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Western Animation / Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot

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The Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot (1999-2000) was an animated television series, based on the The Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot comic. The Big Guy was the old warhorse robot superhero who was to be replaced by an all-American Rusty; however, Rusty's inexperience forced the Big Guy back out of retirement to serve as Rusty's mentor and partner. Complicating matters was the fact that the Big Guy, Rusty's hero and role model... wasn't actually a robot. Unable to develop a working AI in time, the government secretly converted it into a Powered Armor, piloted by Lieutenant Dwayne Hunter, who poses as the Big Guy's mechanic to the outside world. The secret has to be kept from Rusty, as well, for fear of what the shock might do to his mind.

Tropes in this work.

  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: For the most part if the robot doesn't have an emotion grid like Rusty they turn out to be evil. And even when they do, there's a pretty good chance they're less than stable, as with Number Six.
    • Big Guy started out this way. Apparently his AI software was never completed to satisfaction, but the hardware it ran on was left intact. This becomes a problem on occasion.
  • American Robot: Big Guy wears this on his sleeve, despite having an almost completely white paint job. It's not clear whether Lt. Hunter's plays up the Eagle Land aspect on his own or under orders, but the trope comes out in Big Guy's speech as well.
    • Same with Rusty, who has the Red and White going for him. Doesn't quite have the speech down pat yet, though.
  • Adaptational Badass: Rusty. In the comic, he existed only to get stomped flat by monsters & annoy Big Guy. While he still does that in the cartoon, he manages to become a genuinely effective (& likeable) character.
  • Animation Bump: "The Lower Depths" possesses much higher quality animation than most of the other episodes.
  • Ascended Fanboy: Rusty, surprisingly enough. Yes, the boy robot is a huge fan of the Big Guy, and overjoyed to be working with him. Even though he was designed as a replacement.
  • Badass Adorable: Rusty. No surprise, considering whom he is an Expy of.
    • Also subverted, as Rusty is in no way intimidating. Whereas Big Guy can shut down a problem just by showing up, Rusty can open fire and still not get taken seriously. Rusty even brings it up:
    Rusty: "I need to look tough."
    Dr. Slate: "Looks aren't every thing"
    Donovan: "Maybe, but they're half the fun." Reveals a large scary-looking robot
  • Badass Boast: "Fact: the only thing more piping hot than Mom's fresh baked apple pie is the sting of my anti-lowlife-terrorist mag popper. Want a slice?" He didn't.
    • Rusty: "I may be small, BUT I WILL MAKE HIM PAY!"
  • Badass Normal: Lt. Dwayne Hunter, when not in the Big Guy suit. His pit crew aren't slouches either.
  • Bald of Evil: Legion Ex Machina bots. Unless they need to go undercover, as with Number Six.
  • Become a Real Boy: Averted. Rusty doesn't want to become human. When a chance encounter with alien technology starts turning him into a living being, he's very excited by the new sensations, but as the change progresses, very quickly decides it's not a good trade and gets himself switched back. Considering his tagline is 'no pain receptors'...you can see why. However, he is fairly proud of his emotion grid, the one thing that does set him apart from other robots (who are more or less mindless drones or amoral villains) and does allow him to have a more human perspective on situations.
  • Big Bad Friend: In the episode Hard Drive, the titular Evil Counterpart of Big Guy turns out to be a Powered Armor piloted by Griffin, Dwayne Hunter's old friend.
  • Blob Monster: Two: one is a jealous cleaning product and the other is a Grey Goo.
  • Bowel-Breaking Bricks: The Big Guy, at the opening of one episode, terrifies a villain in an less impressive suit of Power Armor into ejecting and surrendering in fear (unlike the Big Guy's this fool's armor didn't have anything to cover the pilot). Naturally, ejection occurs out of the back end of the mech.
    • Goes Double with Po, the Obliterator. Not only does he leave his power armor out the back, when he literally gets stomped by Big Guy, his armor breaks apart, but first, and Po cowers in "crash position."
  • Brain Food: Dr. Neugog and later Pierre after accidentally using the same device that turned Dr. Neugog into a monster.
