THE MONSTER: ROBOCAIN
Article by: Jody Duncan
The meeting at the warehouse hideout becomes a bloody massacre when RoboCop 2 arrives on the scene and the awesome size and power of the Cain monster is finally revealed in full.
CREATING THE MONSTER:
Because the title character's design had been a top priority well before the script was completed, Phil Tippett and Craig Davies had the difficult task of developing the creature without a clear idea of what it would be required to do.
All that was known at the beginning was that there was going to be a big battle at the end of the film between RoboCop and RoboCop 2. Craig Davies began developing the robot with the idea that it was something RoboCop would stand little chance of beating -a giant that could vary its height by way of gears and hydraulic rams.
Craig began drawing sketches of the possible forms the Cain monster might take. The philosophy was that monsters exist primarily in our mind, that if you see something and get a chance to digest it visually, it is not scary anymore. So the idea was to put a bunch of stuff on this monster to kind of overload the viewers brain, so that there was no way you could really assimilate it all, You would never have a chance to get a fix on it because it was packed with so much. Davies' first ideas contrasted sharply with the anthropomorphic look of the original RoboCop.
"I wanted to do something that was more animal than human -like a Brahma bull combined with a locomotive. We went through a lot of animal shapes. But Tim Hunter -who was still on the film as director at that point -thought it should have more of a human appearance, because human beings are the biggest monsters of them all. That was his thinking and I think he was right."
With Hunter's edict to humanize the look of the monster, Davies took a new approach in its design. They came up with something that was upright and looked basically like a man. It had four arms, different types of tooling -the kind of thing you see in a lot of machinery. The idea was to show that this thing was capable of self-repair, something like a guerrilla Swiss army knife. The helmet design was just a conglomeration of a lot of things. from the front, it looks like an atomic bomb mushroom cloud; but it has the profile of a sort of stylized American eagle. And then the waist is very tiny -wasplike -so the overall impression is of a stylized bodybuilder. This robot is like a big, thick-headed American male asshole -the worst, most offensive thing you could ever have angry at you. from some angles, though, it looks like a medieval knight, which was a conscious satirical comment- it's medieval technology, showing that America is not in the forefront of this kind of stuff anymore.
Working from his own drawings, Craig Davies constructed a foot-tall wooden mockup of the Cain monster, The sixth-scale rendition showed the many joints that Davies had incorporated into the design -joints that would enable the animators to vary the puppet's height. It had what seemed like a million joints on it which allowed it to expand and contract. The outer form was then cast in urethane, small plastic pieces were fabricated by the model shop for detailing. They didn't want to use glue on anything, since glued parts tend to pop off at inopportune times during animation, So every part was bolted on with tiny brass and stainless steel screws.
The puppets were also equipped with small halogen lamps because Director Irvin Kershner wanted the Cain monster to be seen as little as possible in the beginning. He was shot without a lot of lights on location, So they gave the monster his own searchlights, and those lights were able to interact with the atmosphere to create nice beam effects.
Craig Davies built sixteen miniature focal spot lamps and mounted them on the puppets, it was a good effect for the look of the monster, but the animators had a lot of trouble dealing with the electric wires trailing off of their puppets and keeping track of voltage levels all the time.
Eight fully articulated, foot-tall stop-motion puppets were ultimately built to accommodate the eight separate animation units that needed to be shooting simultaneously to meet the tight schedule, In addition, four stunt versions were constructed. The stunt puppets were cast off of the original ones in a semiflexible urethane -a basically indestructible material. They were used for all the high-speed, abusive shots so that they wouldn't have to take the chance of destroying a dam-hard-to-make model...
The stop-motion crew also animated the weaponry attached to the monster's various tooling arms -most notably its gatling gun, a six-barrel rotary cannon that afforded RoboCop 2 the firepower of a one-man SWAT team. Approximately half of the gatling gun shots were animated by hand.
THE MONSTER UP CLOSE:
For closeup shots of the monster interacting with actor Peter Weller, a full-scale head and torso version of RoboCop 2 was utilized. It was eight to nine feet tall depending on the arrangement of the mounting, and it weighed almost eight hundred pounds. The skeleton was made of cold rolled steel to make it very strong, and other sections were made of aluminum or plastic. It had six miniature halogen lamps on it, but four of those were taken off for most of the scenes. It was fully articulate every arm, shoulder, wrist and claw could be positioned however they wanted. Also, all of the joints could be loosened up so that it could be puppeteered remotely.
The puppeteering itself was pretty crude -basically the operators held long poles that were screwed into specific areas and just moved things around like that. They wore black outfits and the poles were painted flat black, as well. The operators wore crash helmets because this thing was so heavy -if it had fallen and hit them, it would have been very serious.
Having distracted the monster with a supply of Nuke, RoboCop jumps onto his back so that he can reach the cyborg's brain center and disengage it. A bucking rig was devised by engineer Michael Steffe for live-action cuts of RoboCop being flailed around on the back of his adversary. It was a horrendous device they would strap the stuntman onto, and in some cases, they would even use Peter Weller. The rig was about twelveby-ten-feet wide -on dolly tracks -and operated by opening or closing valves that actuated pneumatic rams. It was made of steel and run with compressed air. The rams would lift the character up in the air about four or five feet and bring him down quickly and then traverse him from left to right in a matter of milliseconds. It was a hell of a thing to watch a body being slammed around in it.
RoboCop finally manages to penetrate the chamber holding the organic remains of Cain's drug-crazed brain and rips it out, smashing it onto the pavement. The lobotomized monster falls to the ground, a heap of mindless metal. His demise marked the end of one of the most strenuous stop-motion efforts Phil Tippett had ever orchestrated -a feat made more remarkable by a schedule that was lamentably brief. Eight separate animation units had worked virtually around the clock for nearly four months to complete the project, Not only was the schedule a challenge, the nature of the puppet itself proved to be difficult.
"It was a strange puppet to photograph, because there were very few angles that really showed it off well. The head, for example, looked very different depending on whether you were looking at it straight on or from a low angle. Also, we wanted to do more than just bland, robot-type movements. So we tried to give him gestures and poses that would help to create an actual character. But there was so little time -the production schedule was just ridiculous. We found ourselves sometimes working a seventy-twohour day-working with a second unit at night and the first unit during the day"
Though the whole affair of RoboCop 2 is a public relations disaster for Omni Consumer Products, its chairman of the board drives away at the end -confident that he will be exonerated and already plotting his company's next strategy in gaining corporate control of Detroit.
NEXT: CGI Cain