GE’s powerful homage to yesteryear and tomorrow: Robots on the Move = great advertising AND highlights the intersection of robotics and puppetry.
Part of the Brilliant Machines campaign created by the 120 year old advertising agency, BBDO, this particular commercial was directed by the Dayton/Faris team that brought us Little Miss Sunshine and Ruby Sparks. It features robots that we know and love such as K.I.T.T. from Knight Rider, Forbidden Planet and Lost in Space. And Data.
Animatronics is the form of puppetry where a machine is made to seem animated rather than robotic. Walt Disney was the initial genius behind this genre when he created the Hall of Presidents in the 1960s.
Jim Henson picked up the mantle with Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas when he debuted the first puppets that were radio controlled. It only hinted at what was to come with the groundbreaking Dark Crystal.
One animatronic that is noticeably absent from Robots on the Move is Johnny 5. Designed and built for the 1986 film Short Circuit, it was made possible by a telemetry suit worn by the puppeteer, with almost all live dialogue.
5 didn’t make it into the commercial because there was only a two week build and filming period, and there were no operable Johnny 5s available in that time frame. However, the hitchhiker robot with big eyes in the commercial was the animatronic that got Eric Allemand the job as 5’s designer, and 5’s puppeteer was the same. So, think of it like Johnny 5’s dad is in the film.
Have a great Mardi Gras, and see you on the flip side!