Tin Can Robot

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
There was a time when this sort of thing was taken seriously.

The opposite of Ridiculously Human Robot and Robot Girl — this is a robot designed with function over form in mind. It's in technically humanoid form, but generally looks like a trashcan or boiler on legs, sometimes (but not always) with a head of a greater or lesser similarity to that of a human. This robot is usually not painted and it's often possible to easily see screw heads holding it together. Bonus points if the robot's arms are made of flexi-tube with pincers at the end.

Nowadays usually done to make the 'bot look amateur-made or old-fashioned, but in older Zeerust works it was often played straight.

Compare Used Future, Real Robot. See also Forgot He Was a Robot for when this robot starts acting like a Ridiculously Human Robot.

Examples of Tin Can Robot include:

Anime and Manga

Comic Books

  • Spider-Man once had to deal with the robot XP-2000, who was really obsolete compared to androids like The Vision and Ultron.
    • Keep in mind that Ultron was designed in the 1970s, and Vision was built by Ultron. This says a lot about XP-2000 being designed obsolete. The original Ultron design was actually pretty in-line with this aesthetic, though.
  • "Magnus Robot Fighter: 4000 AD" by Gold Key Comics had a future lousy with robot servants, almost all of them of the tin-can-humanoid variety, generally with flexi-tube or armored-cable limbs.
  • The lumbering warbots of Ashley Wood's World War Robot fit this trope to a T.
  • Tin Can Tommy from The Beano doesn't only fit this trope but has a name to match.

Film - Animated

Film - Live-Action


"Uh oh -- an enraged water heater!"


Live-Action TV

Newspaper Comics

  • The robots in Brewster Rocket frequently fit this trope, especially Oldbot and the Killbots.

Tabletop Games

  • Paranoia: Jackobots (from "jack of all trades") are intended to be able to do the same physical things as humans, so they're basically humanoid in size and shape, but clearly mechanical. Other bots range from sorta humanoid (docbots, scrubots) to Sapient Ships (warbots, flybots).
  • Combat, Janitorial and Animal Care robots in the Classic Traveller adventure Research Station Gamma.
  • The Orks in Warhammer 40,000 have Mini-Mecha (with an Ork welded inside) aptly known as Killa Kanz. Their Humongous Mecha are built to a similar design.

Video Games

  • Robots from Machinarium are very much like that, especially the main character.
  • Malco, one of the control room guardians from Cave Story, is one.
  • The Atlas drones from the Secret Armory of General Knoxx DLC in Borderlands.
  • The Robobrains from Fallout fit most of the bill, except for having tank treads instead of legs, while the Protectron models look suspiciously like Robbie the Robot from Forbidden Planet.
  • Cronk and Zephyr, elderly Warbots who first appear in Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction
  • Total Annihilation has a model of robot which is actually called "The Can". It's pretty much a big metal box on legs, with a turret on top.
  • The Gearmos in the Super Mario Galaxy games.
  • The final boss in Balloon Kid for the Game Boy is this kind of robot.
  • Super Robot Thursday from Disgaea fits this trope, as he, Captain Gordon, and Jennifer are parodies of early science fiction series.
  • Oddworld's "Greeters" are a very literal version of the laconic, and resemble nothing so much as "a hot water heater on a unicycle." They're also the in-universe Stepford Smilers.

Visual Novels

Web Comics

Web Original

  • Homestar Runner: The Cheat Bot is not a real robot, but would be a perfect example if he were.
  • The Garbageman, a Gadgeteer Genius from the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, guarded his lair with robots that looked like they were thrown together from old car parts, some galvanized steel garbage cans, and a lawn mower or two. They looked like that because they were thrown together from old car parts, some galvanized steel garbage cans, and a lawn mower or two. More dangerous than they sounded.
  • While he's more box-like than can, Pollo from Atop the Fourth Wall definitely evokes this trope.

Western Animation

  • Transformers Animated has literal Trashcan Robots.
  • Bender from Futurama is a perfect caricature of a 1950s-style movie-robot, with a tin-can body, flexi-hose arms and legs, a typical robot head, and eyes clearly lifted from Crow T. Robot. Some of the side characters are Tin Can Robots as well.
    • Fry encounters an actual trash can who also happens to be a self-aware robot.
  • There are several robots in the Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies series like this — for instance, in "Robot Rabbit" and "Lighter Than Hare". (In the latter, Bugs Bunny even uses the robot as a trash can.)
  • Rosie the robot maid from The Jetsons. (There was also a male robot called Mac, made by Henry, the building janitor.)
  • The Master Cylinder, from Felix the Cat.
  • The Underdog short "March of the Monsters" had these, but it was never stated who the robots' master was.
  • The Fleischer Superman series featured "The Mechanical Monsters", used by the inventor for a series of robberies.
  • In an episode of The Simpsons, Homer builds one of these for Bart to enter in a Robot Wars-style TV show. Justified in that Homer was secretly working it from inside, having realized he had not the faintest idea how to actually build a robot. When it doesn't work, he instead wears it like armor and pretends to be a robot.
  • XJ-8 from My Life as a Teenage Robot. In comparison, her predecessors are mostly Starfish Robots, and her successor is a more streamlined FemBot.