Barnes & Noble - Christina Urban
From the creators of the hit animated film Ice Age comes a new spin on the coming-of-age story: the tale of a young, starry-eyed...robot. Rodney Copperbottom (the near-unrecognizable voice of Ewan McGregor) is a genius teenage inventor from a little town who wants nothing more than to travel to Robot City to seek his fortune at Bigweld Industries, the home to the greatest inventor of them all, the reclusive Bigweld (Mel Brooks). Rodney has big dreams, and after creating Wonderbot -- a flying 'bot made of kitchen parts -- he embarks on his journey to the big city. But after arriving, he discovers that achieving his dream may be a lot harder than he realized. First, he can't get hired at Bigweld Industries, because the company has some new employees: Cappy (Halle Berry), the beautiful, sleek 'bot who becomes the object of Rodney's affection, and the corporate tyrant Ratchet (Greg Kinnear), who is on a mission to stop supplying parts to the older robots of the city by creating newer -- and more expensive -- robot models. Then, when Rodney has nowhere to live, he's befriended by the misfit Rusties: Fender (the typically zany Robin Williams), a 'bot who's continually losing pieces of himself; Piper (Amanda Bynes), Fender's kid sister; Crank Casey (Drew Carey), the pessimist of the group; Lug (Harland Williams), the slow-witted gentle giant; Diesel, the Harpo Marx-like robot without a voice box; and Aunt Fanny (Jennifer Coolidge), the kindhearted mother figure of the bunch. When Rodney discovers what Ratchet is trying to do, he and his friends decide to put a stop to it by finding Bigweld and bringing him back to restore the company.
Coming up with a new way to tell this type of tale is never easy, but screenwriters Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, veterans of TV comedy, pull this off perfectly. In the film we see Rodney growing up, and several sequences are extremely clever in dealing with the aging of a robot: His parents actually put Rodney together from parts in a box; when the youngster starts to cry, his father turns down his volume knob; and we see Rodney grow older as he slowly adds on parts handed down from his older cousins. Of course, the film wouldn't be as visually appealing as it is without the talents of Blue Sky Studios, the animation company that was responsible for Ice Age. Working from designs by children's illustrator William Joyce (who created Rollie Pollie Olie) Blue Sky spent almost three years on design work alone, doing everything from creating the main character (who was inspired by an outboard motor) to creating a computer algorithm that could automatically spread rust on surfaces. Using a computer technology that allowed the animators to render the environments as if they were working with real lights on a set, they were able to animate approximately three seconds of film per week. The entire film took over two years to completely animate, using a process called "rigging," which provides a sort of bone structure over a character that an animator can then manipulate. Each facial movement -- from the twitch of an eyebrow to a grin -- is done individually. And that's only one step in the complicated process of storyboards, voice recording, lighting effects, and post-production that brought Robots to life. And to see the attention to detail offered by these animators, keep an eye out for a close-up of the dial on Rodney's chest: You'll see the Blue Sky logo! But to fully appreciate the process, you need to check out the extras on Robots, which include commentary from technical directors and animation heads, a featurette that describes what inspired the creation of the characters, and much more.