Here at The Update we aim to document instances of robot combat all around the world, not just BattleBots. We like BattleBots, but there’s only six seasons, one upcoming season, and two specials that we have to go by… so if we did an article per week we’d be dead in like a year. That’s why we just recently wrapped up Robot Wars: The First Wars, and it’s why today we’re further broadening our horizons and getting into a little-known event called “Robattle”. You probably haven’t heard of it, but Robattle was a small event held in Ocean Shores, CA in 2003.
Did I mention it’s also from that shitty cartoon Rocket Power? Because it is.
Happy April Fools Day.
RIDERS ON A MISSION
In the early 00’s “extreme sports” were all the rage. You couldn’t go anywhere without running into people riding around like dumbasses on Razor scooters and rollerblades and if you’re like me and wasted your afternoons playing video games then the song “Superman” is permanently on fucking autoplay in your brain thanks to Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. Popular kids’ TV channel Nickelodeon took note of the rise of “extreme sports” and decided they absolutely needed to have a show about it. Rather than do something with GUTS, which had already been on the air for years, Nickelodeon instead turned to the animation studio Klasky-Csupo for their faux X-Games fix.
I don’t really know how you can take something as mindless and stupid as “extreme sports” and turn it into an animated series, but Klasky-Csupo somehow found a way to do just that and shit out a staggering 71 episodes of Rocket Power. This makes sense considering the studio is best known for their cartoon Rugrats, a show which clocked in at ONE HUNDRED SEVENTY-TWO GODDAMNED EPISODES of babies mispronouncing words. This cartoon was considered “comedy” and it worked for literally a whole decade. Not only is that one episode of Rugrats for every episode of Rocket Power, it’s that plus one episode for every fucking dog in 101 Dalmatians. Anyone who tells you “90’s Nickelodeon was the best” is either A) lying to you or B) purposefully excluding Rugrats from their claim.
As inhumanly retarded as Rocket Power was, the show is notable for containing the only animated instance of robot combat. Ever. The episode in question, “Extreme Nerd” (because everything is fucking extreme), aired in 2003 right as BattleBots was winding down its fifth season and ultimately its first television run. I remember seeing this episode when it premiered because in the commercials they made sure to talk about how “THIS WEEK ON ROCKET POWER, THE GANG GOES BALLS DEEP IN ROBOT COMBAT” because I guess you can only make so many episodes about kids fucking up skateboarding before people get tired of it. Snowboarding doesn’t count, either. That’s skateboarding with no wheels. That’s even worse.
Not only do I remember seeing this episode, I remember becoming very angry during and afterward. It’s awful. Don’t worry if you aren’t familiar with Rocket Power, there’s literally no primary plot arc; the show is sincerely just seventy-one trials of horribly drawn children skateboarding in different places while a racist caricature of a Hawaii native spouts off even more racist life advice for 11 minutes.
The episode begins with a giant purple blimp driving through Fallout 4 while being fired upon by a rejected enemy from Sonic the Hedgehog. The blimp somehow almost gets knocked over by laser fire, because that’s apparently how condensed light works, and then kneecaps its attacker with an impossibly flimsy hammer deployed from the deus ex machina on its back. Then, just in case you needed further insight as to how little the creators of this show know about engineering, the blimp squishes the big “head” part of the other thing which I’m assuming is supposed to be made of solid metal because these are fucking robots. Allegedly.
We get to see the driver of the purple blimp who I’m pretty sure is named Otto Rocket but I’m just going to go with Captain Asshole based upon how he’s dressed. Another enemy robot arrives driven by some fuckwit with a camera aperture for an eye and Captain Asshole shouts “oh no, not ____________!” I left the name part blank because I watched this clip about twenty times and I have no clue what the hell he’s saying. Oliver-andro-terminator? Who fucking cares. Anyways the giant yellow robot has a hammer that looks like one of those stupid beer can crushers for your garage and right as Captain Asshole is about to get pounded in the ass we find out the whole scene was just a bad dream. That trope. But it’s not Captain Asshole having the dream, it’s the fat blonde kid whose nickname is literally Squid. Yay for homoerotic undertones!
Squid is about to jerk off to his Robattle flyer, but his impossibly horse-faced mother barges into his room and brings Squid’s stupid friends with her. Otto, the character whom I was previously referring to as “Captain Asshole”, goes on to live up to that name by shitting on the contest the first time he opens his mouth. Yeah dude, because acting like a fucking retard on a surfboard is in any way better. Squid has one of those “BUT IT’S NOT DUMB” moments and provides exposition on the event for anyone who doesn’t know what the hell BattleBots was. He also informs us that he “never wins”. Big surprise. Otto acts like a cock because he’s presumably the only character whose balls have dropped and says he wants to go surfing, but Reggie salts his game by saying she actually gives a shit about Squid’s robot. Jump cut.
