juice! For those of you
who may not have heard of Amstrad, the makers of the computer system that you could win with this promotion, Amstrad computers were, as far as I can tell, the equivalent of a Coleco.
The guy behind them, Alan Sugar, is the mogul used in the British version of “The Apprentice”.
Dimension Films have acquired the rights to do a remake. I hope Johnny 5 has a good agent because he deserves a shot at reprising one of technology’s most loveable scamps.