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Robby the Robot first appeared on the screen in Forbidden Planet as the loyal servant of Dr. Morbius, and he made a big impact. Before him, other cinematic robots often looked clunky and as if they wouldn’t operate in real life. But that wasn't the case with Robby.
“I designed it so he could do practically anything and especially emphasized his strength,” said co-designer Robert Kinoshita.
Kinoshita used the team's initial concept ideas to create Robby out of Plexiglas, rubber, and plastic. The key to Robby is that he wasn’t actually a robot, but rather, a robotic-looking suit.
Anne Francis said, “Robby, of course, was the first robot I had ever seen, so I was curious about how he was put together. I found out that they had to have a rather short actor manipulate Robby from inside.”
In fact, stuntman Frankie Darro, who was five-three, and Frank Carpenter got to "operate" Robby from the inside. Marvin Miller (known for The Millionaire) provided the voice.
The seven-foot-tall suit cost approximately $125 thousand to make and weighed about 100 pounds. It was moveable because it broke into three parts: head, torso, and detachable legs.
Leslie Nielsen said, “Robby was totally acceptable immediately and also added so tremendously to the believability of everything you were watching and seeing.”
After Forbidden Planet, Robby appeared in The Invisible Boy as well as several television series, including Lost in Space, The Twilight Zone, The Love Boat, The Big Bang Theory, and Columbo.
In 2017, Robby was put up for auction along with his Jeep, auxiliary control panel, and packing crates.
The robot suit sold for a grand total of $5,375,000 and set the record for the highest auction price of a non-automotive movie prop, beating the Maltese Falcon ($4 million), Marilyn Monroe’s Seven Year Itch dress ($4.6 million), and Adam West’s Batmobile ($4.6 million).
Francis said, “[Robby] was the most valuable performer in the whole picture, so everyone had to treat him with tremendous respect.”