Film designer and cartoonist Ron Cobb died Thursday of Lewy body dementia at the age of 83. Cobb was a significant influence on the look and aesthetics of films including “Alien,” “Star Wars” and “Back to the Future.”
Cobb died on his birthday, Monday, after an illustrious career contributing to production design in Hollywood. He served as a consultant for “Back to the Future,” providing the initial designs for a DeLorean modified to travel through time, and several iconic alien species in the “Star Wars” universe.
His credits range from “Star Wars” creatures like the Gotals and Ithorians from the Mos Eisley Cantina sequence to various different aircrafts seen across the film industry, including “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and 1978’s “Alien.” In the latter, Cobb contributed to the exterior look of the Nostromo alien ship while also designing its interior sets to bring the vision to life on screen. Designer Calum Alexander Watt paid tribute to his Semotic Standard graphics for “Alien,” which he said were “hugely influential.”
Cobb’s film career began in 1956, the year after he graduated from Burbank High School. He worked at Walt Disney Studios as an inbetweener and breakdown artist on “Sleeping Beauty.”
He later contributed special effects to “Dark Star” and served as a production designer on “Conan the Barbarian,” where he came up with the character’s armor and weapon designs, as well as architectural aspects of the set. Other major projects Cobb is credited on include the 1989 feature film “Total Recall,” “The Last Starfighter” and “Leviathan.”
Cobb also served as a director, writer and cartoonist throughout his career.
In 1982, he was slated to direct “Night Skies,” a proposed sequel to “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” The project eventually got scrapped, however, with some of the material being used of Steven Spielberg’s “.”
His directorial debut came with a 1992 Australian comedy film named “Garbo,” which follows garbage collectors and their truck, Greta.
He has writing credits for the “Shelter Skelter” episode of “The Twilight Zone” and also helped write the story for a video game in the 1990s. Four collections of Cobb’s cartoons from the 1960s and 1970s have also been published as books.
Cobb is survived by his wife, Robin Love, and son, Nicky Cobb.