  • Brand X / No Celebrities Were Harmed: Averted with references to such celebrities as Jerry Seinfeld and product such as a Sony PlayStation being blatantly mentioned (probably because the show was produced by Sony's Australia-based animation division, and they distribute Seinfeld for syndication).
  • Butt Monkey: Donovan.
  • Camp: The theme song and Big Guy's American catch phrases.
  • Cassandra Truth: Dr. Neugog tells Rusty straight out that Big Guy isn't a robot, but a pilot in Powered Armor. Rusty's response? To laugh in his face.
  • Catch Phrase: 'For the love of Mike...'
    • In another episode, where Ericka had to pilot the Big Guy, the catchphrase changed to "For the love of Mary...".
    • Don't forget Rusty's 'no pain receptors'
      • Rusty actually has several: "Comin' at ya!", "Sure as shootin'", "Blast-off!", "The Big Guy signal!" and "Ready and rarin' to go!"
      • Due to Rusty being shown as unable to stop himself from uttering those phrases, it may be supposed they're firmware coded, much like the boot chime of a laptop. Wherever Rusty is going to attack, fly away, acknowledge Big Guy's call or simply get himself ready for action, he notifies Dr. Slate.
  • Clothes Make the Superman: Despite being just a Mini-Mecha, the world believes Big Guy to be an actual sentient Super Robot, because its creators didn't want to admit failing to produce a real artificial intelligence. For good reason too, due to the expense of the Big Guy project its failure would have led to massive public outcry.
  • Combining Mecha: Rusty and Big Guy, being made by the same company, apparently use similar/standard connection points and can share parts with some adjustment. Rusty can use Big Guy's weapons by grafting them on (the Mag Popper comes to mind), and more to the spirit of the trope, Big Guy attaches Rusty onto his arm to aim for him in the first episode.
    Big Guy: "Thank Ford for interchangeable parts!"
  • Convection Schmonvection: When a volcano erupts from under New Tronic City, there is a noticeable lack of people and buildings bursting into flame over the lava.
  • Continuity Nod: In episode 7 Rusty is traveling through the internet and visits his favorite Online Game 'Magitek Warriors' in attempt to escape Number 4 of the Legion Ex Machina. Episode 8 shows Rusty playing the same game before being called to a mission with Big Guy.
  • Cut Short: "Double Time Part 2" reveals that there's a #7 in the Legion Ex Machina. It's also the final episode of the series, meaning the heroes never get to permanently defeat the Legion Ex Machina.
  • Cyanide Pill: Each member of Legion Ex Machina has a Self-Destruct Mechanism built within to prevent someone from accessing their data and memory.
    • Averted with Number Four, who gets captured in Rusty's body, and therefore has no opportunity to self-destruct.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Big Guy or rather his pilot Lieutenant Dwayne Hunter certainly has his moments.
    • The Legion ex Machina has a few as well.
  • Did You Get a New Haircut?: Asked by Jenny after Pierre uses the telepathy dynamo. Justified by the fact the increase to his head makes him look like he has less hair. Also discussed, for full parody effect, by Lt Hunter when he sees Rusty in a bigger body.
  • Epic Fail: Every time Donovan's R-G-B robots make an appearance, they're bound to do this. They have corrupt code in every system, so even the simplest commands are too much for them. As a prime example, when Donovan cries out "Flee" they hear "flea" and drop the bus they were carrying (with Donovan in it) to start grooming a giant two-headed ape, by plucking off all its fleas, and that's the most benevolent example. Usually, trying to follow orders causes them to trash each other.
  • Evil Is Petty: Most, if not all, of the story's villains fall into this. The most glaring examples are Po, the Obliterator, who has a massive Napoleon complex, and Dr. Neugog who became a hybrid man-spider brain eater because he ran an experiment Donnovan did not approve of, and rather than accept responsibility, he, like Dr. Doom blames Reed Richards, blames Donnovan for its failure.
    Po:"Po has never lost before. Please forgive Po for not taking it well."
  • Evil Knockoff: The Legion Ex Machina's first robot, Argo is one of Big Guy, being around the same size and displaying similar weapons, but also has Rusty's weapons, which allowed him to defeat Big Guy in both his confrontations with him. They later built one meant to impersonate Big Guy, but ran into problems when they realize Big Buy was piloted by a human. Lastly, the Legion seizes control of Donovan's mass produced Rusty clones.
