RollBots was a Canadian computer-generated animated series created by Michael Milligan, credited as “MCM”, and produced by Amberwood Entertainment. The series was set in the floating city of Flip City. It was inhabited by sentient robots that could retract their limbs and become balls for travel along roller coaster-like tracks, as well as receive “mods” that could grant them new abilities or enhance pre-existing ones. The citizenry was divided up into 11 different tribes with their own individual functions: Fuzata, responsible for finances and the economy; Hai’bu, responsible for sanitation and waste management and aided by the sub-tribe Kenchi-ku, which were small robots kicked into tiny spaces and became the basis for the major sport, Bot-Ball (similar to soccer); Kazoku, responsible for educating BotTots (bot children); Kei’zatsu, responsible for law enforcement through the FCPD; Kuzuri, responsible for healthcare; Nisen, responsible for running the government; Tensai, the most intelligent Bots responsible for maintenance and technology construction; Zobo’shi, responsible for emergency services and had a rivalry with the Kei’zatsu; Zogen’sha, responsible for spiritual guidance (aka religion); Zurasho, responsible for construction; and Zeishi, a mysterious and quiet tribe that mostly kept to themselves. There was a 12th tribe, the Zushin, guardians of the city who could access all of its systems and were capable of self-healing, but they were eliminated by the Spiderbots some time ago in a plot to destroy all RollBots.
The main character was Spin (Sam Vincent), a rookie member of the FCPD who was the last surviving Zushin; something initially unknown to him. His mods included Boomstick, an extendable stick with two heat blades at the end; Skyv Boots, giving him super jumping ability and adjust surface friction wherever he stood; Hyper Mode, a Zushin trait that allowed him to reach extreme velocities; Radiation Boost, allowing him to absorb radiation and channel it back as telekinesis or energy balls; Sound Scaper, an infrared camera; and Invisibility, a prototype disk that rendered him invisible.
Captain Pounder (Garry Chalk) was the head of the Kei’zatsu and the FCPD. He was tough and strong but had a secret soft side. His mods were Trolvodian Throwing Armor, which gave him projectile shields, and Thunder Punch, giving him a boost of power in his fists. Pounder worked closely with the Special Weapons and Tactics bots, aka Swat Bots, which were specially armed and trained FCPD officers utilized for special missions. Penny (Cathy Weseluck) served as the FCPD’s doctor, on loan from the Kuzuri tribe, and was Spin’s best friend—potentially a bit more. She possessed a Healing Glove that repaired bots, power-up small machines or drain power from bots, as well as the Sound Scraper. Lance (Scott McNeil) was a cowardly administrator at the FCPD who disliked Spin for constantly breaking the rules, but absolutely loved to eat lug nuts (a bot snack). His only mod was a Force Field that he could put around himself or others. Bunto (Colin Murdock) was a high-ranking member of the FCPD with a no-nonsense approach to the law and often commanding his own squad. His mods included Siren, comprised of spheroid drones that followed him emitting a siren wail; Cuffs, restraining devices that resembled green energy disks; Arm Beam Gun, a cannon stored in his left arm; and Do-Right Module, which emitted a shock whenever the bot who had it broke the law. Tinny (Tabitha St. Germain) was a BotTot who enjoyed hanging out with Spin whenever he wasn’t in school.
The central villain was Vertex (Murdock), a suspected Spiderbot who planned to disable the safety net protecting the city (and its citizens from falling to their dooms) utilizing 11 hidden artifacts so that his fellow Spiderbots could invade. Only Spin was openly fully aware of Vertex’s true nature (a history with Pounder was implied) as Vertex could shift his form to resemble a normal Rollbot (albeit the biggest one in the city). Vertex led an army of henchbots with his top lieutenants being Manx (Nicole Oliver), a former member of the FCPD who came up with most of Vertex’s plans and seemed to maintain some level of conscience; Botch (Brain Drummond), a former member of the city’s most dangerous gang, the Triads, he had ambitions of supplanting both Manx and Vertex; and Macro (Murdock), a strong former Hai’bu who loyal to Vertex, dimwitted and clumsy, and loved eating lug nuts almost as much as Lance. They eventually were joined by Vett (McNeil), an old ally of Vertex who took a more direct approach in his attacks on the city. Other bad bots included Phaze (Paul Dobson), another former member of the Triads who got Manx kicked off the force and had a passion for magnetic bot mods; Reboot (Cathy Weseluck), a renegade Tensai who voluntarily joined in Vertex’s plans; Tamaki (Shirley Millner), the leader of a group of pirate bots that included her right-hand bot, Kibi (Richard Newman).
|Vertex's main minions: Macro, Manx and Botch.|
RollBots debuted on Canada’s YTV on February 7, 2009, and was imported by 4Kids Entertainment into the United States on September 19, 2009 as part of The CW4Kids programming block on The CW. It was developed by MCM, his first television series, along with Jonathan Wiseman, Chantal Ling and Gerald Tripp. MCM would confess on his website that a lot of what he had in mind was improvised, but there was a massive mythology built up for the world along with a semi-functional language and three alphabets. MCM has also said that a lot of the names used were a combination of “Japanese words and techy humor” (for instance, Kei’zatsu was taken from keisatsu, which is Japanese for “police”). Along with MCM, the series was written by Craig Young (also a supervising producer), Vito Viscomi, Steven Sullivan, Mark Leiren-Young, Terry Saltsman and Edward Kay. The original conceptual design was done by Andrew King, Leif Norheim and Paul Rivoche, and 2D character concept designs by King with Dave Badour. Serge R. Cøté served as the composer with Elliott Animation handling the animation. It earned a Gemini Award for “Best Direction in an Animated Program or Series”.
MCM had envisioned and planned for around 5 seasons’ worth of material, peppering in clues for future developments throughout the entire first season; even ending it on a cliffhanger due to assurances of a second. Unfortunately, the series proved to be too expensive to produce, despite being broadcast around the world in multiple languages, and was subsequently cancelled. The American run didn’t fare much better due to 4Kids’ ongoing financial troubles. After the first 13 episodes aired, 4Kids put it on a brief hiatus before resuming with reruns that January. On January 23rd, they aired the 14th and final new episode as RollBots was again put on hiatus. 4Kids announced that the show would resume come the fall season, but it never made the transition into the newly renamed Toonzai block.
To date, RollBots has only seen home video releases outside of North America in both episode collections and a complete season set. As of this writing, Wow Kidz Action currently hosts the Hindi translations of the series on their YouTube channel, and Forrest+Schlange Animation has several animatics from early production work they did on theirs including the original pitch presentation. As for MCM, he hasn’t quite given up on his baby yet. He announced on his website that he was working on a reboot pitch as too much time has passed to continue the original story. For now, RollBots: Refactored exists solely as a pilot script.