Date
19 October 2017
A spraypainter puts the finishing touches to a replica Batmobile at Li Weilei's workshop in Shanghai. Photo: Reuters
A spraypainter puts the finishing touches to a replica Batmobile at Li Weilei's workshop in Shanghai. Photo: Reuters

Metalmorphosis: From Shanghai scrap to cinema sculpture

Whatever you do, don’t call them Transformers. The makers of a series of metal monoliths rising from a Shanghai workshop refer to them simply as robots lest they infringe the copyright of the blockbuster movies.

Set designer Li Weilei and his friends assemble the monsters in their spare time from leftover car parts, spending about two weeks to weld, buff and paint a three-meter tall model, Shanghai Daily reported Wednesday.

They cost about 20,000 yuan (US$3,250) to 30,000 yuan to make and are rented out for promotions at places like shopping malls and restaurants.  

Li said the models were never meant for commercial use and very few of their creations are rented out for exhibits.

It was at one promotion event near Hongqiao Airport that Li learned he could be on dangerous intellectual property ground. The film franchise’s producers warned him over infringement issues, something Li said he did not realize could be a problem.

“After we were warned, we removed the logos of the Transformers from our products and made some changes to models we made later,” Shanghai Daily quoted Li as saying.

“We don’t call them Transformers. Instead, we call them robots.”

That’s a bit like referring to the replica Batmobiles that he builds as black cars. Li’s yard has churned a dozen of the vehicles modeled on the Dark Knight’s wheels. The Batmobiles take about two months to make are different from the real cinematic deal in one essential way — they don’t have an engine.

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Li Weilei’s robots size up their creator. Photo: Shanghai Daily


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