  • Evil Twin: One episode featured an evil robot version of Big Guy.
  • Feel No Pain: Rusty is proud to claim that he has "no pain receptors".
  • Flawed Prototype: EP-327, aka Earl to Rusty, bordering over the Psycho Prototype trope. While Earl is not strictly evil, his underdeveloped Emotional Grid makes him little more than a toy soldier. While Earl is fully compliant to every order issued by a recognized authority figure, he snarls and snaps towards whoever isn't, including his teammates Rusty and Big Guy, he follows unflinchingly every order in the most literal way and freezes and stutters while faced with tasks beyond his understanding. A casual instruction to go wait in the corner (while in a round room with no corners) is enough to Logic Bomb him.
  • Foreshadowing: In "Double Time Part 1", the Legion Ex Machina create an almost perfect replica of Big Guy, but with completed AI without any of the flaws the real one was bound to have, and with a Wave Motion Gun inside of its chest that was, according to the replica, from the original schematics. It turns out that the Legion Ex Machina were created by the same person who created Big Guy, and had ready access to those schematics, via accessing his brain.
  • "Freaky Friday" Flip: Rusty and Number Four do this towards the end of "The Bicameral Mind". They avert How Do I Shot Web? as soon as they recover and keep their voices, but Rusty recovers first and uses his knowledge of himself to quickly disable his original body.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Rusty, briefly, in "The Bicameral Mind". Turns out his nucleo-protonic blasters work pretty well as arc welders too.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Frequently. The final episode takes the cake.
    Rusty: Number Two just hit the fan!
  • Giant Spider: Dr. Neugog gets turned into one, with the added bonus of still having a human face, and the ability to suck out people's brains.
  • Gosh Darn It to Heck!: Almost constantly. Unsurprisingly, Big Guy is the biggest offender.
    "Thank Ford for interchangeable parts."
    (Sees a fuel tanker being telekinetically thrown at him) "SWEET HENRY FORD!"
  • Grey Goo: The focus of one episode. However, instead of eating everything, they're out to improve everything... While this works pretty well at first, they do so at the expense of operational lifespan, so everything improved that way hits their end-of-life malfunctions within hours. The old phrase "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" comes into play...
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Rusty is an expert at getting the villains to do this. Lt. Hunter didn't do too badly against Po either.
  • Hot Scientist: Dr. Erika Slate.
  • Humongous Mecha: Argo II turned out to be an absolutely colossal robot, having legs taller than Quark Tower. This was necessary as he was tasked with stealing a whole fusion generator and protect it while he disappeared into the sea (very slowly). Due to the huge size, his armor plating is stronger than normal and has an internal repair system. Of all the Legion Ex Machina robots, he came the closest to accomplishing his goal, since it was only because he was incomplete that he was destroyed (they got a hold of his left hand, which held a vortex cannon).
  • Hypocrite: Despite the Legion Ex Machina boasting the superiority of man over machine, they use their creator, Dr. Poindexter, as their own personal computer, in essence relying on a human for a majority of their plans.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Rusty is an astonishingly terrible shot, unless he takes a second to aim, often with both hands and one eye closed. This can be confirmed in the opening sequence where his shots, while clearly quite powerful, don't hit unless he aims. The first episode even has Big Guy attach Rusty to his own arm, just to make the shot. Thankfully, as time passes, his aim improves to the point where it's not a liability.
    • Given that Number Four was taking very careful aim at close range (during his and Rusty's Body Swap), it might be a problem innate to the weaponry or Rusty's body.
      • When Rusty orders to the defective Earl to "help [him] fight", Earl grabs him and points his lasers towards their enemies, claiming that he was "Helping by compensating for your inferior targeting". Thus, Rusty may be lacking in hardware or firmware.
