July 18, 2015

ROBOCOP: THE ANIMATED SERIES

ROBOCOP: THE ANIMATED SERIES
(Syndication, October 1-December 17, 1988)


Marvel Productions, Orion Pictures Corporation, New World International

MAIN CAST:

            Part man. Part machine. All cop.



            That was the tagline used to market Orion Pictures’ 1987 film RoboCop. The story takes place in a dystopian version of Detroit, Michigan, in the near future (or circa 2014, ironically). The crooked mega-corporation Omni Consumer Products (OCP) owns everything, including the police. In order to achieve their dream of demolishing the poorer sections of Detroit and building their independent city-state of “Delta City,” OCP was tasked with eliminating the spiraling crime rate. They got their chance when Officer Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) was brutally murdered in the line of duty. Murphy was placed into the experimental RoboCop program, where he was transformed into a cyborg. After reclaiming his own mind though OCP’s programming, RoboCop stopped a crooked OCP executive and got revenge on his murderer before saving the life of OCP’s head, nicknamed “The Old Man” (Dan O’Herlihy).

RoboCop's armor.

            Edward Neumeier got the idea for RoboCop after a friend explained to him the plot of Blade Runner. The character himself was inspired by blending comic book heroes Judge Dredd and ROM (whose comic appeared in two scenes of the movie). Neumeier wrote the screenplay with Michael Miner, who was working on a script with a similar concept, and they got the chance to pitch it to a studio executive when they were all stranded at the same airport. The film dealt with several themes including corruption, privatization, gentrification, capitalism, masculinity, resurrection, the media and human nature.

RoboCop doing his trademarked gun spin.

            The RoboCop costume was designed by Rob Bottin. Originally, the design was sleeker and aerodynamic. Director Paul Verhoeven requested multiple revisions to the suit to make it look more machine than man. The end result looked close to Bottin’s original design, but bulkier and more cumbersome. Weller had hired Moni Yakim, the head of the Movement Department at Julliard, to help him work out the character’s movements. However, the awkwardness of the suit forced him to rethink how he moved, leading to a more robotic and slower method of moving. RoboCop’s primary weapon was a modified Beretta 93R by Ray Williams of Freshour Machine in Texas.

Bullet proof!

            The film was released on July 17, 1987 and became regarded as one of the best films of the year. Despite being an extremely graphic and violent R-rated film, the following year began a heavy campaign to market the character to children. Part of which (and the reason you’re reading this) included an animated series. Developed by Miner and Michael Charles Hill for Marvel Productions, the series began along the same lines as the movie but underwent many changes in both story and content to make it more suitable for its intended audience.

Lewis and RoboCop.

            Like the film, the series focused on RoboCop (Dan Hennessey) and his partner Anne Lewis (Susan Roman) as they patrolled the streets of Old Detroit. However, Old Detroit wasn’t quite the cesspool it was depicted as; instead it was more technologically advanced in line with other depictions of future timelines in various media. Notably, standard weaponry was replaced by laser guns in order to reduce the violence depicted. Without the physical restrictions of an actual suit, Animation Korea Movie Production, Ltd. (AKOM) was able to give RoboCop a greater range of motion in their animation, as well as RoboCop being depicted as being much faster. RoboCop’s visor was also given a red light which sometimes extended across its length. Though not as overt, the series dealt with its own themes including racism, workplace prejudice, environmental issues, terrorism and finding one’s humanity.

Boddicker, alive and well.

The character of Bob Morton (Miguel Ferrer in the movie) who created the RoboCop project was omitted, replaced instead by Dr. Tyler (played by Sage Parker in the film) who was assisted by Dr. Roosevelt (Stephen Berrier in the movie) as they maintained RoboCop. Clarence Boddicker, the gang leader who murdered Murphy, was still alive despite having been killed off in the film. Other returning characters were their commander Warren Reed, OCP head The Old Man, and Dr. McNamara who served as a recurring villain always trying to upstage or destroy RoboCop. Lieutenant Roger Hedgecock, a minor character in the film, also gained villain status by constantly wanting to see all robots eliminated.

Drs. Taylor and Roosevelt giving Murphy a check-up.

