Thursday, January 7, 2016

shorts SHORT Review: Romie-O and Julie-8

(Runaway Robots! Romie-O and Julie-8) 1979

Directed by Clive A. Smith
Adapted from William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet
Screenplay by Kan Sobol and Elaine Pope
Produced by Michael Hirsh and Patrick Loubert
Production Studio Nelvana Limited
Distributor CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation)
Home Movie Distributor Warner Home Video

If there's one thing that you, my readers, my wonderful kith should know is my obsession with robots and cyborg beings. This might be the reason you're here too, you like automatons and animation. Then you're my type of people, but I knew that already, that's why we're friends. Though we gotta talk about another kind of relationship, or at the least a different type of mindset. Love, is an abstraction that's prayed for, created, and related into our culture and minds. A person's understanding changes from definition to definition, though through most people respect and loyalty are a basic necessity. The most famous version of love (or at the least the definition I gave) is in the work of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Star-crossed lovers, yeah lustful teens seem more appropriate, since they never have enough time to get to know one another, but this isn't a fair analysis for the play. During the 1597 there wasn't much time for courting (dating) especially our modern version of it, also one's life was about mid-20's, 30 was old age, 70 was a wizard. Anyhow, androids don't have emotions (nor a clear age limit), unless programed into them, they don't even have a gender, unless installed. This Canadian made TV special breaths interesting life into the 1597 play, at times it feels playful and charming at other times it feel like a short from Heavy Metal. Though let's look a little deeper, let's cut into the thick of this piece and see the nuts and bolts of what makes it a fine cartoon.

The initial reaction to this short was to watch it immediately, no questions, all joy, but I had to know if the "O" in the title was the letter or the number. It was never brought up, it's really annoying, but based on the theme of Julie-8's name it's a number, unless the rival company gives their creations letters as a means of cataloging. Anyhow, starting up the film I didn't know it was a musical, well that there were tunes in my toons. It's pleasing to know that they hired some great talents, like John Sebastian and Reggie Knighton who worked on the songs together with a bunch of other composers. Though were special to me because of the show Welcome Back, Kotter (1975) and the song Welcome Back (1976), a lot of music felt connected to the short, not disjointed for the time, but correct for the film. That's something a lot of films miss out on, that one doesn't need to play the game of contemporary music, but does the music fit the story and will it progress the plot? Not once did it take away from the film, nothing just stopped, nothing felt out of place, well except for the opening song.

The short opens up on a building, tall and phallic, then a room of men, three are scientists that are like a barber shop trio, since each height is another level. A bassi, robust man in red, stout and cigar smoking talks to them about a robot. The scientists tell him what he wants to hear. They give us a little exposition that their rival company is developing a similar robot or a robot that would be better, since both companies are trying to out do the other. If there's one place I've seen that this spectacle is excepted, it's at a convention, even in the 1970's companies have been at each other's throats especially at these events.

This convention reminds me of My Life as a Teenage Robot meets the Jetsons, via Spacely Sprockets vs Cogswell Cogs. During this convention we head to the top competitors (our opening business rivals), a man and a woman that sings about each bot, it's a fun song, though ultimately leads only to the next scene.

There's a crook on the move, roaming around the convention and stealing anything that's not bolted down. Then tries to take Julie-8, but Romie-O stops him, tossing him aside, not realizing his strength. This is the major difference from the play, Romeo wasn't heroic when he was courting Juliet, it was mostly lust, it was desire to be with someone so fair, for the limited time one had while alive during the 1597. The thief is foiled, then the two bots unite and fall in love from sight, touch, and actions, which is short lived. Taken back to their respective companies for no other reason then to set up the balcony scene.

The Bots start talking and sharing their feelings for each other, they speak of eloping and just leave the future factory-- warehouse-- rocketship-- building and went to the City. A weird and foggy landscape, this City is big and full of implied dangers, all of which we never get to see. Even for a moment it would have benefited the plot to show how humans and robots acted, that robots don't have emotions and will never fall in love unlike these two bots. Though I feel it would fall into the area of an episode of Spicy City and become less focused on the couple, but romance was more of their forte.

