There’s a long-standing rumor about how Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s puppet-populated action film Team America came into existence. According to legend, after the South Park creators got their hands on the screenplay for The Day After Tomorrow, they planned to make their own version with puppets and put it out on the day of the disaster movie’s release. While the idea was scrapped for legal reasons, and we may never live in a world with two Days After Tomorrow, we do live in one with a twin set of RoboCops. Thanks to a group of filmmakers who just pulled a Parker/Stone, though, we may actually have triplets. And just like Team America, there are puppets involved.
Our RoboCop Remake is a crowd-sourced, full-length replica of the 1987 Paul Verhoeven satirical thriller that beats the official remake’s release by a (robo-)nose. (The Jose Padilha-directed MGM version is coming out February 12th.) Filmmaker Dave Seger and independent video hub Channel 101 assembled a team of 50 directors and animators at every level on the scale from amateur to pro for this undertaking. Although the finished product bears the same plot as both the original RoboCop and the remake, it’s doubtful that it will be confused with either. We’ve seen other unofficial remakes of beloved films before, both solo and crowdsourced, but never one this gleefully unhinged.
There’s a playful anarchic spirit running through Our RoboCop Remake. It’s apparent in the opening credits, which features some of the most violent scenes of the original film presented in goofy GIF-like repetition during the credits–including the scene where RoboCop’s hand is liquidated by a shotgun blast. Some scenes are exactly as they were in the original; others have surreal differences like newscasters eating bowls of spaghetti on air for no discernible reason. There’s also Taiwanese reenactment-style animations, the aforementioned puppets, and perhaps more fake penises than you might anticipate. Unlike other spec remakes, it’s less a tribute to a movie than to the act of moviemaking itself.
Dave Seger, who put the project together, became active with online filmmaking communities like Filmfights and Channel 101 nearly a decade ago. He and some other directors in these groups occasionally collaborated together on film, round-robin-style–with each person in the chain making the next part of a film after the previous person. In 2009, they used this format to create Our Footloose Remake. With the equally beloved ’80s movie RoboCop being remade soon, Seger was ready to do it again. First, he would need to assemble a team, tapping into the bustling L.A. community of Internet comedy filmmakers.
“I broke the movie up into 60-something pieces and emailed people all the scene options,” Seger says. “They were given the opportunity to pick their favorite scenes, and I tried to balance it out–trying to keep animators at a distance from each other, not have too many overlapping styles, etc. And then as pieces fell into place I’d reach out to other filmmakers I knew, trying to approach new people and fill in the holes, offering them a few choices or trying to get someone on board for a specific scene.”
The guidelines he had in mind were rather straightforward. The filmmakers would be instructed to include the key characters in each scene and establish plot points. Seger would assign wardrobe guidelines and color-coding, so that the characters would track as they changed in different iterations. The scenes were also meant to adhere to the same length as the originals, or go even shorter. Other than that the filmmakers would be given free rein to shoot their scenes however they wanted. The real challenge, though, was in getting things organized and keeping things running smoothly.
Although the official remake may be destined to make more money and be better remembered than Our RoboCop Remake, any fans of the original who grumbled when the reboot was first announced might prefer this version.