The series began on October 1, 1988 as part of the syndicated programming block Marvel Action Universe, which featured new and old programs produced by Marvel. Although budgeted for 13 episodes, Marvel only produced 12 and reallocated the funds for the final episode into producing a pilot episode for a potential X-Men cartoon. Marvel Productions would become financially unstable in the following year, resulting in all projects except Muppet Babies being cancelled. Kenner produced a line of action figures related to the series under the name RoboCop and the Ultra Police. Debuting the same year as the cartoon, Kenner made 16 figures and 7 vehicles before the line ended. A large talking RoboCop was designed but never went beyond the prototype phase.



Best Film & Video Corp. released three episodes as part of the Marvel Video! line in America. Overseas, Jetix Films UK released 8 episodes on DVD in 2004 and 2005 as RoboCop Volume 1 and RoboCop Volume 2: the Hot Seat. Later in 2004 volume 1 was re-released as part of the triple pack Action Man/RoboCop/Conan the Adventurer, in 2007 as Part Man, Part Machine and in Transformers/MASK/RoboCop. Jetix release the complete series in 2008.


In 1990, Orion released RoboCop 2 directed by Irvin Kershner. It would be the last time Weller would play the title role due to his displeasure working on the film. Despite mixed reviews, the movie was successful and production began immediately on RoboCop 3. The film was directed by Fred Dekker, who heavily rewrote the screenplay by comic book writer Frank Miller. Starring Robert John Burke, the film wasn’t released until 1993 due to Orion’s bankruptcy and was a critical and commercial failure. However, that wasn’t the end of the franchise.



In 1994, Orion partnered with Skyvision Entertainment to produce a live-action television series set between the first and second movie. Starring Richard Eden in the title role, RoboCop was given new non-lethal means of apprehending villains in order to allow them to recur. Because of rights issue, many of the supporting characters were given new names. The series ran for 21 episodes including the 2-hour pilot produced from an unused RoboCop 2 script before its high budget-per-episode cost caused it to be cancelled.



In 1998, RoboCop returned to animation with RoboCop: Alpha Commando, played by David Sobolov and produced by MGM Animation, MGM Television and Orion Television. Set further in the future and featuring many of the same writers as the 1980s series, the series was even lighter in tone by giving RoboCop new gadgets such as roller skates and a parachute. Sgt. Reed was the only supporting character from the films featured, and he was voiced by Blu Mankuma who played his counterpart in the live series. In 2001, Fireworks Entertainment and MGM Telvision produced a four feature-length episode mini-series called RoboCop: Prime Directives starring Page Fletcher. In 2014, MGM and Columbia Pictures released the remake RoboCop, starring Joel Kinnaman, after several years in production hell. Despite mixed reviews, the remake went on to gross over $242 million making it the most profitable of the franchise.


EPISODE GUIDE:
“Crime Wave” (10/1/88) – Dr. McNamara hires a dangerous gang, the Vandals, to cause a crime wave in Old Detroit so he can prove his ED-260 weapon works.

“Scrambler” (10/8/88) – A jailed member of OCP hacks into RoboCop and uses him to escape and assassinate The Old Man.

“Project Deathspore” (10/15/88) – OCP’s experiment Project Deathspore escapes into the city’s sewers and begins draining everything with power.

“The Brotherhood” (10/22/88) – The Brotherhood wants to destroy all robots and cyborgs in the city and uses a high tech ball that disrupts their programming..

“The Man in the Iron Suit” (10/29/88) – McNamara puts Lt. Hedgecock into an iron suit and The Old Man puts him in competition with RoboCop to see which is more profitable.

“The Hot Seat” (11/5/88) – McNamara frees the Vandals and has them steal RoboCop’s charging chair.

“No News is Good News” (11/12/88) – McNamara sabotages OCP’s new tank and a reporter attempts to defame RoboCop.

“Night of the Archer” (11/19/88) – Archer plays Robin Hood in Old Detroit.

“Rumble in Old Detroit” (11/26/88) – Weapons go missing from the police lockup and are used to initiate a gang war.

“A Robot’s Revenge” (12/3/88) – RoboCop and Lewis are assigned to protect two visiting delegates, which are targeted by a terrorist-controlled ED-260.

“Into the Wilderness” (12/10/88) – RoboCop fights to shut down a polluting OCP factory.

“Menace of the Mind” (12/17/88) – RoboCop learns the leader of the Vandals is the man who killed him.

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