Ron's Gone Wrong (film) (2021)

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Ron's Gone Wrong is first animated feature film released in 2021, which was directed by Sarah Smithand Jean-Philippe Vine, and it was co-directed by Octavio E. Rodriguez. In addition, it was produced by Julie Lockhart and Lara Breay, and written by Peter Baynham and Smith.[1]

This film mainly tells the story of a companion AI robot, Ron, who with some defects becomes the protagonist Barney’s “best friend”. In the process of getting along with each other, Ron's hilarious glitch takes them on an action-packed journey in which boys and robots embrace the beauty and chaos of real friendships, and they gradually formed a deep friendship, but the robot company wanted to destroy Ron.


The story of this movie takes place in the future not far from the present. With the continuous progress of human science and technology, artificial intelligence swept the world, and it was inseparable from people’s lives at that time. The protagonist is a middle school student with social disabilities, named Barney. And Ron is his brand-new AI partner robot for walking, communication and digital connections.


At a product launch, a technology company showed off to everyone its newly developed robot “B-bot”. “B-bot” not only has complete functions and meets various needs in people's daily life, but also becomes a good friend who knows children best through algorithm analysis and gives children complete companionship throughout the year. Sure enough, the cross-era invention “B-bot” in Ron's Gone Wrong was welcomed by people and quickly became an indispensable daily necessity in children's lives as soon as it was launched. However, the 12-year-old protagonist Barney is a minority exception, the only child in the school who does not have a “B-bot” robot. For this reason, he often feels lost. Because his family is not rich, whenever students use their “B-bot” to play social games between classes, Barney can only see classmates having fun and feel lonely and envious at the same time.

Barney is a middle school student with social disabilities who always stands on the edge of the school with social fear. On Barney’s 12th birthday, he failed to send the party invitations he had prepared in advance to his classmates and was even ridiculed and bullied by his classmates because he did not have a “B-bot”. However, he finally got his wish on his birthday and got a “B-bot” robot named “Ron” with great expectations. Unlike Barney’s initial expectations, this gift did not immediately make him happy and satisfied. Instead, Barney was dumbfounded by a series of out-of-order acts, because the “B-bot” given to him by Barney's father was a defective product thrown to the ground in the process of transportation, and this series of events changed the life of Barney.

In the process of getting along and getting to know each other, Ron would rather run out of all its batteries and risk being destroyed when he returns to the city to try to move the hungry and cold Barney back to the city. Ron remembers that Barney is afraid of the dark and cannot fall asleep without lights, so Ron shines by himself when the electricity goes out at home. If the normal “B-bots” are smartphones with high configuration, then the special Ron is equivalent to the artificial intelligence created by Barney from beginning to end. And it will constantly learn from Barney’s every reaction and activities. Ron does not need to obey Barney, just like friendships between human beings. After Ron was recaptured by the company, Barney and his family launched a rescue plan for Ron. And at the end of the story, Ron’s ontology disappeared for greater benefit, but it also inputted Ron’s friendship code and consciousness into the whole network. Barney and Ron’s interaction makes every child who grows up feeling empathy for every child who feels “less so social”. In particular, the two of them had an experience in the woods as two people making enemies of the world, hiding in a hidden corner and supporting each other.


Jack Dylan Grazer as Barney Pudowski, the male protagonist in the film.

Zach Galifianakis as Ron, Barney's "B-bot".

Ed Helms as Graham Pudowski, Barney's father.

Olivia Colman as Donka Pudowski, Barney's grandmother.

Rob Delaney as Andrew Morris, the COO of the Bubble company.

Justice Smith as Marc Wydell, the creator of the B-bot and the CEO of the Bubble company.


During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the production of this film was finished remotely by crews working from home for digital modeling, rigging, animation, and lighting. And then editors need to assemble the remote work with temporarily out-of-sync audio, which is not easy and convenient to do remotely. Moreover, voice actors could not do the recording as usual, which means they have to eliminate any factor that might cause the network to be unstable at home. And these works have affected their families' normal life.[4]

This film went from Paramount to Fox, which was in turn bought by Disney. And the process of this transition has experienced some difficulties related to two start-ups working together as one production company, which took five years to complete the whole process. In the whole film, the color brightness of the animation picture is changed according to the emotion of the protagonists. In particular, the pictures of Ron and Barney's experiences in the forest cost the staff a lot of time and energy. Production Designer Aurélien Predal spent two days in Eugene, Oregon, taking reference photos for the city of Nonsuch.[5]