    • Turns out that whoever designed Rusty's frame, and made the weapons choice failed to take into account Newton's laws of motion, specifically, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. The problem with Rusty's aim has little to nothing to do with his targeting computer, or software, but has everything to do with the fact that his light, streamlined frame simply can not handle the recoil, even going so far as to blast him backwards the very first time he fires. Not only can Rusty hit targets with fists, improvised weapons (like an I-beam) or by throwing projectiles, not to mention getting routine diagnostics that shows nothing wrong with the system itself, when he temporarily gets his head attached to a bigger, and therefore heavier body, his accuracy with the nucleo-protonic gun improves tremendously. Likewise, Earl's superior accuracy is due to the fact, that even though he's the same size, he's heavier than Rusty due to a bigger focus on armor and weapons than speed and agility.
    • Big Guy suffers from this when he can't immediately end a fight with his guns. At times he can be firing his machine guns at an opponent at point blank range and still run out of ammo, with nary a single shot landed. For Big Guy, it is briefly explained, and easily missed, that his targeting system is designed for siege-weapon gun-mounts due the sheer size of his weapons. As such, when Big Guy can stand still, his accuracy is incredibly acute. But when he's on the move, Lt. Hunter has to manually adjust his aim, and the accuracy plummets.
  • Irrational Hatred: Rusty is Quark Industries' most successful product, the first true, benevolent, AI. One would think Donovan would do his best to praise Rusty and be proud of Dr. Slate's accomplishment on his payroll. Nope. He wants Rusty reduced to scrap-metal, badly. He outright cheered when Rusty was presumably lost in a kamikazee charge upon Argo II.
  • Irony: Gryffin left the BGY-11 project because he didn't approve the idea of Big Guy being an artificial intelligence instead of a Powered Armor. Because he left, he didn't learn they failed to develop a working intelligence for Big Guy and made it a Powered Armor to hide the truth. Griffin eventually created his own Powered Armor to compete against Big Guy and his defeat made him change his beliefs.
    • Berated for a whole mission because everyone thought his childish emotions could hamper the efforts of the military, in the end Rusty is proven right. When Big Guy apologizes to him, Rusty calmly forgives him, stating that he couldn't understand what's like having human emotions, because his AI was meant to be just too archaic to have a functional emotional grid, but he still admires him.
  • It Amused Me: Po the Obliterator.
    Oh, one last thing: before Po leaves, he will destroy your planet. Just for laughs.
  • Jerkass: Donovan and Jenny, his talking monkey.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Rare, but it does happen. Donovan can occasionally be found correct about certain things. Dr. Neugog wouldn't be a man-spider if he heeded Donovan's warnings about the telepathy experiment,(considering Donovan's absolute loathing for safety protocols, this should have triggered a huge, red warning flag for Dr. Neugog), and had Dr. Slate told him that their mainframe was under cyber-attack by the Legion Ex-Machina instead of merely stating that Rusty's in trouble (one robot vs the entire obligations of Quark Enterprises) Donovan might not have been so quick to try to start a reboot.
  • Large Ham: Big Guy is just choc full of corny catchphrases.
  • Left Hanging: All of the Legion Ex Machina are destroyed, or so they thought until it was revealed that there was a final member still at large.
  • Lock and Load Montage: Number Four has one in the episode "Donovan's Braniac" as he builds himself a new body.
  • Mechanical Lifeforms: The biomechanoid Neo-Cateri.
  • Mini-Mecha: The dirty little secret of the BGY Committee is that the Big Guy is really just a piloted suit instead of a full AI-driven robot because they simply couldn't get the original AI to work after its designer went missing.
  • Monster of the Week:
  • Morality Chip: Rusty's human emotion grid acts as one of these for supercomputer Edie.
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: It's not exactly clear what Donovan is a doctor of, but whatever it is he's terrible at it.
  • More Dakka: Big Guy has four often used heavy machine guns folded in his elbows, plus two seldom-used missile dispensers next to them. He also has a number of recurring weapons like a forehead laser, retractable wrist cannons, a shoulder mounted gatling gun, and a couple minor one-off weapons.
    • Rusty may actually have more firepower than the Big Guy. While the Big Guy relies on an assortment of missiles and machine guns Rusty uses what looks like nuclear powered plasma bolts that seem to do more damage (when he hits the target).
