How ‘Robby the Robot’ From Forbidden Planet Inspired the Development of c3po in Star Wars

We've covered many of the influences that films and novels have had over George Lucas but Kitbashed found a great one in the form of the classic movie Forbidden Planet. I particularly enjoyed discovering how the famous ‘Robby the Robot' had an influence on the robot that became C3PO.

While we have previously discussed how Ralph McQuarrie's design for C3PO was inspired by the Maschinenmensch from Fritz Lang's famous film, Metropolis and that his comedy duo act with his foil R2D2 came from The Hidden Fortress, it's Robby the Robot that sets the tone and inspiration of the ‘goldenrod'.

Early C3PO design sketch
Early C3PO design sketch

How many times in the Star Wars movies does C3PO mention that he is a protocol droid that is capable of speaking some 6 gabillion languages?

A thousand?

Robbie the Robot did it first as he was being introduced to the human space travellers:

“If you do not speak English, I am at your disposal with 187 other languages, dialects and sub-tongues”

Robby the Robot's influence on Star Wars

Kitbashed cleverly notes that this example means that Robby the Robot is effectively a proto-protocol droid. C3PO's introduction to Padme in The Phantom Menace shows how he is modelled on this concept “Hello, I am C-3PO, human cyborg relations ”

Word on the street has it that George Lucas has stated that the lumbering robot was not a direct inspiration for C3PO.

This is not wholly true.

In the documentary about science fiction films of the 1950's, ‘Look at the Sky!' a discussion is had with directors Steven Spielberg and George Lucas about Forbidden Planet.

ir?t=theoptiprimex starwars 20&l=li2&o=1&a=B007RVTXQ2Spielberg suggests that Lucas must have been inspired by Robby as he developed C3P0′s character. Lucas naturally suggested he was more influenced by Metropolis.

That may be so for the ‘look' of C3PO but Lucas totally stole the protocol droid idea whether he admits it or not!

There's a further reference or ‘inspired moment' from Robby in A New Hope. At a point in Forbidden Planet the character Alta tries several times to summon Robby with her remote control, he excuses his absence by having been busy taking an ‘oil bath'.

What does C3PO do when he gets to Luke's moisture farm?

He has an oil bath and he exclaims “Thank the maker! This oil bath is going to feel so good.”

And as we know now from the reveal in The Phantom Menace, Darth Vader is C3PO's maker, the line is doubly clever.

Extra fun fact: Robby the Robot appeared in two episodes of Lost in Space. That show also featured a robot that looks somewhat similar, THAT robot is the one that utters the famous quote “Danger Will Robinson, Danger!”. That robot had no designated name but was formally titled “Robot Model B-9”

 


Paul Rose Jr has worked as TV News Producer, Forensic Analyst, and Train Conductor, among many other things. He’s the former TV Editor for Infuzemag.com and owns more books, DVDs, and comics than most people have seen in their lifetimes. When he’s not writing articles, he exercises his creative muscle writing screenplays and acting in film and television in Los Angeles, CA.