‘Lost in Space’: How They Made the Scene-Stealing Robot the Highlight of the Reboot

IN THE PRESS | IndieWire | May 24th, 2018 | Read More

You can never go wrong bonding a boy with his ‘bot, and Netflix’s “Lost in Space” reboot definitely got the scene-stealing Robot right. The series comes alive whenever he’s on screen, much like the beloved protector from “The Iron Giant.”

In fact, this Robot also has a similar backstory in which he overcomes his attack mode programming to become more sensitive and empathetic. He’s cool and complex, with a lot of untapped potential for Season 2.

A New Transformer Twist

The original design of the Robot was done by VFX house Rhythm & Hues, and then the bulk of the animation was done by Image Engine (“District 9”) in Vancouver (with R&H, Trickster, and Futureworks pitching in for their sequences). He comes in two forms: an alien version (sporting multi limbs) and a bi-pedal humanoid. However, when Will (Maxwell Jenkins) first encounters him in Episode 1 (“Impact”), the Robot is trapped in a tree and severed in two.

With the boy’s help, he re-attaches himself with his internal cabling, and then studies the young boy on top of a cliff. They bond and the Robot takes on a humanoid form and repays Will’s kindness by saving sister Judy (Taylor Russell), who’s trapped under ice on the planet the Robinsons have crash-landed on.

Yet the Robot’s performance on screen was also achieved by an actor (Brian Steele) wearing a heavy practical suit made by Spectral Motion. “We wanted to play the character with an actor in a suit, so the humanoid form took hold because of bonding with Will and taking his shape,” said production VFX supervisor Jabbar Raisani. “He transforms depending on who he’s paired with or who controls him at that moment.

“Whether it was a guy in a suit, whether it was full-digital, we needed to make sure to maintain a negative space throughout the center of him so you can view the cables that connect him,” added Raisani.

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