Ron Cobb – Filmography
If you like this sort of thing I highly suggest checking out Light and Magic, which is a documentary by Lawrence Kasdan about the history of ILM. In specific, startup fans will appreciate the early days of the company. Just an insane rise of an industry in such a short period of time. It gave me a lot more respect for Lucas, who seemed less a Director, and more a powerhouse visionary of technology.
Lucas started digital effects with the original SW trilogy, changing the industry.
He then started digital capture and exhibition in the prequel SW trilogy, changing the industry.
He also built his own studio (Lucasfilm) which was the dream of all the 1970s New Hollywood filmmakers. He did it by himself, on the basis of pretty much original IP.
George Lucas is absolutely a visionary.
Also, folks may not realize that EditDroid used LaserDiscs, making it a "computerized analog NLE system".
All of this and more is covered in DroidMaker , a book that covers Lucas' contributions to film and film technology. Star Wars may have had a huge impact, but it's clear that those contributions are dwarfed by his work on the digital and tech side of the industry. He not only started (what became) Pixar, but he completely revolutionized film editing moving it into the digital age.
I know I am at the risk of being stormed by down votes but I loved Lucas until he added more than 3 episodes to SW. In the prequels it seems like unprofessional people put all that clones using copy & paste. I asked myself why he didn't choose another director / writer? IMHO the best movie in the trilogy is The Empire Strikes Back directed by Irvin Kershner.
With all due respect with Lucas filming technology and endeavours.
I guess you're referring to these shots: https://youtu.be/fsmvJTHlMrc?si=e_hidKPzsbsSG8Y0&t=124. The closeups from 2:04 to 2:11 could look better, but the long shots that come after look fine to me — it's all the same guy in the same uniform, how different are they supposed to look? At 2:22 you can even see they made the clone troopers not line up perfectly straight — not sure if this is actually more realistic, but I imagine realism is why they did it.
As for directing, evidently he did approach a few directors initially. They all said he should do it himself. After his picks turned him down, he surely didn't want to let just anybody direct it, so maybe that's why he decided to do it. From wikipedia:
In November 2015, Ron Howard confirmed that he, Robert Zemeckis, and Steven Spielberg were approached by Lucas to direct The Phantom Menace. All three approached directors told Lucas that he should direct the film, as they each found the project "too daunting."
He died in 2020, the website stands as a tribute. I had no idea he did this kind of design work, knew the cartoon style but hadn't picked up on it's influence in set design.
I collect things related to Sega CD and one day I came across a set of press CDs from Rocket Science games along with some other Rocket Science swag. Several years later I was scanning the disc and covers and noticed that Ron had written “Heads Up! Ron Cobb” on the CD liner for an alpha build of Loadstar: The Legend of Tully Bodine.
He had been one of the early employees of Rocket Science, whose goal was to being Hollywood quality movie experiences to console games. Several of his designs from Space Truckers were brought in for vehicle design and I believe he wrote the story.
It’s become one of my favorite bits in that collection.
Throughout my research I also came across Elon Musk being an early contractor there who wrote their video compression algorithm for the PC versions.
Ron Cobb, Syd Mead, Joe Johnston. Amazing artists, designers, futurists. They stayed just close enough to plausibility and realism to sell their visions of other or future worlds. Along with the visual look of "2001: A Space Odyssey", this was the "visual code" that shaped and informed me.
I've watched "Robot Jox" countless times for its MST3K/RiffTrax vibe; I always really enjoyed the general world and the mech designs and now I know why. It's amazing to see it nestled between these sci-fi touchstones. I'd highly recommend watching it once if you're ok with (or love!) "bad" movies.
His book "Colorvision" is a rich and wonderful book of design. I spent so many hours flipping through it.
Funny how there's a large gap between the first job and second between age 19 and 37. Most of the list is after 37. Makes you think that the best years of your life for some people doesn't come after your 40s.
Reminds me of how Samuel L. Jackson was a no-name actor until starring in Pulp Fiction at 46.
And the Robert Moses biography fills up his life up to age 40 within only the first chapter.
He was in Do the Right Thing and Jungle Fever, two of the most talked-about films in urban America in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Wikipedia claims that his role in the latter film even drew attention at Cannes, so he wasn’t entirely no-name, even if Pulp Fiction made him a big star.
Friend of my father. Here's the thing most people don't get about Ron. I saw the literal blueprints for the Gun Star from The Last Starfighter on his drawing board when I was 8. He didn't just draw vehicles. He figured out entirely how they worked and had INTERNAL diagrams as well as external. He had an understanding of engineering that made his designs highly practical and realistic. Amazing talent. RIP.
Just last night I was lying in bed and thinking about a scene from Total Recall, towards the end, when Quaid, after being forcibly shackled into the chair of the Rekall machine, uses the power of anger to rip himself free of the heavy metal brackets binding his arms to the chair, before brutally killing several lab tachnicians.
I was thinking "There is no way a mortal human could realistically rip one of those brackets off, they're way overbuilt" They should have designed those brackets to be plausibly destroyable by a large, angry man. It seemed like a plot weakness in an otherwise tightly designed film. I asked "Who was responsible for designing that chair?"
Sometimes you ask the universe a question, and the universe answers. Ron Cobb designed that chair.
The Star Fleet Technical Manuals were so cool as a kid. The Last Starfighter was an amazing movie and those ships were so cool.
Inspired a lot of kids like me to draw their own ships.
I've admired Ron's designs for a long time, especially his Conan and Alien work, and have to thank you for confirming what I sort-of wondered about.
Designing an object in a fantasy world does seem to resemble building a great character that 90% invisible to the audience.
Oh, it's the same guy who also made the cover to Jefferson Airplane's After Bathing at Baxter's! I didn't know this guy was also responsible for some iconic sci-fi and movie artwork.
It seems he was obsessed with cool vehicles. That cover art as well shows a hybrid between a WWI triplane and a San Francisco townhouse, flying over an American wasteland dropping confetti over it and probably blasting psychedelic music from its attached loudspeakers. Bathing at Baxter's was the group's code for taking LSD.
That's an amazing resume. Along with the pure sci-fi movie contributions, there were plenty of surprises like the laser system ("Crossbow") in Real Genius.
This one guy touched so many of the cult sf films of the 80s and 90s. Impressive to see his style woven throughout these movies.
Though, even with his design talent, Space Truckers was still a washout.