Short Circuit (1986)

PG | 100 mins | Adventure, Comedy, Science fiction | 9 May 1986

Full page view
HISTORY

End credits state: “The Producers wish to thanks the following for their help in the making of this film: The Oregon State Film Commission and Department of Transportation; The people and officials of Astoria, Portland, and Cascade Locks; The Army Corp of Engineers, Bonneville Dam; Alaska Airlines; Apple Computers; Barco Industries; Compaq Computers; Krown, Inc.; Mitsubishi Pro-Audio Group; Paraclipse, Inc.; Rhino Robots; Sarcos, Inc.; Sony Broadcast Corp.; Veluzat Motion Picture Equipment; Vista Group – GMC Trucks.”
       End credits also note: “Scenes from ‘Saturday Night Fever,’ courtesy of Paramount Pictures Corp., starring John Travolta and Karen Lynn Gorney; Scenes for ‘Woman Haters,’ provided courtesy of Columbia Pictures, Inc., ©1934 renewed 1962 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc., All rights reserved; ‘The Three Stooges’ ™,© 1985 Norman Maurer Productions, Inc.”
       The screenplay for Short Circuit was discovered in a University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Extension class. The 13 Oct 1985 LAT reported that Brent Maddock, a graduate of the University of Southern California (USC) Film School, took an advanced screenwriting class taught by Sally Merlin-Jones because he needed help with the structure of the in-progress script, which he was co-writing with S. S. Wilson. Promotional materials in AMPAS library files indicate that at the end of the class, the students had to read their work aloud. Fellow student Arne Olson was impressed by what he heard and showed the script to his friend Gary Foster, who in turn showed it to his father, producer David Foster. Based on the strength of the script, director Steven Spielberg hired Maddock and Wilson to work on a comedic science fiction idea he was developing. The two are credited as screenwriters ... More Less

End credits state: “The Producers wish to thanks the following for their help in the making of this film: The Oregon State Film Commission and Department of Transportation; The people and officials of Astoria, Portland, and Cascade Locks; The Army Corp of Engineers, Bonneville Dam; Alaska Airlines; Apple Computers; Barco Industries; Compaq Computers; Krown, Inc.; Mitsubishi Pro-Audio Group; Paraclipse, Inc.; Rhino Robots; Sarcos, Inc.; Sony Broadcast Corp.; Veluzat Motion Picture Equipment; Vista Group – GMC Trucks.”
       End credits also note: “Scenes from ‘Saturday Night Fever,’ courtesy of Paramount Pictures Corp., starring John Travolta and Karen Lynn Gorney; Scenes for ‘Woman Haters,’ provided courtesy of Columbia Pictures, Inc., ©1934 renewed 1962 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc., All rights reserved; ‘The Three Stooges’ ™,© 1985 Norman Maurer Productions, Inc.”
       The screenplay for Short Circuit was discovered in a University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Extension class. The 13 Oct 1985 LAT reported that Brent Maddock, a graduate of the University of Southern California (USC) Film School, took an advanced screenwriting class taught by Sally Merlin-Jones because he needed help with the structure of the in-progress script, which he was co-writing with S. S. Wilson. Promotional materials in AMPAS library files indicate that at the end of the class, the students had to read their work aloud. Fellow student Arne Olson was impressed by what he heard and showed the script to his friend Gary Foster, who in turn showed it to his father, producer David Foster. Based on the strength of the script, director Steven Spielberg hired Maddock and Wilson to work on a comedic science fiction idea he was developing. The two are credited as screenwriters on batteries not included (1987, see entry), which Spielberg executive produced.
       Once David Foster and his producing partner Lawrence Truman bought the script, they sent it to John Badham, who agreed to direct. Although several studios were interested in the screenplay, Foster told the 6 Mar 1985 DV they opted to go with the relatively new Producers Sales Organization (PSO) because it only had a few other films in the works, so Short Circuit would get the special attention it needed.
       The producers had five months to create a robot capable of doing the things the script required of “Number Five.” More than forty robotic builders worked seven days a week creating the robots, under the supervision of Eric Allard, based on designs by Syd Mead. An estimated $3 million of the film’s $15 million budget was devoted to creation of the seventeen robots used in the film, according to the 13 Sep 1985 DV. The robots were radio controlled by Tony Urbano, Carl Johnson, Rico Topazio, and Tim Blaney. Those four are listed among the actors in opening credits, but are listed as “robotic performances” in the end credits. Tim Blaney also did the voice for “Number Five.”