Year Award Category Nominees and recipients Result
2022 49th Annie Awards Annie Award for Outstanding Achievement for Character Design in a Feature Production Julien Bizat pending
Annie Award for Outstanding Achievement for Production Design in an Animated Feature Production Aurélien Predal, Till Nowak and Nathan Crowley pending

Ethical Issues


Nowadays, in the Internet era, although information flows rapidly and information transmission becomes more convenient, many people are fascinated by social media, and their lives are completely occupied by technological products, thus losing some important insights. In fact, the “B-bot” in the movie is like the smartphone or other high-tech products that we can't live without now. People use it for socializing, entertaining, and streaming. But in the film, as a technological product born for lonely people, the emergence of the “B-bot” has contributed to more serious small circles and more false social presentation. Although its complete function can bring more convenience to people’s lives, many problems behind it cannot be ignored. Moreover, the robot can also be used as a means of monitoring and easily be manipulated by people because it obtains all kinds of private data. Obviously, the “B-bot” robot is the prototype of the mobile phone in people’s current life. Everyone is a phubber that only plays with mobile phones, and there is less and less real face-to-face communication. This film shows an ethical and realistic issue of the relationship between human beings and high-tech equipment, and the right way to people get along with these technologies. It is really worth thinking about how to avoid people being addicted to social networks and ignoring communication between people.

Human Relationships with Artificial Intelligence

The core code of the “B-bot” robot is actually to analyze users who have the same hobbies as them by reading users’ applications, contacts, photos, chat records, and other data, and then recommend them to become friends. The operation of profiling people and users through data is no secret in today’s Internet companies. Many enterprises even call it to better serve customer service, but their real purpose is to collect users’ information and analyze everyone’s preferences, so as to sell their products better and make more profits. “Facebook came out on top as collecting the most data, including Facebook Messenger and Instagram, which Facebook also owns. The study found Paypal, Amazon, Doordash, Linkedin, Tik Tok and YouTube were all near the top of the data collection list.”[7] User’s personal information is collected and sold to other companies by many internet companies nowadays, and all this data could be used to form a profile about everyone.[7]

Although all kinds of scientific and technological products are the manifestation of high efficiency, because they are fast and convenient in information exchange and transmission, the problem of intimacy (closeness and alienation) between interpersonal relationships and people’s inner emotions is not about efficiency. The way of communication on the Internet is unitary, while human feelings or emotions are rich, complex, and three-dimensional. Obviously, this single communication mode of the smartphones is far from meeting the needs of human communication. For example, when people are physically and mentally exhausted, a hug or just quiet companionship can relieve their stress. However, smartphones cannot meet this requirement. On the contrary, a phone call or a text message may make people more disappointed and lonely at that moment. Scientific and technological products are just a tool invented by human beings, and it does provide convenience for human long-distance communication, but people cannot rely on mobile phones. From the impact of mobile phones on people in recent years, it not only does not make people close, but alienates the distance between people.

The Impact of High-tech Intelligence on Human Beings

“B-bot”, an artificial intelligence robot, is the most eye-catching selling point of Ron's Gone Wrong. With its cylindrical shape and petite body, it is easy to create a pleasing and affinity positive image for children. Moreover, it can repeatedly change the painting and color of the robot itself to further show creativity at the artistic level. In terms of functionality, “B-bot” robots can be said to be based on the robot body, while combining smartphones, toys, artificial intelligence, social media, transportation, and many other contemporary scientific and technological elements. Therefore, it can be called quite diverse in terms of functional orientation.

The times is changing, and the speed of scientific and technological innovation is unimaginable. In such a rapidly changing era, smartphones were like a magical thing in the old days, just like the emergence of “B-bot” in the film. With the development of technology, they are becoming more and more intelligent. However, more and more people have become phubber, and communication between people is completely dependent on smartphones. Whether it is a party or some other activity, everyone has high-tech products to play games, browse websites, and chat, but no one communicates face-to-face. Research has shown that phubbing can affect relationships negatively, because phubber are more likely to experience depression and lower marital satisfaction. In real life, there are many children who come home and start staring at their mobile phones to chat and watch videos, but they do not talk to their parents about their studies or work. Sometimes, when a few friends eat in a restaurant outside, there is also little communication between friends. Recently, a study found that people who used their phones while eating with friends or family said they enjoyed their meal less and felt more distracted and less engaged than those who didn’t use tech at the table.[9]