      • This was actually brought up in one episode. Rusty's built in weapons are significantly more powerful than anything Big Guy is armed with, which was proven as early as the pilot when they could take down the giant monster when Big guy threw everything he had at it and could barely slow it down, but which is more intimidating: a child robot pointing his finger at you, or a thirty foot tall metal superman unfolding his arm into dual chainguns?
    • When Big Guy's Evil Twin is introduced, it's revealed that in order to make room for the pilot, a giant cannon the size of Big Guy's torso had to be removed!
  • Motherly Scientist: Dr. Erika Slate, Rusty's creator, treats the boy robot as her own son throughout the series. This is lampshaded more than once.
  • My Sensors Indicate You Want to Tap That: According to an evil AI Lt. Dwayne Hunter and Dr. Erika Slate have to fight, wherever Erika is close to Dwayne or merely speaks of him her body temperature rises slightly, a thing the AI claims may be the byproduct of a crush, or a secret plot of the two of them against the AI itself. Actually, it's both.
  • Mythology Gag: In "Sickout", General Thornton says that the Frank Miller space center was contaminated, Frank Miller being one of the creators of the comic.
  • The Nth Doctor: Big Guy and Dwayne are voiced by two separate actors.
  • No OSHA Compliance: The way Donovan runs his company, it's a wonder Quark Industries is still in business, since he, when given a choice, completely skips safety testing any new product. This comes back to bite him, repeatedly.
  • Omnidisciplinary Scientist: Semi-averted. Dr. Slate may be productive inventor, but she is strictly and explicitly a roboticist and computer scientist, though she seems to brush against other disciplines at times, as well. Played straight in that she seems to do most of her inventing single-handedly, even though a creation like (for example) Rusty would require knowledge of everything from software programming to human psychology to nuclear physics to construct.
  • The Paralyzer: A biological-only one gets used on Big Guy, and succeeds in paralyzing Lt. Hunter, forcing Rusty to deal with the Legion robot on his own. (Luckily it wears off fairly quickly, and they're able to pass it off as a core shutdown to Rusty.)
  • Pintsized Powerhouse: Rusty is actually more powerful than the Big Guy; he just doesn't yet have the skill and training he needs to be effective, and gradually improves over the course of the show.
  • Psycho Prototype: Rusty's older brother Earl, due to an incomplete, unstable AI.
  • Race Lift: The entire Quark Industries. While in the original comic book series Rusty is at first a Japanese-based Astro Boy expy, in the series Rusty becomes a fully American creation, meant to be the dynamic, more advanced next-generation of robotics. As such, the generic, Japanese background scientist with a talking monkey in the background became Dr. Axel Donovan, the corrupt, greedy and cowardly president of Quark Industries (and a thinly disguised metaphor of the sterotypical "capitalist dude"), and the whole Q-Industries became an American megacorporation.
  • Retro Universe: The series takes place in a world with complex robot AI and holographic recording devices, but there's retro-futuristic styling to the computers and microphones. The cars tend towards "classic," and the military seems to be structured as it was before the Air Force split off from the Army.
  • Robot Kid: Rusty is just a child, which probably explains why he is so inexperienced. Dr. Slate, his inventor, even acts as his mother. This is because Dr. Slate realized that the Human Emotion Grid needs to develop on it's own rather than be programmed "fully formed". We later see what happens if a robot is just fitted with an Emotion Grid without any kind of nurturing: Dr Gilder. He ends up having childish tamper tantrums and later completely snaps after being told to "act his age" one too many times.
  • Rocket Punch
  • Rocket Ride: Rusty pulls one off in "The Inside Out", trying to protect an immobilized Big Guy from a missile. Amazingly, he's able to redirect it back at the Legion robot that fired it, destroying it in one hit.
  • Running Gag: No pain receptors.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Rusty's creator in one episode.
    • In the same episode she is also visibly impressed at seeing Lt. Hunter in a suit.
  • Shipper on Deck: Rusty, and quite a few others, really want Lt. Hunter and Dr. Slate to hook up.
  • Shaped Like Itself: "It glimmers like a... glimmering thing."
  • Shout-Out: The Big Guy's home base was the converted aircraft carrier S.S. Dark Horse.
    • The alien squid-monsters known as the Squillachi were supposedly named for producer Frank Squillace.
