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30 years later, ‘Short Circuit’ still long on nostalgia

Is there any movie that was a bigger underdog to make it big at the box offices than Short Circuit? Imagine the elevator pitch: An experimental military robot comes to live with it’s struck by lightning. On, and the guy from Cocoon falls in love with the girl from The Breakfast Club. And a very American actor catches some grief for playing an overly stereotypical version of an Indian scientist.

But here’s the thing: Throw in a song by El DeBarge and suddenly it all just works. To this day, say the words “Johnny 5” and anyone who was a teen in the ‘80s knows exactly what movie you’re talking about.

Released May 9, 1986, Short Circuit debuted at No. 1 at the box office finished the year in the 21st position, having grossed a little more than $40 million. To put things in perspective, it made more money that Pretty in Pink. Take that, Ducky. And it spawned a sequel in 1988 that frankly even the original movie’s most ardent supporters would rather forget about.

Roger Ebert was equally dismissive of the 1986 movie, giving it just 1 1/2 stars and writing: “If all of this is beginning to sound just slightly too cute for its own good, does it help if I mention that (Ally) Sheedy drives an ice cream truck for a living and that she falls in love with (Steve) Guttenberg? No? I didn't think it would. Short Circuit is the sort of movie Disney used to make, when they weren't starring million dollar geese and absentminded professors.”

And yet, 30 years later later, we love it still. Or at least we love the theme song. Here are 5 things you probably didn’t know about Short Circuit, according to

1. Actor Fisher Stevens, who played the part of the Indian, has repeatedly said when he was cast in the part, it wasn’t the role of an Indian. And though he might resemble or talk with an Indian accent, his character actually says he’s from Bakersfield and his ancestors are from Pittsburgh.

2. $1.4 million of Short Circuit’s $15 million budget was spent on the creation of the robot. The robot weighed 250 pounds. He was voiced by Tim Blaney, who also voiced “Frank the Pug” in the Men in Black movies.

3. Johnny 5’s full name is actually SAINT Number 5, which SAINT standing for “Strategic Artificially-Intelligent Nuclear Transport.”

4. Producers wanted Steve Guttenberg to return for the 1988 sequel, but because a script wasn’t available for his review, he declined. Guttenberg has since told interviewers he regrets his choice.

5. There have been several attempts to remake Short Circuit as recently as 2013 with Fisher Stevens returning as “Ben.” The whereabouts of these projects, just like Johnny 5, are currently unknown.

[Last modified: Monday, May 9, 2016 12:40pm]


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