Earlier tonight, screen icon Mark Hamill took to social media to pay tribute to the late Ron Cobb, an artist whose designs contributed to movies like Star Wars and Back to the Future, as well as E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Cobb, who also worked on Raiders of the Lost Ark for George Lucas and Alien for Ridley Scott, among many others, passed away yesterday, according to his wife. As noted by the official Star Wars Twitter account, Cobb designed one of the most memorable characters in the Mos Eisley cantina, Momaw Nadon. His passing comes just days after news that Penny McCarthy, a production assistant who also appeared in the cantina scene, passed away.
Ron Cobb was born in Los Angeles, California, in 1937. With no formal training under his belt, Cobb managed to still land a job working as an “inbetweener” for Disney Studios by the time he was 18, where he ended up as a breakdown artist on Sleeping Beauty, Disney’s final movie animated movie to have its cels inked by hand. However, that quick success stalled after Sleeping Beauty, when Cobb was laid off by Disney in 1957.
You can see Hamill’s comments below.
Ron Cobb was a giant in his field. His impact on sci-fi & fantasy films is immeasurable. Thank you for a lifetime of brilliant contributions & your incomparable imagination. #RIPRonCobb https://t.co/1muckonjaS
— Mark Hamill (@HamillHimself) September 22, 2020
Throughout the 1960s Cobb made a name for himself as a political cartoonist, while also picking up side gigs drawing the covers for Jefferson Airplane’s After Bathing at Baxter’s (1967) and the Ecology symbol that is used in the ecology flag.
It was in the late ’70s into the ’80s where Cobb’s work broke into Hollywood. He was uncredited for his work on Star Wars, which led to work as a concept artist on Ridley Scott’s Alien and as a production designer for Conan The Barbarian. It was while working on Conan that Cobb also helped advise Steven Spielberg, who was filming Raiders of the Lost Ark nearby.
It was his collaboration with Spielberg that led to Cobb getting the offer to direct Spielberg’s film Night Skies. That film went through a few changes during the course of its production, and eventually became Spielberg’s E.T., in which Cobb ended up with a cameo in E.T. as a doctor.
That disappointment didn’t stop Cobb’s career; his work as a conceptual designer on Aliens led to more collaborations with James Cameron on The Abyss and True Lies; he consulted on the DeLorean time travel machine for Back to the Future; working on Arnold Schwarzenegger films Total Recall and The 6th Day; and the cult-hit Joss Whedon sci-fi series Firefly (to name a few).
We offer our condolences to his friends and family.