Monday, February 04, 2008

Danger, Will Robinson!

For those ten year old boys from 1965 who never grew up, another dream has come true. You can buy your own robot from "Lost In Space" for only $24,500, including shipping within the US. Space Productions have painstakingly made a replica of the robot based on the third season version.

They have three guys working full time making sets of four robots at a time, about one set per month, about ten sets per year. They plan to make 150 robots, all of which are reserved by customers. However, don't despair. Some customers drop out and robots come up for sale. You still have a chance of nabbing one.

They call their replica B9, but the robot never really was given a name. Some folks call the "Lost In Space" robot Robby, mistaking it for the robot from the 1956 sci fi classic "Forbidden Planet." Both robots were designed by Robert Kinoshita, so they're siblings of a sort.

You can covertly control the robot with a five button key chain remote control which will turn the robot's torso, make the robot answer "Affirmative" or "Negative," and activate its soil sampler. Richard Tufeld, the original voice of the robot, recorded 500 voice tracks which can be played on the onboard stereo. In fact, you can plug your stereo into the robot and play tunes on it like a juke box, which seems an undignified use, in my opinion.

In the original show, stunt man Bob May climbed inside the robot and spoke its lines while jamming on a button which flashed the robot's lights. Later, Dick Tufeld dubbed in the robot voice in post-production.

The original robot is owned by Kevin Burns, a 20th Century Fox executive. A friend had prodded him to go find the original robot. He found it in big airline freight trunks labeled "Friday's Robot" on Stage 2. Japanese customers had last used the robot but got the Robinson family mixed up with Robinson Crusoe and thought the robot was playing Friday.

There were two versions of the robot. One was the full up "hero" version which was filmed. The other was a lighter version used as a stand in to set up lighting. The hero in the trunks had been butchered by the Japanese into "a big white refrigerator with claws."

Burns hired Greg Jein, a master model-builder for film and television, to restore the robot for an estimate of $4000 to $5000. Jein had salvaged the original Jupiter 2 model and other props from the series from the trash where it had been thrown after the series was cancelled after three seasons.

The robot was shipped, still wet, to a December 1990 convention where thousands of fans celebrated the 25th anniversary of the show. There were plans to bring the cast together to do one last TV movie of "Lost In Space," but marketing surveys showed that its audience had moved on. It was not to be.

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