Science fictions : Gigantor Throwing Buildings

October 26, 10

The satisfying crunch of an entire office building complex thrown at your foe!   

What is the attraction of fighting robots?  Is it an extension of our own desire to disembody and duel?  Is it an issue of scale?

Even small robots fighting are funny, but large ones are more satisfying.  

Maybe it’s a destruction fantasy, or maybe we like to live around the edges of thinking about something we’ve created folding back on us through bad programming or a run in with radioactivity,  power lines, or germs that somehow bother robots. 

A giant robot against the sky does look impressive, and crunching metal sounds work too.  Maybe it’s a Cartesian thing and we’re left to wonder about robot minds by watching their behaviors. 

Or, in the end, it’s just the smash factor.

Star Crash

October 22, 10

It’s hard to beat the 1970’s for pure poster goodness.  Master Kreng has proven this to me with his many charts, calculations and frequent powerpoint presentations.

This John Solie  illustration for Star Crash  (1978) is one among many favorites. We have a classic gunfighter pose, red bodysuit, Star Wars-esque light wand, and action exhaust in a perfect circle leading the eye to scan every quadrant of the image.

Any helmet system that features plug in cables of any kind earns immediate extra points.  Also included, an early appearance by everyone’s favorite Hasselhoff with Christopher Plummer as The Emperor.

Science Fictions : Lobstros, Sharkos, Ampzilla

October 20, 10


It’s the time honored trio of Lobster (lobstros), Shark (sharkos), and Insect Godzilla (ampzilla). 

A veritable funky bouillabaisse of terror.  

Anything with gigantic claws, teeth, jowls or antennae has potential in my book.  Sharkos has batteries to power his propeller.  These were always a bummer, though, because the toy wasn’t exactly waterproof to 1/10th of an atmosphere, and Sharkos ended up birthing your AA batteries from Radio Shack in the bathtub, bird bath or gutter outside.  Ewww, cold gutter water and rotten leaf slosh to dig through to get your batteries back!

Ampzilla’s antennae form high caliber weapons which is a solid choice.  Micronauts were die-cast metal, so it was hard to snap them in two with the claws of Lobstros.  Micronauts snap and sever pals would have put this one over the top.

Science Fictions : More Microman!

October 15, 10

Here we have another Microman/Micronauts commercial — this time with Easter Island heads being ratcheted from the ground and flown off to an undisclosed location that only the Micronauts seem to know about. 

But, what does it mean?

I don’t know, and this is perfect.  

All of these commercials seem to have a certain psychic impact.  They’re fun and they don’t worry about being goofy.  In fact, goofy is kinda the point.  Goof it up, Micronauts!  Steal those Earthy Easter Island totems!

Too much is sterile and overly calculated.

“Oh, the market test showed that the laser sound edit annoyed 16.4% of respondents.” 

Big deal.  Be annoyed you 16.4 % people.  Be real annoyed at our extra tinny laser sounds.  In fact, I say we add in some treble harmonics just to piss you off further. 

Am I saying that we should ignore the audience? Absolutely not.  I’m saying that we must know where and why to respond.   Sovereignty trumps calculation.

So try and define the psychic impact, or better yet try and re-capture it in the work that you do.  By psychic impact I just mean: “things that appeal, strike, or impress for some reason”; crazy commercials, giant bug costumes, colorful explosions, oddly dressed monkeys –  impression makers.  

Look at Katamari Damacy.  You couldn’t market test it first.  “Hey, do you guys think you want a game about rolling around collecting junk into a bigger ball of junk?” 

Put some two sided tape on your hamster’s mobility ball and the little sucker runs around the living room picking up pet hair, styrofoam packing chips, expired coupons, peeled bandaids, and paper clips.  It’s funny.  It’s weird to see what you’ve collected. You can’t believe the carpet is that dirty.  Hey this could be a game!  

Ball of junk in Katamari Damacy

You can start to watch for psychic appeal, and this is obviously not universal.  Appeal is segmented, but again sometimes we go overboard with trying to “lock” who we might appeal to: 14 year old boys in the tri-state area who prefer BB guns to Nerf launchers. 


Grandmothers enjoy monkeys behaving badly too.   

Maskatron Issues

October 13, 10

I grew up partially worried about what Maskatron meant for the coming age of plentiful bionics. 

By the year 2000, I was convinced we would all have enhanced limbs and appendeges. 

Sports would be mind boggling.  Cashiers would be very good.  

Our minds would be enhanced by graphical computers like Maskatron’s.  We could dial up any kind of solution we might ever want. 

We could beat the robots, because we’d almost be one ourselves.

Anyone’s personal limitations would be erased.  In this new age, how would we know which humans were left unaltered?  Would it even matter? 

The idea of an entirely removeable face, and the reveal of inner workings disturbed me greatly.  To me, this was the worst form possible of personal nudity.

In fact, I thought everyone would like this:

And maybe now we are starting to … 

Science Fictions : The Design Spine

October 12, 10

What about general design? 

For now, let’s forget the specifics of design type (vehicle, environmental, architectural, UI, game, level, experience, story, application, combat) – or whatever other kind of qualifier you try and attach to “designer.”   

Let’s try and focus on the construction of the work itself.  

