Pop Culture | Movies | 80s

13 Top Secret Facts About The 'Short Circuit' Movies

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Producers Sales Organization / The Turman-Foster Company

The '80s were the heyday for movie robots, from cute droids like R2-D2 to cold-hearted killers like the Terminator and ED-209.

But none of the decade's big screen robots have a place in our heart like Johnny 5, the mischievous machine from Short Circuit one and two. Odds are you have a worn-out tape of one of the movies stashed in your crawlspace right now, but you probably didn't know these 13 facts about the films.

1. The Johnny 5 robot really short circuited

There were 15 working versions of Johnny 5 on set, and while most worked fine the fifth model actually went haywire.

Producers Sales Organization / The Turman-Foster Company

“It was almost spooky," remembers designer Eric Allard. "It went up in a puff of smoke and we used that one to solve the electronic difficulties. After we rebuilt it, it became the best, most reliable robot we had for the duration of the shoot. He seemed to actually exceed his battery life!”

I guess Johnny 5 was alive after all.

2. Two of the Johnny models gave their lives for the film

To film just one shot from the parachute scene, a pair of Johnnys were launched off a bridge and dropped 180 feet, "disintegrating" when they hit the ground. Ouch!

3. Fisher Stevens went all-out for his role

When the scientist character Ben was re-written as an Indian man, Stevens was replaced by Bronson Pinchot, who played Balki on Perfect Strangers. Then, he got his job back, and went totally method for the part.

Fisher Stevens as Ben in 'Short Circuit 2.'The Turman-Foster Company

“I went to India and I studied Hindi. I got into Yoga. And this is in 1985. I lived with Indian people. I really immersed myself. I used to be a total method actor, so I was really deep in the deep end."

Fisher Stevens and actor Javed Jaffrey.

As crazy as that sounds today, it sort of worked. Indian audiences were convinced "Fisher Stevens" was really Bollywood actor Javed Jaffrey, and Jaffrey was forced to release a statement denying the rumors.

4. It took a dozen people to make Johnny 5 move

Sometimes just one or two puppeteers were required for small scenes, but full-body shots usually required a team of people. The most complex scene, the "Three Stooges" fight, took 18 people controlling the robots at the same time.

“That was an absolute nightmare!" remembers director John Badham. "The Three Stooges sequence was just horrendous, horrible. We were training people right and left. If you had been on the set, I might have grabbed you, put some controls in your hand, and said, ‘Here, you do this part.’”

5. Short Circuit was filmed in the same town as The Goonies and Kindergarten Cop

The picturesque small town of Astoria, Oregon has attracted Hollywood movies multiple times. It was also the basis for the original Silent Hill video game.

The home of Ally Sheedy's character, in Astoria.Cameron McKirdy / YouTube
The school from 'Kindergarten Cop' in Astoria.
Astoria in 'The Goonies.'Slashfilm

When Johnny 5 steals the van, the path he drives down is the same one the kids from The Goonies ride their bikes on.

6. Johnny 5 was designed to look as futuristic as possible

Along with making the military robot look like an actual battle-ready machine, director John Badham wanted Johnny to seem like he was from "50 or 100 years in the future."

Concept art of Johnny 5.

The biggest influence on Johnny's design was a piano playing robot from Japan's 1985 Tsukuba Expo, who used his camera "eye" to read the keys.


Designers Syd Mead and Eric Allard also say they tried to avoid making Johnny look like any other famous movie robots...

7. But some famous robots look a lot like Johnny 5

Fans of the Short Circuit movies love to point out how much Pixar's Wall-E resembles Johnny 5. From the tank treads and the telescoping neck to the binocular eyes, there sure are a lot of similarities.


Wall-E director Andrew Stanton says he only saw Short Circuit once, but admits he may have been "subconsciously influenced" by Johnny 5's design. We'll take his word for it, but just look at these two side-by-side.

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