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Western Animation / Robot Dreams

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Robot Dreams is a silent 2023 Spanish animated film directed by Pablo Berger and based on the graphic novel of the same name written by Sara Varon.

The film is set in Manhattan, New York, during The '80s, and focuses on the friendship between a lonely dog and his robot buddy.

Contains examples of the following tropes:

  • The '80s: The film takes place during this time period, more specifically, around 1984-1985.
  • Accessory-Wearing Cartoon Animal: All Dog wears is a collar. Spoofed when he gets ready to leave the beach and removes his swim trunks behind his towel, only to drop the towel once he finishes removing it.
  • A Dog Named "Dog": Played straight and averted with some of the characters. On one hand, we have characters who's named after their species, such as Dog, Robot, Penguin, and Snowman, but on the other hand, later on in the movie, we have Rascal the Raccoon, Ed the Crocodile, and Tin the Robot.
  • Adaptation Relationship Overhaul: In the book, none of the baby birds have any particular connection with Robot.
  • Adaptation Species Change: The book features human characters, including Ed who becomes a crocodile in the movie. His pet dog becomes his crocodile son.
  • Adaptational Villainy: The anteaters in the book do not mistreat Dog the way they do in the movie.
  • Adapted Out: Duck's family.
  • And I Must Scream: Robot ends up paralyzed from rust due to going into the ocean. He spends months frozen in place, only able to move his head, buried and frozen in ice during the winter before ending up under the sand.
  • Artificial Limbs: Noticing Robot has only a functional leg, Rascal uses a vacuum cleaner's tube as a substitute during Robot's reconstruction. Later on, upon noticing on a flea market that a proper golden leg was on sale, he buys it and discharges the vacuum cleaner's tube.
  • Bare-Bottomed Monkey: Used for a quick gag during Dog and Robot's beach visit, where the monkey man running the hotdog stand can be seen scratching his big red behind with the same pair of tongs he uses to make the hotdogs.
  • Beachcombing: A monkey sneaks into the beach while it's closed to look for stuff using with a metal detector. He stumbles upon Robot, who's been completely covered by sand. The monkey takes him and sells him to a junkyard.
  • Big Damn Reunion: During the ending of the film, Robot notices Dog walking with Tin, and upon remembering his times with him, chases the duo until Dog notices him and embrace each other after one year of being apart from each other. However, this ends up being averted as it's revealed to be another one of Robot's dreams, and upon reflecting, Robot decides to play September one final time from the distance and move on with his new life alongside Rascal.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Robot and Dog never reunite after much heartache from their separation, but they both move onto happy new friendships.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Robot escapes the frame and turns it around in one fantasy.
  • Character Signature Song: The song "September" from Earth, Wind & Fire is this for both protagonists.
  • Company Cross References: One of the tenants in Dog's apartment complex is Chicken and Cat. "Chicken and Cat" is the name of another graphic novel also written by Sara Varon.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Robot is launched away by the alligator that bought him, resulting in his body violently being destroyed beyond repair and his surviving head detached and forced to shut down for good. He gets better.
  • Cut Phone Lines: During the night of the last day of summer, Dog tries to call for help with a nearby phone, only to find out that the lines of the beach phone were vandalized beyond repair.
  • Does Not Know His Own Strength: Robot's first attempt to hold Dog's hand painfully crushes it. Later, he does a spin on rollerskates but goes too fast and lifts Dog into the air. He gets better with this later.
  • Dream Sequence: Most of the film involves dream sequences from both protagonists, those being Played for Drama.
  • Eating Machine: The robots in this universe are able to eat food.
  • Flipping the Bird: Walking the streets of New York with Dog, Robot sees some punks flip him off, and innocently returns the gesture.
  • Forbidden Zone: When the summer season ends, nobody is allowed to enter neither Playland and the beach, much to Dog's dismay as he wants to save his robotic friend, with the first time trying to enter outside being kicked out by a gorilla guard and the second time being arrested for breaking in and cutting out the chains blocking the beach's access.
  • Good-Times Montage
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Dog is inspired to get Robot for his loneliness by looking at what could be a romantic couple in another apartment, but his relationship with Robot is entirely platonic.
  • Imprinting: The youngest chick of the mother bird instantly bonds with Robot upon hatching his egg.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: In the end, Robot sees Dog and wants to reunite with him, but acknowledges that they have both moved onto new friendships, so he decides to secretly play their song where Dog can hear to share one last moment together.
  • Kick the Dog: Rather than help Robot, the trio of rabbits cruelly destroy one of his legs, steal one of his toes to cover the boat's hole and leave him alone again.
  • May It Never Happen Again: Zigzagged. while Dog and Tin go to the same beach he went with Robot, he oils his new companion and forbids him to make contact with the salty water in order to not lose him.
  • Mime and Music-Only Cartoon: The movie has virtually no dialogue save for the times when the song "September" from Earth, Wind & Fire is played.
  • Mugshot Montage: Dog gets one of these after being arrested for trying to break inside the beach.
  • No Waterproofing in the Future: Double subverted. Robot at first doesn't seem to be affected by the water, and even has fun swimming and driving underwater. However, by the time it reaches afternoon, he finds out the hard way that he rusted himself and can't move anymore due to this.
  • Police Are Useless: The following day after the beach incident, Dog finds out that the beach is closed and tries to explain to a gorilla guard that his robot friend needs help, but he doesn't listen and forces Dog to get out. Said guard later arrest him when he tries to break inside at night.
  • Product Placement: Notably, this movie avoids pulling a Brand X and casually features several high-profile companies throughout the movie, such as MTV, Heinz, Nathan's Famous, and White Castle, among many others. Likely done for immersion's sake, rather than to promote any particular brand, as New York is known for being an advertising hotspot.
  • Robot Buddy: The central premise of the movie as robot companions are a commercial product.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Dog is often seen enjoying a bag of Cheetos while travelling.
  • Tragic Keepsake: Robot's destroyed leg becomes this to Dog, as he desperately tries to find him until he gets kicked out of the beach by the lifeguard after holing the whole beach in his futile attempt.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: In a bus ride to the beach, Robot spots another robot in a car, looking sad because it's being abused by the child of its owner. Dog is also denied any support to rescue Robot after the latter ends up paralyzed with rust on the beach.
  • We Can Rebuild Him: Rascal buys Robot's remaining functional pieces and upon learning robotic engineering, he manages to resurrect Robot and make him a new body by using an used giant radio.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: There are multiple spots where it seems like Robot managed to make it home or Dog found a happy new relationship while separated from him, only for the former to realize it's just a dream and the latter to have his hopes dashed when it doesn't last.
  • You Are Too Late: By the time June 1st comes, Dog is already too late to rescue his robotic friend as a scraper monkey managed to successfully sneak inside the beach and remove Robot from its insides without being noticed by the guards protecting the beach.