Out in Squid’s garage he keeps a sheet over his robot because he doesn’t want his parents to know how much of a failure he is. He makes a big to-do about his robot and when he announces it I again can’t understand what the fuck he’s saying, so I’m just going with “Aggron” because it sounds correct and marginally decent. Squid pulls the sheet off of Aggron and shows his friends that he pretty much built a piece of shit that looks like the comically-oversized iron lung from Looney Tunes. With a hammer. On a fucking skateboard.
His friends, Reggie included, immediately see the error of their ways and realize that they’ve just unwillingly tread into the “okay we have to be really nice to the slow kid so we don’t seem like total assholes” realm. Squid makes this challenge infinitely more difficult by showing off what his robot can do, which consists of two primary things: having its drawn perspective change wildly, and beating itself with its own weapon until it breaks. Otto starts brainstorming some better and less-frightening names for the robot while it continues to deteriorate into its principal atomic elements. Jump cut.
Hockey with inline skates. Squid won’t stop thinking about his stupid fucking robot and lets the opposing team score a goal. One of the kids from the opposing team shows up and lays out the sickest burns you could get away with on Nickelodeon in 2003, and if that weren’t bad enough Oliver and his permavirgin friends arrive on the scene to show off their piece of shit robot “Ruinator” that we’re supposed to believe is somehow better than Zaggron. Motherfucker, that thing looks like Ramrombit from Robot Wars with the poorest designed hammer on the planet. The gist here is that it’s essentially supposed to be the robot from Squid’s nightmare at the beginning of the episode because he’s that kind of idiot. Oliver talks some mad shit and his insults are so fire that Otto immediately becomes the saltiest jabroni ever, and rather than straight up murder that pompous GameFAQs user and his cronies… he rage-joins Squid’s robot team instead. Jump cut.
Otto demonstrates that Zaggron can only drive in a straight line. Somehow, through the magic of “we wrote ourselves into a corner” and/or “we have no fucking clue what we’re writing about and cannot even begin to bullshit our way through this” Zaggron learns how to turn. Squid gets the bright idea to arm his robot with a Skate-Cam and wears what I assume are VR goggles so he can “see” what the robot “sees” in the arena, not realizing that most robot combat events have see-through walls. Actually, all of them do. Also, for a show about soon-to-be dropouts skateboarding all the time, why isn’t there a fisheye lens on the camera? Is that too hard to draw or something? Did they not have an effect for that? For fuck’s sake, I can’t even stand on a skateboard and I know more about skate culture than the chucklefucks who created this show.
Squid proceeds to further arm his robot with a hockey stick and something that fires out hockey pucks. We’re just meant to assume this is something in the realm of possibilities because as I’m sure you’ve probably already noticed there’s nothing visibly powering Zaggron’s drive wheels, so the whole robot and all of its “weapons” just move of their own volition really. You might be saying “but Draco, it’s just a cartoon none of this is real”; yeah, well fuck you too. The animators made sure to draw a motor for Zaggron’s stupid fucking hammer, so they sure as hell know that motors are a required component of a drivetrain. They’re just a bunch of lazy and uninitiated fucks who know as much about robot combat as they do about drawing human faces that don’t look like week-old Domino’s pizzas.
Because your average Rocket Power fan has an attention span less than the length of an average Rocket Power episode, the writers completely skipped over any sort of cohesive tournament for their fictional event. Instead, they unknowingly went the Robot Wars “Eliminator” route and dumped some nondescript robots into the arena for a rumble. If you can believe it, we’re only halfway through this episode. It feels like it’s been a god damn eternity.
Our first shot of robot action is of a shitty red Blendo rip-off that barely spins because animating something like that is too hard to do. Not Blendo promptly gets shoved into the arena wall by Not Punjar and its fourteen antennae wherein the animators graciously show us that they also don’t know how wood works because Not Blendo crumples up into a nice little ball instead of splintering into a million pieces. Squid’s mom starts to freak out while Surfshack Tito — the racist Hawaiian caricature — acts like a racist Hawaiian caricature. Squid’s mom says “ro-butt” because that’s an original joke that nobody has ever used a single time ever. Never ever. Not once. Ever. Nickelodeon.
Meanwhile back in the arena, Ruinator is busy destroying a small wedge armed with a fucking boot while Zaggron and Not Punjar have a standoff. Zaggron locks on with its, uh, homing hockey pucks which do fuck all to Not Punjar. The animators have also just now realized that they should probably draw some other robots in the background, but they gotta be dead robots because having more than one thing moving on the screen at a time takes too long and they have another whole season of this shit to make before Nickelodeon pulls the plug. Not Punjar is about to deploy a fucking tranquilizer dart or something, but Ruinator comes in and says “hey man I noticed you’re having some problems actually doing a goddamned thing this episode so I’ll take care of this for you.” Not Punjar’s driver has a midlife crisis while his wife emasculates him in front of the audience.
Since Zaggron hasn’t done a fucking thing in this rumble we get to see it swerve around the arena saw hazard and a dead robot. The only thing worse than a lack of excitement is implied excitement. Zaggron chooses its next target, a neon green robot armed with a magnet. There’s an Insane Clown Posse reference I could make here, but that song hadn’t even come out yet so really in the grand scheme of things it was Klasky-Csupo who first asked the age old question “fucking magnets, how do they work?” Also, it’s 2016 and I’m making a “fucking magnets” reference AND watching Rocket Power. Kill me.
