I am pretty sure that during my near decade of writing for the Retroist that I shared my experiences with seeing RoboCop at the Drive-In back in 1987. In an attempt to make an overly long story shorter – it was one of a handful of times that I I can recall the audiences paying no attention to the film after it had started. Usually when a movie would begin, you would have the kids all come running from the playground to their parent’s car – I certainly did the same thing myself when I was younger. By the time that 1987 rolled around, I was a little too old for the playground crowd but I was pretty amazed that many of the cars around us weren’t even listening to the movie – they had their car stereos blasting music. RoboCop was released on July 17th and I remember the heat being pretty uncomfortable – but my Father had to keep the windows up just so we could hear the movie – thankfully though he would run the air conditioner for a couple of minutes to combat the stifling heat. Then came the iconic scene in the boardroom where Dick Jones (Ronny Cox) is showing off the new ED-209 series of urban pacification units… where it malfunctions and obliterates poor Kinney (Ken Page) with it’s massive assault cannons.
When the din of that gunfire died down – those numerous people who had been listening to music on their car stereos scrambled for the speakers on the stands next to their cars and hooking them on their open windows. In addition I remember those many children who were moments ago were at the playground in front of the screen racing back to their parent’s vehicle. Better yet my Father was able to finally lower our car windows and after the Sun completely set – a breeze picked up that afforded us some respite from the heat.
The legendary Phil Tippett as well as Craig Hayes provided the stop-motion effects for the ED-209 scenes in RoboCop as I understand it – while also providing the full-sized model used for stationary shots in Paul Verhoeven’s science fiction masterpiece. It was his work on the film that helped make it a success at the box office and why after it had been released he was interviewed by Evening Magazine – giving us a behind the scenes look of how much work into bringing ED-209 to life.
I knew of Phil Tippett thanks to his work on both 1977’s Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope as well as Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back – all thanks to behind the scenes interviews with the artist in the pages of Starlog and on television. Obviously we know that the next film he was working on was 1988’s Willow and while he would go on to work on both RoboCop 2 and RoboCop 3 – two of my favorite films that he had a hand in are Dragonheart and Starship Troopers.
The latter was a film that was absolutely robbed at the Academy Awards – when Titanic beat it for best special effects. I want to give a huge thanks to the Practical Effects Group on Facebook for the heads up on this interview with Phil Tippett.