- "And joining Philippa in the pits is Marc Thorpe, the godfather and creator of Robot Wars to present the award."
- — Craig Charles
Marc Thorpe was a San Francisco-based electronics and model designer and engineer, and is best known for being the founder of Robot Wars in 1995. In the TV show, Marc Thorpe appeared in The Third Wars, handing the trophy to Team Razer at the end of the International League Championship, also shown in The First World Championship.
Creation of Robot Wars
- "Once I had the idea I set about finding ways to make a visual representation and I filed a trademark application. My biggest fear was that the trademark, the brand would not be recognized due to the conceptual stretch implied in the name. How do you define what a robot is or is not? I did not know if people would accept the characterization of what are essentially R/C vehicles as robots. As it is no one has challenged RW as misleading. I feel that people want this so much that they just disregard the issue. So I started to modify my tank putting scary, sinister looking devices etc on it. Literally just putting them on it. None of them worked. It was all for show. Next, I took photos, created rules and advertised. I took out adds in an art magazine and an R/C magazine. I was not prepared for what was about to happen."
- — Marc Thorpe on the concept of Robot Wars
Marc Thorpe is perhaps best known for being the founder of Robot Wars. The concept of Robot Wars was first thought of in 1992 as a new form of "gladiatorial event" using RC Robots to compete, with Marc Thorpe himself creating concept designs of what type of robots he wanted to appear, although they weren't functional. In early 1994, Thorpe sent a promotional package for the inaugural US Robot Wars event to Wired magazine; a few days later, the magazine contacted him, stating that they wanted to produce photographs and an article on the event. Realising that he did not have a functioning robot ready, Thorpe modified his tank further to incorporate a top-mounted chainsaw bought from a hardware store. Although the chainsaw was not functional, photographer Bill Zemenek was impressed with the robot; both the article and the accompanying photograph appeared in the February 1994 edition of Wired, the former written by Jef Raskin.
The success of this event lead to three further competitions taking place between 1995 and 1997. Approximately one month prior to the first event, Thorpe formed a partnership with New York-based record company Profile Records.
In 1995, Profile Records partnered with production company Mentorn to produce and televise a Robot Wars event in the UK. Mentorn acquired the worldwide television rights from Profile later that year, and Tom Gutteridge and Steve Carsey created the television format from the original Robot Wars concept.
Robot Wars on TV
Behind the scenes of Robot Wars: The First Wars, Marc Thorpe was present and was a consultant for Mentorn on the show, which resulted in the First Wars becoming a major success with over two million viewers and more episodes commissioned by the BBC.
Thorpe was later invited to appear for the filming of The First World Championship and International League Championship, both filmed during the Third Wars. He was personally responsible for giving Team Razer the trophy for their victories over Behemoth and Diotoir in each respective tournament. Before giving out the trophy, Thorpe was interviewed by Philippa Forrester about his thoughts on Razer.
- Philippa Forester: "Marc this must be quite a moment for you. Is this (Razer) a worthy first winner?"
- Marc Thorpe: "Oh yeah. I fell in love with Razer the first time I saw it and I always thought of Robot Wars as an art sport and this clearly demonstrates, you know, that. How that's clearly true"
- — Marc Thorpe's brief interview with Philippa Forrester
Thorpe handed the trophy to Team Razer and shook hands with the team as they celebrated their victories.
Outside Robot Wars
In 1974, Marc received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts for a year-long Dolphin Performance Project at Marineland in Florida. The project itself involved training two young female dolphins, called Betty and Eva, to swim sustained synchronous swimming patterns conceived as “behavioural sculpture.”
In 1979, Marc Thorpe had joined LucasFilm and continued to work there until 1994 as chief model maker/animatronic designer, creating special effects for feature films, including those in the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises, before moving towards inventing toys for LucasToys in the later part of his career. Thorpe's attempt to pitch a 'destructive vehicles'-themed toy line for them, 'Danger Zone', eventually inspired him to create and develop the concept of the original US Robot Wars events.
Marc Thorpe discussed the origins of Robot Wars in a video interview with Stephen McCulla, celebrating the twentieth anniversary of televised Robot Wars.
- Marc Thorpe expressed a strong dislike of BattleBots, the competing US counterpart to Robot Wars. After watching the show twice, he voiced negative opinions of how the show contained sexual innuendos, parodies of sports such as basketball and American football, and the forced nature to make the roboteers' unconventional behaviour more obvious.
- Thorpe was the inaugural member of the Robot Wars Club, having the membership number 000000.