Sit Bot-Bot Sit, Bad Dog
Because the holiday season is quickly approaching I thought I would make a public service announcement: DO NOT buy the "RoboPet" (seen above) as a gift for anyone, unless that someone really loves shoddy robotics and impossibly frustrating crappiness. I was told it would only sell in Europe but then I saw the commercial on TV and knew it had invaded North America. I was a production assistant on the set of that very commercial this summer and my loathing for this toy runs deeper than my loathing for children aged 2-18.
The shoot was supposed to be about 12 hours which is long in itself but ended up being 17 hours due in large part to the fact the RoboPet is an electronic pile of feces. The commercial featured both this robotic dog and a real life dog which should have been my first clue things were not meant to go smoothly: working with both an animal and a temperamental robot--awesome! The commercial had about 24 shots that needed to be captured. One of those shots included the dog running up to the counter where the RoboPet then stands on it's hind legs and barks. This one shot took over 3 hours to get! It was hard enough to get the dog to run down the stairs and stand on its mark but then then fuckin' RoboPet would just do whatever the hell it wanted:
*dog runs down the stairs*
Director: Cue the Robot
*RoboPet sorta gets up and then falls into bowl of apples*
Director: CUT! Fuck, Shit, Balls, Fuck!
Almost every shot was equally frustrating. At one point I was no longer "Jamie" or "the production assistant" I was "The Wrangler". RoboPet would be sent into the shot and inevitably walk the wrong way, or fall on his side, or some other random tomfoolery; I was under the counter ready to put him back on his mark--and there I stayed for an obscene amount of time. The worst was the shot that was supposed to illustrate that RoboPet was smart enough to know his surroundings. The kid who stars in the commercial walks away to take a call but leaves RoboPet on. Ideally RoboPet walks to the edge of the counter, sees he is about to fall off, and then takes a few steps back. About half the time he wouldn't walk to the edge at all and just sorta do his own thing instead; the other half of the time he would walk right off the edge and hit the tile floor nice and hard. "Can the Wrangler please get another stupid robot". And so I would run up the stairs to the bedroom where an army of them waited on the floor. It was like a scene from I Robot if the robots in that were smaller and embedded with a mental retardation chip.
The controls were impossible; I mean, just look at the converter they give you, it's just a random collection of buttons. "To make him bark press arrow, arrow, triangle, square, down, upper right circle" Who the hell designed this? To add to the frustration was the fact that the actor who was playing a 14 year old was actually 18 and was growing facial hair like a fuckin' werewolf so Carrie the makeup artist had to constantly powder him up and shave him on 3 separate occasions. We kept thinking the continuity of the commercial would be a mess since the scenes are not shot in order. He goes from clean shaven, to a hillbilly beard, to a five o'clock shadow to a handlebar mustache all in the course of 40 seconds.
But I'm getting off-topic from the primary message: The RoboPet is a disaster. Take the money you were gonna spend on it and buy yourself some booze, then stumble around and if possible topple into a bowl of produce--that way you can experience what it's like to be a RoboPet first hand.