Theme parks are always looking to present something
new and exciting as part of their entertainment lineup. Almost all parks
have walk-around characters of some kind, and with the improvements in
materials and technology the use of robotics was introduced in the
1980's. Sci-Fi was cutting edge robotic technology when he was
introduced in 1987.
Working with the company International Robotics Incorporated Six Flags
created the character Sci-Fi for use at Six Flags Great Adventure.
Sci-Fi had to be designed to be sturdy and durable for everyday use
inside the park, yet a practical size for storage and transport for
appearances outside of the park.
One of the big challenges of
designing Sci-Fi was creating a robot that looked like a robot, while
still looking approachable (not scary). The design incorporated digital
displays and lights, both real and decoy parts. A tic-tac-toe game was
also planned but not incorporated. Instead, a Simon type game with multi
colored buttons took its place.
The designers perfected the look
of Sci-Fi first on paper, then through models in progressively
larger scale until a full size sculpted version was created. From that
final sculpture the fiberglass shell of Sci-Fi was created.
Sci-Fi was added as a "surprise"
new addition for 1987. He was supposed to have been the first of several
robots for Six Flags with each park getting their own robot. Along with
Sci-Fi, Great Adventure was originally supposed to have received a
second robot which would have performed in the park.
At the start of the 1987 season
Sci-Fi was not quite ready to make his debut at Six Flags Great
Adventure, so SICO came to the park for several weeks as a
fill-in. SICO is probably the most famous robot of the 1980's,
appearing in dozens of films and TV shows as well as commercials
and print ads.
SICO was part of the EPCOT Center grand
opening special from October 1982, sharing a scene with host
Danny Kaye and Drew Barrymore who had just become a huge star in
the blockbuster E.T. that summer.
SICO also had a
regular recurring role on the soap opera Days of Our Lives. He
was a robot who worked at Salem Hospital and was invented by
Eugene Bradford, and at one point almost kills the Horton family
Prior to his arrival at the park, SICO
starred on the big screen as the robot servant in Rocky IV in
1985. That same year he starred in Carly Simon's music video "My
SICO's time at the park was relatively
short, and once Sci-Fi was ready to roll, SICO went back to
sunny California to hobnob with his fellow celebrities, though
more recently appeared in an episode of Family Guy. To date,
SICO is the only robot member of the Screen Actors Guild.
When Si-Fi was introduced in the park he was an immediate hit with
guests, drawing large crowds of children and adults. Sci-Fi's childlike
voice and blinking lights made him irresistible, and children crowded
around to talk to him and lined up to dance with him. Children loved
standing on his platform and holding on while Sci-Fi sang to them and
Sci-Fi was amazingly
agile, with arms that could fully function for shaking hands. For
safety, the base of Sci-Fi had a rubber edge with sensors that would
stop his motion if it came in contact with anything. This prevented him
from accidentally running over anyone's toes.
Guests would stand
and watch Sci-Fi trying to figure out if there was a person inside the
robot controlling him. A fake camera lens was mounted in his chest, and
guests would often put their face right up to the lens when asking
questions, assuming that there was someone running the robot from a
The crowds were correct in that the person
controlling Sci-Fi was doing it remotely, though much closer than they
could have imagined. Generally the robot operator was standing right in
the middle of the crowds so he could see everything that Sci-Fi was
doing and hear everything the crowd was saying. The operator was usually
easy to spot in the crowds if you knew what to look for since he was
generally in very loose fitting clothes with one hand in his pants
pocket (running the controller) and the other hand near his mouth with
Sci-Fi spent a lot of time in the park greeting
guests near the Front Gate, as well as at catered outings in the picnic
grove. He also spent a lot of time (especially the off-season) on the
road visiting schools and events all around the tri-state area. A
special trailer was purchased just for hauling Sci-Fi from place to
place, and an SUV had to be purchased to tow the trailer. The truck and
trailer racked up miles very quickly as Sci-Fi was in high demand for
promotional events and he helped spread a lot of goodwill for the park.
Though Sci-Fi was a big success at Great Adventure, plans were never
completed for additional robots at other Six Flags parks. The executive
with Six Flags who spearheaded the effort to create Sci-Fi left the
company when Six Flags changed hands, and the program fell by the
wayside leaving Sci-Fi an only child.
Over time, the wear and tear on
Sci-Fi took its toll, and combined with the costs of keeping up the
vehicle along with continued changes in ownership and management led to
the robot's retirement in 1993. Sci-Fi is still at the park, sitting
unused in an office. Perhaps one day he may get serviced and
updated with today's technological advances and return to the park
Click below to see Sci-Fi's very brief appearance in a 1990
Six Flags Great Adventure commercial.
Sci-Fi had a sister robot named
Pulsar who lived in the Philadelphia area at a nightclub called
Pulsations. Pulsar was the robotic hostess at the (then) cutting
edge nightclub that featured state of the art light effects and
Aside from the Disney parks, no
other park has ever had such a technologically advanced, free moving
street character in operation.
Also planned for Great Adventure
was a stage area which was to have been added behind the Big Wheel where
Sci-Fi would perform. Plans called for a second (and larger) robot to
have been created that would stay in the park, while Sci-Fi was sent out
on the road promoting the park. The idea was that Sci-Fi would become a
Six Flags brand with merchandise and photo opportunities and eventually
become a symbol of Six Flags from coast to coast, a kind of a mechanical