    • To Star Wars in the episode The Lower Depths.
    Dr. Slate (via hologram recording): Help us, Big Guy. You're our only hope!
    • To Star Wars again in "5000 Fingers Of Rusty" as he uses the Vader voice to exclaim "I am your father!"
    • Another couple to Dr. Strangelove when Big Guy's repaired AI starts malfunctioning, making it paranoid:
    Big Guy: The work's never done, so long as They crave our precious bodily metals.
    • In Moon Madness, Both Big Guy and Stanly ride missiles/nuclear weapons rodeo style.
    • The Ubik chip desired by Edie is a reference to Philip K. Dick's Ubik.
  • Spoiled Brat: Pierre.
  • Strong as They Need to Be: Rusty, depending on whether or not the plot needs Big Guy to defeat the enemy. With Ep-327, he managed to defeat him after he took Big Guy down in a single shot, but against Big Guy's Evil Twin built by the Legion, he only managed to some cosmetic damage.
  • Talking Animal: Dr. Donovan's sidekick Jenny. While none of the characters in the show seemed to think it was unusual, except for one Monster of the Week villain who questioned her on the origins of her abilities. Thanks to Big Guy she never got to explain.
  • Telescoping Robot: You could maybe, maybe realistically fit all the weapons that come out of Big Guy in there, but not if you still want to have space for working motors and such. Or maybe more than a couple of rounds of ammunition.
    • This is lampshaded (kinda) by a Legion Ex Machina version of Big Guy, who, after learning the big secret, notes that the inclusion of a cockpit means the Big Guy doesn't have a Wave Motion Gun built in the chest...like he does.
  • Three-Laws Compliant: Averted with most of the robots and A.I.s unless they have Human Emotion Grid which seems to act as an Morality Chip. This is even subverted with the Legion Ex Machina whose unstable emotion grids cause at least two members to have complete psychotic breakdowns.
  • Timeline-Altering MacGuffin: When BGY-11 was accidentally sent to the past, it was found by English soldiers who learned how to control it. They renamed it "Iron Jack" and used it to stop The American Revolution. Because nobody knew everything needed for its maintenance, it eventually blew up but the damage was done. As a result of this, nobody developed BGY-11 or anything else that could have stopped the alien invasion BGY-11 did at the beginning of the series in the original timeline. Dwayne Hunter and Rusty then had to travel back in time to recover it and set history right.
  • Time Travel: The basis of the plot in one episode.
  • Trying to Catch Me Fighting Dirty: Quite a few antagonists do this during the series. Edie, Dr. Neugog, and even Pierre. The crown has to go to Po, The Obliterator. His hat is going to populated planets, force their mightiest champion to fight him in an "honorable" duel, or he simply destroys the planet "for laughs." Once the fight begins, he just keeps trolling his opponent by playing one dirty trick after another until his opponent's worn down, and then renders him unconscious to take as a trophy to constantly mock in People Jars. When Big Guy had the opportunity for a rematch, which many of Po's other victims did not get, he showed Po exactly how it feels on the receiving end. He was even prepared in case Po decided not to honor the terms of the agreement and leave quietly.
  • Twice Shy: Slate and Lt. Hunter
  • Unskilled, but Strong: Rusty actually has more power and toughness than Big Guy but lacks the skill to use his arsenal well.
  • Wham Line: In the finale of the series, the creator of the Legion Ex Machina and Big Guy, Poindexter, is told that all six members of the Legion are defeated. His response:
    "But... I created seven."
  • You Are Number 6: The robots of the Legion Ex Machina are only known by numbers.
    • Technically all the robots have model number names (e.g. BGY-11, EP-327, ARG-12) but are typically referred to by their nicknames (Big Guy, Earl, Argo, respectively).
  • Your Brain Won't Be Much of a Meal: About Donovan after Pierre uses the telepathy dynamo:
    I'm hungry...very hungry... but I crave nutrition, not empty calories.
    • This was pointed out when Neugog was going to feed on Donovan as well but he planned on doing anyway simply because he didn't like him

Alternative Title(s): The Big Guy And Rusty The Boy Robot

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/WesternAnimation/BigGuyAndRustyTheBoyRobot