Ronald Ray Cobb
September 21, 1937
|Died||September 21, 2020 (aged 83)|
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Ronald Ray Cobb (September 21, 1937 – September 21, 2020) was an American-Australian cartoonist, artist, and film designer, who worked on numerous major films including Dark Star (1974), Star Wars (1977), Alien (1979), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Conan the Barbarian (1982), Back to the Future (1985), The Abyss (1989), and Total Recall (1990). He had one credit as director, for the 1992 film Garbo.
By the age of 18, with no formal training in graphic illustration, Cobb was working as an animation "inbetweener" artist for Disney Studios in Burbank, California. He progressed to becoming a breakdown artist on the animation feature Sleeping Beauty (1959). It was the last Disney film to have cels inked by hand.
After Sleeping Beauty was completed in 1957, Cobb was laid off by Disney. He spent the next three years in various jobs — mail carrier, assembler in a door factory, sign painter's assistant — until he was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1960. For the next two years he delivered classified documents around San Francisco, then signed up for an extra year to avoid assignment to the infantry. He was sent to Vietnam in 1963 as a draughtsman for the Signal Corps. On his discharge, Cobb began freelancing as an artist. He began to contribute to the Los Angeles Free Press in 1965.
Edited and published by Art Kunkin, the Los Angeles Free Press was one of the first of the underground newspapers of the 1960s, noted for its radical politics. Cobb's editorial/political cartoons were a celebrated feature of the Freep, and appeared regularly throughout member newspapers of the Underground Press Syndicate. However, although he was regarded as one of the finest political cartoonists of the mid-1960s to early 1970s, Cobb made very little money from the cartoons and was always looking for work elsewhere. His cartoons were featured in the back to the land magazine "The Mother Earth News."
His cartoons from the 1960s and 1970s are collected in RCD-25 (1967) and Mah Fellow Americans (1968) (both Sawyer Press), and Raw Sewage (1971) and My Fellow Americans (1971) (both Price Stern and Sloan). None of these volumes remains in print.
In 1972, Cobb moved to Sydney, Australia, where his work appeared in alternative magazines such as The Digger. Independent publishers Wild & Woolley published a "best of" collection of the earlier cartoon books, The Cobb Book in 1975. A follow-up volume, Cobb Again, appeared in 1978.
Cobb returned to cinema work when he worked with Dan O'Bannon to design the eponymous spaceship for the 1973 cult film, Dark Star (he drew the original design for the exterior of the Dark Star spaceship on a Pancake House napkin). After contributing designs for Alejandro Jodorowsky's uncompleted film adaption of Frank Herbert's novel Dune, Cobb was engaged by Lucasfilm to produce conceptual artwork for the space fantasy film Star Wars (1977). Working alongside artists John Mollo and Ralph McQuarrie, he created the designs for a number of exotic alien creatures for the Mos Eisley cantina scene.
In 1981, Colorvision, a large-format, full-colour monograph appeared, including much of his design work for the films Star Wars (1977), Alien (1979), and Conan the Barbarian (1982), the first feature for which he received the credit of Production Designer. Cobb has also contributed production design to the films The Last Starfighter (1984), Leviathan (1989), Total Recall (1990) (and also appeared in the film in a brief cameo), True Lies (1994), The Sixth Day (2000), Cats & Dogs (2001), Southland Tales (2006), and the Australian feature Garbo, which he directed.
Cobb contributed the initial story for Night Skies, an earlier, darker version of E.T.. Steven Spielberg offered him the opportunity to direct this scarier sequel to Close Encounters of the Third Kind until problems arose over special effects that required a major rewrite. While Cobb was in Spain working on Conan the Barbarian, Spielberg supervised the rewrite into the more personal E.T. and ended up directing it himself. Cobb later received some net profit participation.
During the early 1990s, Cobb worked with Rocket Science Games. His designs can be seen most notably in Loadstar: The Legend of Tully Bodine (1994) and The Space Bar (1997), in which he designed all the characters.
Among the most famous film props signed by Cobb are two of the swords he designed for the 1982 film Conan the Barbarian (the "Father's Sword" and the "Atlantean Sword"). Cobb's original drawings of the swords are nowadays used, in cinema merchandising, to mass-produce and sell replicas. He died on his 83rd birthday, September 21, 2020, from complications of Lewy body dementia.
- Fortin, Jacey (September 23, 2020). "Ron Cobb, a Pioneer in Science Fiction Design, Dies at 83". The New York Times. Retrieved September 23, 2020.
- "Ron Cobb - Filmography". roncobb.net. Retrieved 24 September 2020.
- Fortin, Jacey (23 September 2020). "Ron Cobb, a Pioneer in Science Fiction Design, Dies at 83". The New York Times.
- Ron Cobb (I) – Filmography by type
- The Space Bar for Windows – MobyGames
- "Heroic Swords!" (this article, from the specialised website The Barbarian Keep, shows Cobb's original full-scale drawings for the sword makers to use as blueprints)
- Bartlett, Rhett; Parker, Ryan (21 September 2020). "Ron Cobb, Designer of the 'Alien' Ship and the 'Back to the Future' DeLorean, Dies at 83 | Hollywood Reporter". www.hollywoodreporter.com. Retrieved 21 September 2020.