marked the 50th anniversary of the 1956 sci-fi movie, Forbidden Planet.
This film is a classic of sorts for a number of reasons. It's a very
loose update of Shakespeare's play, The Tempest, and it plays off of
the '50s fetish with psychology. You also can see Leslie Nielsen before
his comical roles in Airplane and Police Squad.
the real star of the
show was Robby, the robot of Altair- 4 and the creation of Dr.
Morbius. In real life he was created by Bob Kinoshita, whom one may
suspect of secretly being one of the big-brain aliens that people
this sort of film, because he created not one but two of the greatest
robots of all time, the second being the "Bubble-headed Booby" of TV's Lost in Space,
Above: Save for your trip to
Four. This great Robby the Robot coin bank was still available retail
in 2008, for under $50. If a bank doesn't sound like
too much fun, how about an alarm clock or a room guard? Robby looks
gold in the above picture, but he's actually dark gray, about ten
inches tall, all plastic. He runs on two AA batteries, one in each
leg. He's made in China by Daiwatoy, but there's an instruction
sheet in English.
left: two blue LEDs in
Robby's faceplate blink when he talks. He says three phrases from the
film, and makes an outer space noise. Center: close up of the coin
in Robby's faceplate. Right:
The control panel looks green, but it's
really black. Robby's functions are set by the two round and two square
The left square button
cycles through six modes:
1. clock: setting the
clock, which is on 24 hour, or military time.
2. balance: displays
3. expenses: to display
withdrawls from the bank.
4. target: displays
savings goal and amount to goal.
5. alarm: setting the
alarm. When the alarm goes off, Robby blinks,
beeps, and says "Good morning, gentlemen", as in the film Forbidden
6. other settings:
turns on and off the video slot game and voice
The round buttons cycle
numbers up and down, as when setting the clock.
The right square button performs various functions depending on which
mode Robby is in.
The video slot game
can only be activated by inserting a dollar coin. Inserting a coin
switches automatically to the bank mode, and displays the total. Robby
can count US pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, fifty cent pieces, and
dollar coins. He can display up to $999.99, after which he reads
"full". But he only holds up to 100 fifty cent pieces. Coins can be
emptied out and then the total adjusted.
The light sensor is very
sensitive to changes in room light. With the
voice clips turned on, Robby blinks two blue LEDs in his faceplate,
singly and together, and says one of three random lines from the film
Forbidden Planet, or makes outer space noises. With the voice clips
turned off, Robby still blinks when the light changes.
With the voice clips
turned on, when Robby's alarm goes off, he beeps
and says "good morning gentlemen". With the voice clips turned off, he
still beeps, but twice as long. Pushing any button turns off the alarm,
but it shuts off anyway in a few seconds. The voice is not very loud,
and the voice clips off, "beep only" mode is recommended for heavy
sleepers. There's no off switch, so the only way to shut him off is to
take out his batteries.
Robby's licensed through
Entertainment, and seems to be made from the Trendmasters molds, with
only very small changes (see the Trendmasters Robby below).
(Robby knock offs never say "Robby the Robot" on the box, nor do
they have actual Forbidden Planet
voice clips from Turner
Entertainment.) However, since the film's first appearance in 1956,
Robby has forever influenced robot design, and inspired lots of great
Robby-style robots, an enduring tribute to his creator, Bob Kinoshita.
This Robby is mainly a
very tech bank. If he's in the clock mode
(normal mode), inserting a coin will override it. The display first
shows the amount of the coin, then Robby bleeps and shows the total
saved. Another beep, and the display goes back to showing the time.
Then he's ready for another coin.
If the video slot game is
turned on, inserting a dollar coin
automatically starts it. Pushing three of Robby's buttons brings up a
three digit number. Hit 777, and Robby rewards you by playing one of
three secret sound clips. Robby has a sliding panel on the back to
empty out coins, and you can reset the savings total to zero to start
It would be great if you
could leave the voice clip on the alarm and
shut off the light sensor voice clips. The way to do this is to cover
the photocell. But here's a very tech talking Robby with real voice
clips from the film, bank and alarm functions, well-made and very
detailed, collector quality at an amazingly low price. Start saving for
your trip to Altair- four. Wake up and smell the gear oil!
When the Lost in
Space movie came out in 1998, New Line Cinema licensed Trendmasters to
tie-in toys. The movie toys, like the film, fell far below the original
TV show. However, Trendmaster also created a stunning series of toys of
the Jupiter II and robot B-9 from the original TV series (see Lost in
Space). As if that wasn't enough, in 1999,Turner Entertainment
Trendmasters to make this great ten inch remote controlled Robby the
Robot (left), here shown with Masudaya's wind-up Robby (right).
retailed at under $30 at Toys-R-Us. Push one button on the wired remote
he walks with a lumbering gait, torso turning side to side, his head
lighting up. Push the other button and he recites one of three phrases
from the film as his head flashes. The voice is clear as a bell and the
actual Robby heard in the film. The wired remote control is the same as
on Trendmasters' other remote control Iron Giant and Dexter's
Laboratory robots. An incredibly great, well- designed and crafted
modern plastic robot. Absolutely worth tracking down, even if you have
to go to Altair Four to find him.
an extra $50K? If so, don't
waste it on a sports car. Get this seven foot tall Robby replica from
Hammacher- Schlemmer (click a pic for details). He's an exact replica
by Fred Barton, AKA the Robot Man, who restored the movie Robby for a
California film museum.
Planet, according to film critic Leonard Maltin, "remains one of
most ambitious and intelligent films of its genre". Maltin's Movie
Guide rates it three and a half stars. Numerous editions of the film
have been released, including a two disc 50th anniversary edition in
2006. There was also a deluxe set in a metal box with a small Robby
robot included. However, many reviewers on Amazon.com have been
critical of the set due to dented boxes and a lack of extras. The
included Robby is apparently not the Masudaya wind-up (see
below). However, the inexpensive one disc DVD includes striking
movie graphics on the cover (above left).
The box for Trendmaster's ten inch Robby echoes the film
graphics, which are also carried over to the remote control box.
Planet spawned any number of unlicensed Robby- influenced
them some of the best robot toys ever made. Along with the Gang
of Five and B-9 wind-ups Masudaya released this wind-up Robby as robot
YM-3. Later versions were licensed, as shown here with the Rocket USA
English language box designed by George
Eisner. At just over four inches, this is great robot. He's all
black with relief detailing, a clear face mask showing his silver
brain, and silver antennae. Wind up his strong motor and he walks,
swaying side to side. He originally retailed at under 20 bucks, and is
licensed 1997 Turner Entertainment. A great deal for Masudaya
One of the best Robby knock-offs was Yoshiya's Action Planet Robot
(1958). It was made in both remote control and wind-up versions, with
numerous variations. The wind-up ones were so plentiful that they could
be had as late as 1999 for $1100 Mint in Box.
an even better deal was this repro wind-up, available as late as
2007 for under $30. This silver version was made by Ha Ha Toys and
distributed through Schylling. Wind him up and he walks, sparking in
head and chest area, living up to his "action" heritage. Note the
beautiful retro art box says nothing about either feature. This very
popular 9 inch repro was available in numerous variants, the green one
being distributed by Robot Island (see links). The silver one carries
this warning on the side of the box: "Caution! For ages 15 and up," and
"Attention: This is not a toy; it is an adult collector's item,"
although the Schylling sticker on the box back says "For collectors:
safe for children," "Ages 8 and up." The sturdy, included key also fits
some other Schylling repro robots, notably Robot Lilliput, should you
lose the key to one of the robots.