       Principal photography began on 6 Sep 1985 in Oregon, according to the 16 Oct 1985 DV. The production shot in Astoria, OR, then moved to Portland, Cascade Locks, and the Bonneville Dam. The production then moved to Southern California, where interiors were shot at the Laird International Studios in Culver City, CA. Opening scenes of the army combat maneuvers were filmed at the Disney Ranch, near Santa Clarita, CA, while the finale was shot at Vasquez Rocks County Park, in the Antelope Valley, near Santa Clarita.
       Short Circuit opened on 1,033 screens on 9 May 1986. The 13 May 1986 DV box office chart listed the film’s gross for its first three days of release as $5,346,808. However, distributor Tri-Star Pictures received criticism for reporting that figure, as other studios believed the reported gross was too high. The 18 May 1986 LAT reported that figure was inflated by ten to fifteen percent and that Tri-Star based the announced gross on reports from seventy-five percent of the theaters screening the film and estimated the other twenty-five percent. Tri-Star president David Matalon told the 15 May 1986 HR that figures from the West Coast and smaller towns are typically not yet in when studios announce weekend box office numbers. Matalon said it was not a deliberate attempt to misrepresent the figures because Short Circuit was without question the top film of the weekend. The 16 May 1986 DV estimated the film actually took in between $4.5 million and $4.75 million.
       Despite the controversy, Short Circuit continued to perform well at the box-office, grossing $32.6 million over its first six weeks in release, according to the 24 Jun 1986 DV box-office report.
       A sequel, Short Circuit 2, which Maddock and Wilson also wrote, was released in 1988 (see entry). On 26 Oct 2009, Var announced that Dimension Films hired Steve Carr to direct a remake of Short Circuit written by Dan Milano. David Foster would return to produce through his company, David Foster Productions, alongside Ryan E. Heppe, and John Hyde of Rehab Entertainment. The 2 Feb 2012 HR indicated that the project had been taken over by writer Matt Lieberman and director Tim Hill for a summer 2013 release, but as of the writing of this Note, production has not been completed. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
6 Mar 1985.
---
Daily Variety
13 Sep 1985.
---
Daily Variety
16 Oct 1985.
---
Daily Variety
5 May 1986.
---
Daily Variety
13 May 1986.
---
Daily Variety
16 May 1986.
---
Daily Variety
24 Jun 1986.
---
Hollywood Reporter
6 May 1986
p. 5, 10.
Hollywood Reporter
15 May 1986.
---
Hollywood Reporter
2 Feb 2012.
---
Los Angeles Times
13 Oct 1985.
---
Los Angeles Times
9 May 1986
p. 19.
Los Angeles Times
18 May 1986.
---
New York Times
9 May 1986
p. 6.
Variety
7 May 1986
p. 514.
Variety
26 Oct 2009.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Ti-Star Pictures and PSO present
A Truman-Foster Company production
A John Badham Film
From Producers Sales Organization
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d unit dir
1st asst dir, 2d unit
2d asst dir, 2d unit
PRODUCERS
Co-prod
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
Supv prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
1st asst cam
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
2d asst cam
Still photog
Spec elec eff
Spec elec eff
Spec elec eff
Key grip
2d grip
Dolly grip
Video asst op
Dir of photog, 2d unit
Cam op, 2d unit
1st asst cam, 2d unit
2d asst cam, 2d unit
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Visual consultant
Asst art dir
Illustrator
Illustrator
Illustrator
Illustrator
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Film ed
Film ed
Asst film ed
Apprentice ed
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Const foreman
Prop master
Asst prop master
Asst prop master
Standby painter
Greensman
Leadman
Swing gang
COSTUMES
Women's costumer
Men's costumer
MUSIC
Mus ed
Mus score mixer
Synthesizer prod
SOUND
Sd mixer
Boom op
Utility sd
Supv sd ed
Supv sd ed
Sd ed
Asst sd ed
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Robot voices synthesized by
Digitally re-rec at
VISUAL EFFECTS
Robots des by
Robots engineered and realized by
Title des
Title des
Spec eff coord, 2d unit
Spec eff foreman, 2d unit
Visual eff consultant, 2d unit
Robotic performance
Robotic performance
Robotic performance
Robotic performance
Robotic spec eff supv
Robot shop foreman
1st unit leadman
1st unit leadman
2d unit leadman
Electronics foreman
Painter
Model foreman
Des interpretation
Mold maker foreman
Mechanical des
Cost controller
Spec visual eff
Spec visual eff, Dream Quest Images
Spec visual eff, Dream Quest Images
Spec visual eff, Dream Quest Images
Spec visual eff, Dream Quest Images
Spec visual eff, Dream Quest Images
Spec visual eff, Dream Quest Images
Spec visual eff, Dream Quest Images
Spec visual eff, Dream Quest Images
Video and graphic displays by
Video and graphic displays by, Video Image
Video and graphic displays by, Video Image
Video and graphic displays by, Video Image
Video and graphic displays by, Video Image
Video Image crew
Video Image crew
Video Image crew
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Casting
Casting
Scr supv
Loc mgr
Transportation coord
Animal handler
Animal handler
First aid
Unit pub
Prod coord
Prod secy
Prod accountant
Asst to Mr. Badham
Asst to Mr. Jones
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunt pilot
Helicopter pilot
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col by
SOURCES
SONGS
“Who’s Johnny” (“Short Circuit” Theme), written by Peter and Ina Wolf, performed by El DeBarge, courtesy of Motown Records
“Come And Follow Me” (Number 5’s Theme from “Short Circuit”), written by David Shire, Will Jennings and Max Carl, performed by Max Carl and Marcy Levy, courtesy of MCA Records, Inc.