One of the interesting things about general design is that unless you work to pull a good definition and approach down to Earth, it remains sort of an “aether” idea only.

It just floats around out there.   

It doesn’t have a strong meaning for anyone, and its purpose, intent and value becomes literally lost in the translation. This isn’t good for those looking to employ a designer towards an end, or for those looking to add value and contribute by being one.  

If you remember Venn diagrams (these show how concepts or classes of objects are logically related):

Part of what you’re doing in your mind as you approach design is you’re moving around the Venn diagram components whether you’re really thinking about it consciously or not.

You’re asking yourself  “Can B be a member of A?” – “Is shape B a subset of shape A?” – “Is rule A compatible with rule B?” – “Does dinosaur ambulation suggest vehicle ambulation? How?” 

You are re-arranging the logical connections, to see if a new logic that is satisfying or powerful emerges.   

At least, this is one of the ways that I like to think about it. You are knocking concepts into each other either combining or segmenting them to see if they will fit together in a new diagram with any kind of harmony or not.  

Most of the time, you are playing with concept edges.   

So, yes, you knew I’d go there, even in the creation of play, you are playing. What kind of playing? You are playing towards a satisfying result. If you don’t get a satisfying result (and this is judged by your intuition and instinct), you iterate or play some more until you do get a satisfying result. The whole process is meta-heavy and self referential.   

You are re-inventing or suspending the logic of connection between classes, items, or objects for the benefit of your audience kind (depending on the kind of design you’re doing).  

This is why I think design starts with continuous exposure to concepts: mechanical, logical, shape specific/inclusive, architectural – and why conceptual studies of every kind form the titanium spine for designers. You can do design with no materials. You can stay with just the concept mashing.   

But again, this isn’t always easy to quantify, which is why many aren’t really sure what they’re actually looking for in seeking out a type of designer. Too many seem to make the mistake of thinking it’s only transactional (“it’s just drawing” – “it’s 3D application knowledge” – “it’s just writing”).

But it isn’t only transactional or executional. It involves spontaneity and the modular re-affixing of smaller concepts into larger ones, the breaking down of larger ones into smaller ones. This is necessary, but obviously can be difficult to detect.

Beware of the Granatoids

October 10, 10

The Big G.  It’s stamped at the center of their chests!  Granatoids driving tanks.  There’s so much to love about Fireball XL5.  If you’ve ever wondered what inspired Team America and tons of other shows/movies (even before Thunderbirds) — Gerry Anderson’s Fireball XL5 is near the top of the list. 

 The models, puppets, and environment sets are fantastic reference, and I always keep them in easy reach.  The charm of these shows for me is their widescreen humanity.  They look like humans actually put them together with care, tailored the message, and delivered the fun.  In some mediums, the layer between audience and creator is so deep now that it gets hard to see what’s human or interesting in it.

Microman Punch Robo Vs. Death King

October 08, 10

I love these old Microman commercials for what were Micronauts here in the USA. Why aren’t toy commercials much fun anymore?  This one features a complete phallic transformation right before the giggle near the end. 

Subtlety is an art best served with pneumatics.

Efficient Robot Design

October 07, 10

Pretty much everyone learning to model builds a robot or two. 

But what’s in a fun design?

Is it simply good claws and everything else is salad dressing? Eyes that can track a 180 degree planview and rattle or buzz? Ambulation tricks?

Is it the method of movement? Is it wheels, gridtracks, “legs” or golf putter wedges emanating from a scaled down deathstar acting the part of groin?

Is it sectional physiology that opens like a kitchen cupboard and has a high probability of exposing a weathered gear system? A Rubik’s cube matrix for an intestine?

Including greeblies that glow, pulsate, or oscillate? Maybe it’s rubber wheels that somehow cause a clanking sound.

Are they efficient when they are “smart” and can “learn” by way of the redundant semi-colons pulled out of their function code definitions? Do they include bomb dropping chutes? Can they speedily switch utensil abilities?

Dials or meters should be placed for logical viewing (not on bottom edges or rears). Is their ultimate and expected explosion satisfying enough to the right kind of audience? Can they collapse, roll, re-configure, or shed expensively fabricated pieces without noticing or “feeling embarrassed” by it?

Do things frequently pop out of them making sampled elevator noises? Something must be mounted on a spring to cause a perceptible wobble. Something must blink, rotate or whir.

Return to the Planet of the Apes Cartoon

October 05, 10

The reasons to love Return to the Planet of the Apes are just endless, especially if you enjoy seeing apes riding around in military vehicles towing rocket launchers half as much as I do.  You might say: “Wait! I don’t remember the apes having rocket launchers” and you would be right. 

They didn’t really stay within the world format of the original movies for these, but that’s fine by me.  For me, these cartoons complement the movies and TV versions by offering something slightly different.

From the Jerry Goldsmith “approximation” synth score on the intro and backgrounds, to the fact that Fred Flinstone’s second voice (Henry Corden) is voicing General Urko in the first episode.  It’s all right here.

If you can’t continue without seeing what a gorilla sounds like with Fred Flintstone’s voice (check out 2:32 here).   Having been created in the early to mid-1970’s, these don’t have the highest production value, but compared to some of what you see now they hold up pretty well.  A fun graphic contrast style with really fun sound work that abounds.