You may not have heard of Ron Cobb, but you definitely know his work. The concept artist passed away yesterday, leaving behind designs that have shaped the look and feel of science fiction as we know it.
Cobb brought to life several Cantina creatures for Star Wars, designed the time-traveling DeLorean from Back to the Future, and helped conceptualize the Nostromo ship in Alien.
Below, we've highlighted some of his most significant contributions to film.
Cobb designed some of the more elaborate aliens in the Eisley Cantina sequence. His credits include the Gotals and Ithorians, and perhaps most memorably, Momaw Nadon.
As a concept artist on Ridley Scott's Alien, Cobb contributed to the exterior look of the Nostromo alien ship. He also worked with Swiss painter H.R. Giger to bring the vision for the ship's iconic interior to the big screen.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, it was Cobb who suggested that the alien's blood be corrosive, "thereby solving a potential plot hole as to why the crew wouldn't simply shoot or mutilate the creature."
Designer Calum Alexander Watt paid tribute to his Semiotic Standard graphics for the film which he said were “hugely influential.”
Conan the Barbarian (1982)
As a production designer on Conan the Barbarian, he came up with the character’s armor and weapon designs, as well as architectural aspects of the set.
While working on the project, Cobb first met Steven Spielberg, who was working down the hallway at Universal on Raiders of the Lost Ark.
"I would suggest [to Spielberg] angles, ideas, verbalize the act of directing — 'Let's do this and do that, and we could shoot over his shoulder and then a close-up of the shadow,'" Cobb told the Los Angeles Times in 1988.
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
Spielberg was so impressed with Cobb that he asked him to direct his future film Night Skies, a retelling of an infamous 1955 incident in Kentucky in which a family claimed to have had an encounter with five aliens at their farmhouse. What emerged was "a darker version of E.T."
"I originated the story, my choice for screenplay writer was John Sayles," Cobb wrote on his website. But "projections of the effects budget proved problematic."
Cobb didn’t approve of Speilberg's final product, calling it: “a banal retelling of the Christ story, sentimental and self-indulgent, a pathetic lost-puppy kind of story.”
Back to the Future (1985)
Cobb is perhaps most famous for providing the initial designs for a DeLorean modified to travel through time. According to legend, when designing the DeLorean for Back to the Future, a producer challenged Cobb to transform the vehicle into a time machine. Cobb's solution was to make it look as homemade as possible – as though Doctor Brown had cobbled together parts from Radio Shack. The initial design was improved upon by Andrew Prober who added a second exhaust vent to the DMC-12.
Ron Cobb's contribution to film can be traced as far back as Sleeping Beauty(1956). He designed vehicles and ships on James Cameron's Aliens (1986) and the "Nazi Flying Wing" from Raiders of the Lost Arc (1981). He also contributed conceptual designs to other feature films, including Dark Star, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Real Genius, The Abyss, Total Recall, True Lies, The 6th Day, Cats and Dogs, Firefly, and Southland Tales. Dive into his concept designs and artworks here.