The green magnet robot immediately begins fucking up Zaggron’s shit with its… crabhammer. Sensing trouble, Squid makes the quick decision to use the power of magnets to his advantage and drags his opponent over to the saw hazard where the green robot is literally sawed in fucking half. I can see that happening to Zaggron because it’s made from wood, but I’m assuming the “X” pattern on the green one was meant to imply that it was diamond-plated alumin– you know what nevermind. What’s Ruinator up to?
Ruinator is up to nothing because the match is arbitrarily over and Zaggron is advancing on to the finals. We learn this because Animated Kid Rock in the audience says so. Squid gets approached by Oliver after the rumble and Oliver sarcastically wishes him good luck. Squid replies in a cordial manner because people with Asperger’s syndrome can’t read social cues.
RUINATOR vs. ZAGGRON
Weapon: Articulated hammer
Weapon: Hammer, hockey stick, & puck launcher
Robattle’s very own mysterious voice announces that the finals are underway, Ruinator drives forward like two feet and taps Zaggron on the ass, and Squid immediately has an anxiety attack and calls a timeout or something? What fucking robot combat event has a timeout?
Zaggron gets wheeled into the pits, which are apparently ringside because that means the animators don’t have to draw another location, and Squid’s teammates start “working” on the robot. “Working” in this scenario is defined as “waving tools around near the robot in places that aren’t visible to the viewer”. Squid gets a pep talk from Reggie who’s advice consists of the most obvious shit imaginable, and then the mysterious voice says to get ready for “round two”. Oh, so round one was just 13 seconds long. Sure. Okay.
Round two begins and Ruinator immediately begins whaling on Zaggron’s exposed motors while Squid’s Oculus Rift starts fucking up. Zaggron flees from battle because its driver is a total pussy and we get a shot of Squid moving his transmitter’s sticks in every possible direction simultaneously. It’s like they kind of get it; the animators are like a stone’s throw away from having some semblance of being anywhere close to having this episode land in the realm of “correct” in regards to the sport they’re depicting. Also, that’s the end of round two. If this is a best two out of three situation, Zaggron has fucking lost.
Squid, realizing he’s in over his head, is about to do the right thing and tap out but Reggie and his “friends” intervene and inform him that he’s a complete fuck up and that he can’t just “give up” because they want to see his robot get annihilated in the arena for their own amusement. This is achieved through some faux-support in the form of a snowboarding anecdote.
Round three begins and immediately Zaggron gets toppled over by Ruinator. In what I’m going to claim is the most “potentially correct” moment of this episode, Zaggron uses its flaccid hockey stick weapon as a self-righting mechanism and flips itself back over. Sure, the robot fell onto the wrong side for that to be a feasible move, but I’ll give the animators this one. A broken clock is right twice a day, except for Klasky-Csupo who is right only once. Sort of. Zaggron immediately pulls a 180 and starts attacking with its weapon for the first time this episode. Ruinator isn’t pleased with this bullshit so it tosses Zaggron over into the corner of the arena. Rather than get out of the corner, Zaggron starts firing out hockey pucks and whacking them with its fucking hockey stick. I’m taking back the gold star I gave the creators for the self-righting thing.
This is somehow Zaggron’s epic comeback. One of its stray pucks breaks Ruinator’s face while another one clips off Ruinator’s front right wheel. Oliver starts freaking out while the guy on the computer behind him watches his 401(k) disappear in real time. Zaggron turns this match into a monster truck rally by knocking Ruinator over and driving on top of it. If that weren’t an obvious enough cop-out for you, Zaggron runs over an invisible ramp and does a piledriver on its opponent, knocking both robots out at the same time. Ruinator summons the power of the Dark Lord and rights itself without any assistance of any device whatsoever, then falls back over and commits suicide because I guess that’s another corner the writers put themselves into.
And that’s the end of the episode. Squid gets a stupid-looking trophy for his troubles and Reggie queefs out the episode’s moral in case it wasn’t immediately obvious to all four of this episode’s original audience. Squid gets one last burn on Captain Asshole, and then the credits roll.
That’s a wrap on our April Fools’ special here at BattleBots Update. I apologize profusely for making you all sit through an episode of Rocket Power and I promise I will never do it again, not out of the kindness of my heart of anything like that but because this is the only episode of the show with robot combat in it. To tie everything together in a nice little bow at the end here, the fictional city of Ocean Shores, CA celebrates its “Founders Day” on April 1st. I totally just blew your goddamned mind. This article works on so many levels. I am a comedy genius.
Stick around, we’ve got lots more great robot coverage right around the corner including the much anticipated second ABC season of BattleBots (their seventh overall) and some legit international competitions, plus BattleBots season one from Comedy Central. Follow us on Facebook so you can get a heads up when our new stuff goes live!