COMPOSERS
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
9 May 1986
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 9 May 1986
Production Date:
began 6 September 1985
Copyright Claimant:
PSO Presentations & Tri-Star Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
28 May 1986
Copyright Number:
PA286602
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo® in selected theaters
Color
Lenses
Filmed in Panavision®
Prints
Prints by Metrocolor®
Duration(in mins):
100
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
28101
SYNOPSIS

Nova Robotics in Damon, Washington, has developed a new line of laser weapon-equipped robots called Strategic Artificially Intelligent Nuclear Transport (SAINT), which have tank-like tracks for movement. At a cost of $11 million each, five robots have been built, each capable of being parachuted into enemy territory and transporting a nuclear bomb into position. SAINT inventor Newton Crosby envisioned the robots for non-military uses, but the military establishment sees them as the “ultimate soldier” that will follow orders without question. After the robots offer an impressive demonstration to military and government officials, a bolt of lightning hits the generator recharging robot Number Five. While Five initially seems to be fine, it quickly starts bumping into walls and malfunctioning. Five accidently gets onto a garbage truck leaving the Nova Laboratories compound, but then falls off, landing in a pasture. When Nova officials discover Five is missing, Newton Crosby contacts it, but Five signals back, “Malfunction. Need input.” Nova officials learn Five’s whereabouts with a tracking device and send a team to get it. They are worried because Five’s laser weapons are still operational. Nova head Howard Marner pleads they not destroy Five, but Nova’s security chief, Chick Skroeder, tells his men to use any means necessary to put it out of commission. Newton and his assistant, Ben Jabituya, also search for the robot. Five maneuvers aimlessly, seeking “input.” A security tank catches up as Five crosses a bridge over the Columbia River into Oregon. The tank rams Five and pushes it off the bridge. Five releases its parachute and, unbeknownst to the driver, Stephanie Speck, lands on top of a “Snack Shack” natural foods truck. At home, Stephanie prepares ... +


Nova Robotics in Damon, Washington, has developed a new line of laser weapon-equipped robots called Strategic Artificially Intelligent Nuclear Transport (SAINT), which have tank-like tracks for movement. At a cost of $11 million each, five robots have been built, each capable of being parachuted into enemy territory and transporting a nuclear bomb into position. SAINT inventor Newton Crosby envisioned the robots for non-military uses, but the military establishment sees them as the “ultimate soldier” that will follow orders without question. After the robots offer an impressive demonstration to military and government officials, a bolt of lightning hits the generator recharging robot Number Five. While Five initially seems to be fine, it quickly starts bumping into walls and malfunctioning. Five accidently gets onto a garbage truck leaving the Nova Laboratories compound, but then falls off, landing in a pasture. When Nova officials discover Five is missing, Newton Crosby contacts it, but Five signals back, “Malfunction. Need input.” Nova officials learn Five’s whereabouts with a tracking device and send a team to get it. They are worried because Five’s laser weapons are still operational. Nova head Howard Marner pleads they not destroy Five, but Nova’s security chief, Chick Skroeder, tells his men to use any means necessary to put it out of commission. Newton and his assistant, Ben Jabituya, also search for the robot. Five maneuvers aimlessly, seeking “input.” A security tank catches up as Five crosses a bridge over the Columbia River into Oregon. The tank rams Five and pushes it off the bridge. Five releases its parachute and, unbeknownst to the driver, Stephanie Speck, lands on top of a “Snack Shack” natural foods truck. At home, Stephanie prepares dinner, but notices strange lights going off inside the truck. She finds Number Five, assumes it is an alien from outer space, and welcomes it to Earth. Five audibly responds, “Malfunction. Need input.” Stephanie invites Five to come inside, but the robot does not understand. However, when she says, “forward,” Five comprehends and goes into the house. Five quickly reads every book she has, delighted to have “input.” The next morning, Five is able to imitate