"Perfect! That will be 50 bucks."
"Fifty bucks? For what?"
"A beautiful picture of your first moment in Robot City. There, I've captured your second moment. That's another $50. Are you keeping track?"
Wide-eyed young inventor Rodney Copperbottom arrives in the big city with dreams of making the world better for his fellow robots or 'bots,' as they call themselves. What he finds there puts his idealism to the test in a struggle to stop a greedy corporation from eliminating older 'bots' in favor of shiny and expensive new upgrades
"If we don't do something about Ratchet, no one will. Come on, let's fight back."
"Fighting never solved anything."
"Quitting isn't so productive, either. Kid, if you're going to fight, I'm going in with you."
The computer-generated characters and their environment in Robots are made from familiar used items. Okay, junk. Director Chris Wedge says the hero's art deco style comes from a family memory.
"Rodney is inspired by an Evinrude outboard motor that my grandfather had on the back of a boat that we used all summer when I was a kid. I have that in my office now and I showed it to the modelers and said 'this is Rodney, guys; let's make him out of this.' He's just kind of a sturdy, good-looking outboard motor ... never complained, always started. That's what I thought he would be," he says.
In the English-language version of Robots, Ewen MacGregor is the voice of Rodney. His fast-talking, streetwise buddy is Fender, voiced by Robin Williams and shaped like the old-fashioned oil pump found in service stations 50 years ago. It's like a hand-cranked oil pump or the hand-ground coffee maker.
"The first time I went in I tried to do it like an espresso machine; but then it becomes like Chico Marx. 'Hey, that's no good. What do you want to do, boss? Hey Rusty, come on. We gotta go.' Then I tried a 'Bowery bot:' come on, it's crazy here. What are you doing here? Then a little 'home bot.' Then I kind of adjusted fire in between all of that and came up with Fender," says Williams.
"Come on, work with me. More pout, less pose. That's great. Inside of you is a fashion model just waiting to throw up. Give me those eyes ... big eyes ..."
"The great thing for me is that you give them something and they go beyond it. Like when he starts falling apart and the hands have their own life. They're wrestling on the ground," says Williams.
"I'll get them."
"Oh look at that. Now they're arm-wrestling. Could you separate them? Hurry!"
Comedian Drew Carey creates another of the well-worn 'bots.'
"Rodney is right. I am tired of just complaining and never doing anything. I want to try. No, forget it. I'm sorry. No, yes. I want to try."
"I don't really do a voice in the movie. I just talk like me. I tried to. In the first recording session I was doing a kind of character voice. Then two months later I did the second session and I asked 'do you remember what I talked like the last time I was here?' I couldn't even remember, so I just kind of did my own voice," says Carey.
Also sounding very much like herself is Amanda Bynes as Piper, a rough-and-tumble teenaged 'bot.' "I think the more I did it, the more she grew into this tough chick or robot. She was definitely a fun character to play and they really wanted her to be a strong character and not 'only a girl:' a strong person for kids to look up to," she says.
"All right, buster, if you think you can mess with my big brother, you're, you're kind of cute."
"Piper, would you behave yourself? Now come on, let's get Fender fixed, again."
There are positive messages in Robots, especially the motto of the benevolent founder of Bigweld Industries [and Rodney's inspiration]: 'you can shine, no matter what you're made of.' However, filmmaker Chris Wedge says his main goal was not to teach any lessons, but to create an entertaining, visually exciting movie.
"We really made the movie because we wanted to see it. It was all about making this place and going there. The things that got in the way were 'oh yeah, it's a movie, it has to have a story ... the characters have to open their mouths and talk.' That was all much more difficult for us than to come up with the way that it looked, because that's what we do. So there were many challenges along the way, but as time passed, we had been creating little objects and details for so long that ultimately we could do gigantic chase scenes and the big 'Robin Hood'-like fight sequence at the end and fill it with detail," he says.
"This is our moment to shine. This is where you show what you're really made of."
"In my case, it's a rare metal called 'afraidium.' It's yellow and tastes like chicken. Oh! I didn't know I could do that."
Robots also features the voice talents of Jennifer Coolidge, Greg Kinnear, Jim Broadbent, Halle Berry and Mel Brooks.