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Evinrude motors into Hollywood

Animators for the movie “Robots” based the lead character on a 1950s outboard

Animators for the movie “Robots” based the lead character on a 1950s outboard

Talk about staying power. It turns out a 1950s Evinrude outboard stars in a hit children’s film that opened earlier this year.

Rodney Copperbottom, a young inventor who dreams of helping his fellow robots, is the main character in the computer-animated movie “Robots” ( Director Chris Wedge modeled the protagonist on a 1957 Evinrude Fastwin 18-hp outboard owned by his grand-father, according to published reports.

“Rodney is inspired by an Evinrude outboard motor that my grandfather had on the back of a boat that we used all summer when I was a kid,” Wedge, a founder of Twentieth Century Fox computer-animation division Blue Sky Studios and its creative director, told an interviewer. “I have that in my office now, and I showed it to the modelers and said, ‘This is Rodney, guys; let’s make him out of this.’ He’s just kind of a sturdy, good-looking outboard motor … never complained, always started. That’s what I thought he would be.”

The Fastwin 18 was an alternate-firing two-cylinder outboard with a displacement of 22 cubic inches. It was introduced as a 15-hp model in 1953 and was redesigned as part of Evinrude and Johnson’s “superquiet” line in 1955, according to BRP, which now owns Evinrude and Johnson. The superquiet models had isolation mountings, air intake silencers, and sealed powerhead covers to reduce noise and vibration.

In 1957 the 15-hp Fastwin was bumped up to 18 hp. This Fastwin stayed in Evinrude’s lineup, with minor revisions, until 1969, a model life of 16 years.

“I kept thinking, That thing looks great — trustworthy, loyal, brave, friendly,” Wedge told Newsweek. “So Rodney is that motor with a little bit of Volkswagen minibus thrown in.”

Like Rodney, the other characters in the movie also were drawn from motors, machines and various mechanical gizmos. All it takes is a little imagination.