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Robot & Washing Machine

Robot Chicken
by yo go re

We already talked about the long and unusual road the Robot Chicken toys took to production, but now they're on the store shelves. Mass-market weirdness for all!

While the Nerd is nice, Robot Chicken's breakout star is unquestionably the Humping Robot. He didn't appear until halfway through the first season, and even then all he did was stand in one place and rattle around a washing machine. But he was instantly hilarious, topped in the episode only by the Smurf-themed Seven parody.

The Humping Robot was eventually given an origin - he was built by a bunch of greasers looking to get some tail despite apparently being more than happy to spend their time singing and dancing with each other - but since Robot Chicken employs a healthy dose of negative continuity, that really doesn't mean anything. He's a robot, he humps, that's all the info you need. Anything else you can make up yourself.

Humpo (what? He needs a name, and we're in a Marx Brothers kind of mood right now.) is 6¼" tall, and sculpted well. Well, as well as can be expected: he's a series of simple geometric shapes, not anything as complex as even the simplest Transformers. We're not saying it's easy to turn that into a toy (especially since the figure has restrictions and requirements that the tv prop doesn't), but it has to be simpler than trying to accurately capture human anatomy. Think about it: would you rather be assigned to sculpt a human foot, or a flat panel with a big rounded hinge on it? A realistic set of abs under a shirt, or a big barrel with rivets around the top? Jazwares doesn't credit its sculptors, but it had to be at least somewhat tough to make sure all the lines were parallel (unless it was "sculpted" on a computer).

The original Humping Robot was scratch-built by Joe Schmidt, and this toy really does a great job of duplicating the look. His lopsided eyes are the only part that looks asymmetrical. The eyes are red, but they're not the only paint app on this bad boy: he's molded from a fairly dark grey plastic, then given a going-over with black paint to make him look slightly tarnished. You'll need to examine the paint in the store: it varies from figure to figure, with some definitely looking better than others.

The figure has a surprising amount of articulation. There are 23 points of articulation: balljointed head, swivel/hinge shoulders, balljointed forearms, swivel/hinge wrists, swivel hips, balljointed shins, and swivel/hinge ankles. The balljoints in the limbs are incredibly stiff, but trust us, they really do exist: it took a huge amount of force to get them moving, but there was no breakage. The shoulders are really rendered useless by the action feature, though.

Yes, "action feature." A Humping Robot that doesn't hump is just a robot, and while that may be what he's called on the packaging (in order to be salable - remember, this is the same world in which you could buy "Red" from the movie HBII) he's still the Humping Robot. The set includes the object of his affection, the washing machine. There's a 6" x 3½" display base that they both plug into; studs on Robot's palms plug into holes on the sides of the washing machine, to lock him in tight. Then wind the knob on his back, and he'll start merrily banging the washing machine.

Or at least, he would, if the placement of all the pegs didn't leave him too far away. The point of the sketch was that he was banging up against the frame of the washing machine. It was clanging and jumping and everything. The toy has enough daylight showing to appease even the strictest middle school dance chaperone - in fact, it has enough room to get another figure in there, which is just a little bit unsettling. It's, like, one pinball machine away from a toy of The Accused. [Too soon! --ed.]

Anyway, to better accommodate the rocking motion of his hips, the shoulder swivels are loose, and to make sure he holds onto whatever's in front of him, the hinges are spring-loaded. If he's not got ahold of the washing machine, then he'll usually have his arms hanging straight down in front of him, with the hands together; anything else takes work. The base also has pegs on it for his feet, to make sure he doesn't slip. Fellas, you know how important traction is.

The Humping Robot isn't the toy of the year. He doesn't have the best sculpt, the best articulation or the best accessories. His action feature gets in the way of him just being a good toy. But despite all that, he's fun. It's a hoot to latch him on and wind him up. This is more "interactive desk decoration" than "action figure," but don't hold that against him. This isn't a toy you buy to look at, it's a toy you play with.

-- 11/10/10

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