Robby the robot: The unknown film legend - Tinkerbots

Robby the robot: The unknown film legend

Do you know Robby the robot? He is not as famous as George Clooney or Leonardo DiCaprio, but he starred in several Hollywood movies which makes him a real science fiction legend. Prior to this, Robby also appeared in pulp fiction like “The Fantastic Island” from 1935 and the short story “Robbie” by Isaac Asimov from 1940.

The first time Robby appeared on the silver screen was in the 1956 film “Forbidden Planet”. The science fiction classic is based on a play by William Shakespeare and was even an inspiration for Gene Roddenberry the creator of “Star Trek”. In the film, Robby serves a human family who lives on a foreign planet as a helper house robot and protector. The film studio MGM spend $125.000 building the robot, which would be around $1.000.000 today.

In reality, Robby was not a functional robot but a guy in a suite. After the success of “Forbidden Planet”, the suite which belonged to MGM at that time was also used in other productions like “The Invisible Boy” from 1957. Over the years, Robby appeared in many films and TV shows like “Lost in Space”, Mork & Mindy”, “Gremlins”, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”, “Columbo”, “The Simpsons”, “The Addams Family”, “Love Boat” and “The Big Bang Theory”. In some shows he had a supporting role and in other show he was only used as a prop in the background. Robby also starred in a couple of TV commercials for toilet paper and telecommunication providers.

Even though Robby did not win an Oscar or Golden Globe, he was introduced to the Robot Hall of Fame in 2004. It is a recognition for notable robots in various scientific fields and general society, as well as achievements in robotics technology. Other notable winners are R2-D2 and C-3PO from “Star Wars” and WALL-E. The original Robby costume is now part of the private collection of memorabilia from director William Malone. We are looking forward to seeing Robby return to the big screen someday.

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