Anyhow the thief from the convention shows up and starts double talking the androids, twisting the world around them into a solution that will please him and them. We cut back to the equally rotund competitors, fighting about how the other has stolen the other's robot, during bath time. Then the Woman comes to the conclusion that Romie-O and Julie-8 have fallen in love and walked off. The Man claims that they've created monsters, a begrudged union has been formed between the companies… in their towels… as they fire off into space to see if it's love or death that is in the wake of their machines.

Tea Steeping taking the Sogdo Barnvagn for some air,
it's always great to hear the engine purr and burn the ozone.

Cutting back, the thief is taking Romie-O and Julie-8 to his planet of junk, we see in the background a little poke at Star Wars' Millennium Falcon in the garbage planet. Now we see our villain. It's a compactor that's stolen Julie-8 from the welcomed arms of Romie-O, as he hooks him to a magnetized automated line away from there. She's told by the thief that Spare-parts-ski (the villainous compactor) is forcing her to marry him. Julie-8 wants nothing to do with Spare-parts-ski or the thief, she want Romie-O back. I'm assuming on the trip over the two androids had about a day to a week till they got to Trash-a-lot, the junk planet, so they must have been talking and romancing each other the whole time, creating a stronger love.

Julie-8 says the classic lines from the source material after getting the news of her mandatory marriage and her hero nowhere to be found. She takes her own life, it's a spark-plug that's easily placed back into her body by Romie-O. Who has no problem with her lifeless body on the ground in her room alone, but there wasn't any build up for the death of a character to mean anything. Just as easily and carelessly the part is removed it's put back into the body of Romie-O's love Julie-8. The corporate competitors are trapped and netted, figuring out that Trash-a-lot was the only other place they'd go to in all of the galaxy. The bots stopped under them, then set them free. Then they all start making their exit off the planet, as they snake through a maze of the inner planet. The wedding looks amazing, all the designs from the robots to the metal suits are fantastic, imaginative, and over all original. The corporate bigwigs are the only one's that have looney tunes like jumpsuits that are not flattering nor go beyond that of Duck Dodgers fashion. Making the difference between something made from a designer and something bought because of it's societal acceptance.

In a short montage of adventures, that would have been more fun to see the main characters bouncing from one point to the next, instead of them cutting everything into stills or limited animated portraits. Romie-O and Julie-8 keep on running with the rotund couple close behind. They swing into a door, though their heavy owners can't run anymore, so the automatons grab their creators as the menacing villain gains distance. It seems the journey is too much for the bots or the sandstorm that kicked up, I guess it's a rust storm, since it kills our horrible compactor. The robots have been stopped by the same storm like their pursuer, though they saved their creators and the creators then saved the robots from the storm. Again unlike the play, both Romie-O and Julie-8 live, which would make this a noble sacrifice to save their creators if they died, this is a kid's TV movie, so no one dies.

Professor Steeping giving words to live by for his surrogate child Gom.

We find out that the thief was really Spare-parts-ski, and that he really did fall in love with Julie-8 at the convention. He did it all for love, or lust, again he said he was the king of junk, ruling a planet of junk, keep your junk to yourself. Also the bosses seem to have fallen in love with each other. The film ends without the main characters killing themselves, so that's something I can get behind, but the villain was really just lonely and hoping that he could bring someone to his planet. Now he just wants to get blueprints to make his own Julie-8, but no deal, the credits need to roll. Sadly, this is the ending, it's a great resolution for the protagonists, though the antagonist get's his planet and all the robots and spare parts to try and make his own Julie-8. It's a really fun story and fast paced, but it needed another half-hour to be perfect.

The one thing that I love is the tinny vibrating sound of each bot's voice, it's chilling and interesting. The style of the animation reminds me of Chuck Jones especially that of the Phantom Tollbooth. Number one thing I find interesting is the small detail that all the humans have tiny pupils and that the eyes of the titular robots are square and large. The amazing expressions in this film are beautiful, it really shows the passion and skill of the animators put into this televised short. If you like androids and cartoons and well made expressive animation with a fantastic design department, then this is the short film for you.

I trust you enjoyed the inspection, thank you for reading.
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