In fact, the most fundamental reason for mobile phones is to enhance communication between people, which can make the connections between people more convenient and fast. However, now more and more people have become phubbers, that is, holding the mobile phone every day and never leaving the mobile phone for a moment. “Mobile device disproportionately victimizes lonely people.”[10] From the initial communication tool of making phone calls to the current online game, shopping, and camera, mobile phones have reached the point of omnipotence, and more and more people are addicted to smartphones. The first thing in the morning for phubbers is to look at their phone. After turning off the light at night, they still hold their phone in their hand. In addition to the time of sleep, the mobile phone will not leave their hand every day whether eating or attending a party, because they are playing with their phone all the time. According to a report in 2018, “44 percent of teens said they often check their devices for messages or notifications as soon as they wake up, 54 percent said they spend too much time on their mobile phone, and 42 percent feel anxiety when they do not have it.” [10] Even we can see many people playing with their mobile phones on the road, which also has a lot of danger. Based on a statistical result from the firm CompareCamp, 26 percent of car accidents in the U.S. today are due to the use of smartphones while driving. More and more people are suffering from mobile phone addiction. Among the signs of addiction is feeling anxious and depressed without their phone. As soon as the mobile phone rings, they will check their mobile phone immediately. When they hear the mobile phone ring, they will consciously take out their mobile phone. All these behaviors have widened the “distance” between people. Moreover, the message or e-mail transmitted through a mobile phone could be reproducible. A text message can be forwarded to many people, but emotion cannot be copied and forwarded like messages sent through social media.[10]

Double-edged Perspective of High-tech Intelligence

In this film, Ron is Barney’s new walking, communication, and digital connection equipment. Ron is Barney's “best friend out of the box”. In an era full of the context of social media, Ron’s hilarious glitch brought them into an action-packed journey, in which a boy and a robot embraced the beauty and chaos of real friendship. Some children lose real communication and interaction because “B-bot” has only one friend invitation and love. The distance and relationship between them are gradually alienated, and people’s hearts become more lonely and empty. Therefore, Ron, as a robot recognized as a defective product, can have a real friendship with Barney. It is also more valuable in an era when everyone is constrained by scientific and technological products. Because the real emotional connection is complex and intertwined, it cannot be explained by simple technological algorithms.

Ron and Barney, two people who are not recognized by the world, met in an accident and experienced an adventure to subvert their original life together. Although there were quarrels and conflicts along the way and caused many disasters, Barney went to the cloud of “B-bot” company’s headquarters to retrieve the erasure of Ron’s memory. In the process of mutual support, they find their self-worth and understand the true meaning of friendship. A social phobia boy and factory defective robot showed other normal people what friendship is. Friendship is not a “like” or message on a social network, but staying together and liking each other. It is “You chose me and I chose you.” The robot needs electricity to keep running, but he would rather run out of all its electricity than save his friend from the mountains. In the end, the film did not destroy the “B-bot” robots’ company, but through the moving and touching separation of Barney and Ron, it evokes the audience's emotions while examining reality, and really provides solutions to the problems that the double-edged sword of science and technology may bring about at present. To some extent, this is quite worthy of our consideration.


All in all, this is a story about two “marginalized people” who overcome lots of difficulties to become friends. Of course, the loners who are not good at a social life are the most likely to resonate. Barney is often isolated and rejected, so he is no longer willing to take the initiative to get along with others. Many young people have similar feelings nowadays. In the film, the broken robot Ron has no normal program. Ron always breaks the rules of the program, and is a free “individual”, but he can still communicate with Barney. They gradually began to learn how to become friends, which made Barney realize real friendship.

The “B-bot” robot allows people to see how young people are gradually lost in the virtual world under the influence of technology. People are too concerned about fame and attention nowadays. At the same time, they become depressed because of bullying and frustration on the Internet. According to Yang et al.(2019), mobile phone addiction was positively associated with adolescents’ anxiety and depression. With lower levels of mindfulness, adolescents are more likely to be affected by anxiety and depression. It is because the relationships between mobile phone addiction and both anxiety and depression were moderated by mindfulness.[12] And they will slowly lose themselves and the sincerity and happiness that children have in the end. To get along properly with technology and develop effective prevention and intervention strategies of technology addiction, Sun et al. (2020) suggest satisficing psychological needs and having positive peer relationships.[13]


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