the commercials and do impressions of the voices it heard on television. When Five accidently falls off the rear deck of Stephanie’s house, she sees its Nova Laboratories nameplate on its underside and realizes Five is a robot rather than an alien. She telephones Nova, saying she has one of their missing robots and asks about a reward. Nova officials say they will be right over, but in the meantime, she should stay away from Five as it is malfunctioning. Stephanie tells Five that help is coming and that it needs a “tune-up.” Five recites the dictionary definition of “tune-up,” which includes the synonym, “disassemble.” Five sees a grasshopper in the yard and tries to jump like it. However, Five lands atop the grasshopper, squashing it. Five asks her to fix the grasshopper and Stephanie explains death to the robot. Five gets upset realizing that death can also mean “disassemble.” Panicking, the robot gets in Stephanie’s food truck, quickly reads the instruction manual, and drives away. Stephanie jumps onto the truck as it pulls out. Five drives erratically, but Stephanie convinces it to stop just before it drives into the river. When Stephanie asks why Five drove off like that, the robot replies that Nova will disassemble him. When Newton Crosby arrives, Five conveys the message that it is alive and wants to survive. The security team shoots at Five. The robot returns their fire with laser beams, destroying many boats in the marina. Newton gets the security team to stop shooting and powers down the robot. As the security team takes Five away, Newton instructs his assistant, Ben, to go with them and be sure not to erase the robot’s memory. However, once in the back of the van, Five powers itself back up and replaces its damaged arm. When Ben and the driver see Five operating again, they panic and abandon the van. Five drives away, removing the tracking device attached to it. That night, Five returns to Stephanie’s, insisting it is alive. She agrees to let the robot stay the night and later, the two dance together, Five imitating dance moves it observed while watching the movie Saturday Night Fever. The next morning, Stephanie’s former boyfriend, Frank, arrives to collect the $25,000 reward for the robot. Five responds by disassembling Frank’s Trans Am sports car. When Frank fires his shotgun at Five, the robot deflects the bullets and fires its lasers, chasing Frank away. As Newton Crosby searches for Five, Nova chief Howard Marner radios that Stephanie wants to meet with him. Newton goes to the Black Cat Inn, where Stephanie tries to convince him that Five is alive. Newton responds that the robot can seem lifelike, but it is malfunctioning. As they talk, Stephanie realizes that Nova operatives are in the restaurant, waiting to capture Five. Meanwhile, Five is hiding in the woods nearby when the other SAINT robots try to capture it. Five eludes them, then reprograms them to behave like screen comics The Three Stooges. Five goes to the Black Cat Inn and rescues Stephanie from the Nova security team. They drive away together, while the security team chases. They elude their pursuers, then return to the Black Cat Inn where Five kidnaps Newton Crosby. Five insists it is alive and refuses to allow Newton to reprogram it or even look at its wiring. Five says that it is wrong to kill or disassemble. Newton asks how Five knows that and performs various tests on Five, including a Rorschach test. As Five offers human-like responses, Newton is slowly swayed. Finally, when the scientist tells a joke, Five responds with laughter. Newton says that is a spontaneous emotional response and he is finally convinced the robot is alive. Nova security men arrive along with the Army, demanding the robot. They capture Newton and Stephanie, but Five hides in the van. As the men approach, Five dashes out the back and races across the desert. The Army shoots at the robot and a helicopter fires a bazooka at it, destroying it. Devastated by its “death,” Stephanie collapses and Newton tries to comfort her. Howard Marner is devastated by the loss of the valuable robot and fires Newton Crosby and the security chief, Skroeder. As Stephanie and Newton drive away, Five climbs from beneath the flooring in back, explaining that it quickly assembled a duplicate robot out of spare parts in the back of van. Newton mentions they can hide out on the forty acres of land he owns in Montana. Five takes the steering wheel and announces it wants a new name, suggesting “Johnny Five” would be good. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.