RollBots Recap: 103 "Wipeout"

MCMSaturday, February 21, 2009

Every week, I’m going to try and give you some inside information about episodes of RollBots, so you can see the things that went into producing each story. You should probably watch the episode first (probably won’t have a choice, since these posts won’t go live until after the episode airs).

"Wipeout" is the first episode airing written by Vito Viscomi, our genius story editor. Vito's role on the show is to make sure the rest of us writers don't suck, and purely based on my involvement, it's amazing he had time to do anything else. Vito joined the team way back in the early days, when he and Mark Leiren-Young wrote the first two episodes (they don't air for a while yet), so he has one of the best appreciations of the series of anyone I know.

This 103 was originally 102, but (as you probably noticed) it was light on the action. There's some backstory here that explains it... when we first sold RollBots to YTV, we were aiming a comedic action series, with lots of laughs and bit of tension here and there. Midway through production, there was a changing-of-the-guard at YTV, and our new producer there swapped the weight of the comedy/action dynamic to put more emphasis on the punchy-blasty-kicky stuff. "Wipeout" was fundamentally funny, but too good an episode to lose, and too well-defined to edit at that point. The concern was that for kids just starting to watch the series, having a fluffy second episode might make them lose interest. So we shifted it to 103 and added "Breakpoint" ahead, where we amped up the action. Turns out it probably worked better this way, because it gave us more time to define Vertex's plan.

103's biggest feature is that it explains the Safety Net, which is a giant force field around Flip City. Early on, there was the question: "What happens if a bot falls off the trax?" It's pretty clear that if you were in the Quartz Sector (at the top of the city) and fell, you could probably fall straight through the open spaces and just disappear into the clouds. The Safety Net catches you, and eventually a retrieval drone picks you up and brings you home. We decided it was vital to illustrate this, so in this ep, Spin, Tinny and Manx get stuck down there and have to escape.

Technically speaking, the Safety Net is massive, and there was concern that having it exist as a 3D asset would possibly destroy our render farm (imagine having to constantly draw an infinitely-large translucent object in every shot). So rather than showing it all the time, we have it flicker on when bots touch it. Neat effect, and also much easier to render. (Incidentally, render farm breakage is also when there are so many clouds in Flip City... the parallax and line-of-sight issues would kill a computer trying to render out backgrounds with so many free-floating objects).

The second element to the story is the stealing of the orbs from the museum... the orbs which may or may not be dangerous to the city itself. It becomes clearer that Botch and Macro are kinda useless without Manx, but that Botch doesn't see it himself. I think it was through these scenes that we, on the production, really figured out the dynamic of those two characters.

The part with Pounder going after Zetag was added very late in the production when we were trying to solidify our complex story arc... with any luck, you're feeling a bit confused right now. It'll get worse, trust me :)

Trivia fun: Mayor Aria is the self-important leader of the Nisen tribe (politicians)... her name is an anagram for something that I like to mock in everything I do. Connects even more strongly in ep 110, "The Do Right Module"...

My favourite moments of this ep are when the two bots at the start freak out at Manx (barfing metal sounds... classic), and then Tinny saying "I'd feel better if I knew what was in that box!". We originally had Tinny going over a crazy selection of guesses about what Spin might be carrying (it went from the plausible to the incredibly-silly), but it got trimmed for time (stupid time).

Next week is "Scorched" which is another comedic episode, so definitely stay tuned!

All content released under a Creative Commons BY-NC license except the contents of "TV" section, which belong to their respective owners.