Monday, September 28, 2020

R.I.P. Ron Cobb

R.I.P. Ron Cobb, who died last week at age 83. 

Cobb was a production designer and conceptual artist on many of the most important and popular sci-fi and fantasy films of the past forty years. You may not recognize his name, but you've definitely seen his work on the big screen. 

I've been a fan of Cobb's work for decades, and have spent hours devouring and studying his designs. He had a real knack for drawing bizarre creatures, but his true talent was in designing spaceships, robots and futuristic tech. Somehow his imaginary hardware looked both outlandish and believable at the same time. He taught me more than a lifetime of art classes ever could. To say he's inspired me would be an understatement, as his work has been a huge influence on mine. I'll never be a thousandth as good as he was, but that won't stop me from trying!

Born in LA in 1937, Cobb landed a job at Disney Studios in Burbank when he was just eighteen. He worked on Disney's Sleeping Beauty, leaving shortly afterward to serve in the Vietnam War. After his service, he tried his hand at a series of political cartoons for the Los Angeles Free Press and Mother Earth News.

In 1974 he worked as a designer and special effects technician on the low budget sci-fi film Dark Star. In 1977 he went on to design several alien denizens of the Cantina in Star Wars-- a move which cemented his career as a production designer. 

He also designed the ecology symbol, that was used on a flag seen in the 1970s.

Cobb's work can be seen in such films as Dark Star, Star Wars, ALIEN, Raiders Of The Lost Ark, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, Conan The Barbarian, The Last Starfighter, My Science Project, Back To The Future, Robot Jox, ALIENS, The Running Man, Leviathan, The Abyss, Total Recall, True Lies, The Rocketeer, Space Truckers, Titan A.E., Timeline, The 6th Day, Firefly, District 9 and John Carter.

Here's a look at just some of Ron Cobb's amazing body of work:

Ecology Symbol: Cobb designed the Ecology logo by combinging the letters E and O, which stood for "environment" and "organism." Later on the symbol was incorporated into the green-striped Ecology Flag, which should be familiar to anyone who grew up in the 1970s.

Dark Star: Cobb designed the eponymous ship seen in the film.

Star Wars: Cobb designed several of the alien patrons of the Cantina bar, including Hammerhead (the top one), who became one of the most popular characters in the whole sequence.

ALIEN: Cobb most definitely made his mark on this film. He designed the iconic Nostromo cargo ship.

As well as various storyboards and color studies.

He designed the interiors of the ship as well.

Along with various shuttles and escape pods (some of which were used in the final film, some not).

Conan: Cobb seemed to work on quite a few of Schwarzenegger's films. Here we see his poster, icon and costume designs for Arnold's sword & sorcery opus.

The Last Starfighter: One of my all-time favorites, Cobb designed the many alien races seen in the film.

As well as the spaceships, including the Gunstar.

Back To The Future: Cobb took the existing DeLorean car and modified the exterior and interior into a time machine.

Robotjox: A guilty pleasure of mine, Cobb came up with all the mechs seen in the low-budget sci-fi action film.

ALIENS: As he did in the original, Cobb designed the various vehicles and hardware for the riveting sequel.

The Running Man: Another Arnold film! Cobb came up with the movie's many outlandish armors.

Total Recall: Yet another Arnold actioner! Cobb designed the vehicles and hardware for the mind-altering opus.

R.I.P. Ron Cobb! I'm really gonna miss his work.

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