Rube Goldberg - Robots and Machines used in Animated Films


I – Toy Story’s Buzz Launch

A Rube Goldberg machine is much easier to convey or execute in an animated film. After all, the filmmakers could cheat a little when it comes to the physics. However, this does not mean that it is less creative to create a Rube Goldberg machine for an animated film.

In the case of Toy Story, however, the main cheat is not in the fact that everything was animated but that because the objects that composed the so-called Rube Goldberg machine are all inanimate or non-living ones. There is the simple task of placing back a toy to the position it started with, in the process making it look as if it is flying.

To start things off, Buzz jumps off a bed. He launches by being bounced off a ball and lands on a toy car. The toy car rolls through a track then even goes around a loop and launches. Buzz is sent flying through air but is able to hang on to a model plane that then flies in circles but remains attached to the ceiling by a string. Buzz is then able to escape and falls back on the bed he starts with in the first place.

The whole setup involves toys. None of those involved has a special reaction that has to be anticipated in order for everything to work successfully. However, the Toy Story sequence of events can still be considered a Rube Goldberg sequence if not a machine. Every toy involved in the sequence has to be at the right place at the right time.

II – Getting Dressed in Wallace and Gromit

Mornings must be so tough that even animated characters had to resort to using Rube Goldberg machines to get through them. If Pee Wee Herman needed help with preparing breakfast, there are also other characters that needed to be inspired by Rube Goldberg just to get dressed.

In the getting dressed sequence, the hot water vapor coming from the kettle activates a series of pulleys to turn. At the end of this pulley system is a rubber hand. This rubber hand is also triggered, thus poking from beneath the bed of Gromit, waking him up. The bed keeps shaking. Meanwhile, another rubber hand delivers a plate of cheese right under the nose of Wallace, thus waking him up. Gromit still has not gotten up his bed. Because of this, launching is activated as indicated by bright letters in red. So, both Wallace and Gromit are launched off their beds and taken to what look like slides. Each of them slid down until a series of factory-like equipment dresses them up starting with the cap and then the shoes. Each of them also gets a mug of piping-hot coffee along the way and is made to somersault into his clothes. Would you want such an elaborate setup to help you get dressed in the morning?

Dressing up becomes a lot more complicated, thanks to the Rube Goldberg way. The whole setup is interesting but is undoubtedly only part of an animated film – at least for now.

III – The Things You See in Robots

Another animated film that feature Rube Goldberg-like inventions is Robots. Well, the whole world is made up of robots. Robots populate the world and make use of robotic items or machines. So, Rube Goldberg machines are plentiful in this animated world. For some Rube Goldberg fans, this may be a cop out. Still though, the animated film is able to deliver some interesting variations of a Rube Goldberg machine.


In animated films, it is much easier to portray the Rube Goldberg machine. After all, physics could be manipulated to produce the desired results. Still, animated films provide the machine or setup designers a better chance to come up with something a lot more exciting. Also, it could be considered that animated films are Rube Goldberg’s comics set into motion. The goofy look is maintained. Examples of other animated films or television shows that feature Rube Goldberg machines or events include Looney Tunes, Tom and Jerry, and Family Guy episodes. These cartoons all feature speedy chases, horrible but creative accidents and brainy characters that could concoct all sorts of mad contraptions. Continue to next page.

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