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Updated: June 16, 2022

Robby the Robot is a 7-foot (2.1 m) tall fictional robot originally created in the mid-1950's by MGM's prop department; the robot quickly became a science fiction icon in the decades that followed.

Forbidden Planet contains story analogs to William Shakespeare's The Tempest, and Robby has in turn been compared to the spirit Ariel in that play. The first known use of the name "Robbie the Robot" was for a mechanical likeness of Doc Savage used to confuse foes in the 1935 adventure The Fantastic Island. That was followed in 1940 by the Isaac Asimov short story "Robbie", about a first-generation robot designed to care for children.

As Dr. Morbius demonstrates in Forbidden Planet, Robby was programmed to obey Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics. This plot point becomes important near the end of the film when Robby refuses to kill the "Id monster" because the robot recognizes that the creature is an alter ego/extension of Dr. Morbius. The Laws of Robotics were adapted from I, Robot, published in 1950 by Isaac Asimov.

In Forbidden Planet, Robby exhibited artificial intelligence, but with a distinct personality that showed a (possibly unintentional) dry wit, presumably programmed by Dr. Morbius. He was instructed by Morbius to be helpful to the Earth starship crew; he synthesized and transported to their landing site the lead alloy shielding needed by its crew. While the film's poster depicts a fierce character abducting a maiden, no such scene was actually in the film; Robby only carried one person, crewman Dr. Ostro when he was mortally wounded by his own actions with the Krell's "plastic educator." Robby's speaking "mouth" was a monochromatic blue light organ, synchronized to his synthetic voice, its band of curved tubes located directly below his transparent conical "face" dome.

Robby the Robot at 2006 San Diego Comic Con The "Robby" robot prop in Forbidden Planet was later reused in the less-popular movie The Invisible Boy. It made several further appearances in other movies and TV shows over the next few decades, including episodes of The Thin Man and The Addams Family. While Robby's appearance was generally consistent, there were notable exceptions, such as the 1962 Twilight Zone episode "Uncle Simon", where he was given a slightly more human "face". At other times, Robby usually retained the working gears inside his transparent dome, although the details of his "brain" and chest panel were sometimes altered; in an episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Robby's head dome was used as part of a regeneration machine. Robby made few television or film appearances after the 1970s, although he made a cameo appearance in the 1984 movie Gremlins, where he can be seen standing in the background and speaking some of his trademark lines; he was also featured in a 2006 commercial for AT&T.

Robby walked on mechanical legs. Later robot designs by his principal designer Robert Kinoshita, such as Robot B-9 of Lost in Space, moved smoothly on motorized treads (Robby appears opposite Robot B-9 in Lost in Space episode #20 "War of the Robots". In Forbidden Planet, Robby was operated by Frankie Darro from inside the robot's body; Robby's distinctive voice was provided by actor Marvin Miller.

Robby also appeared in the Mork & Mindy second season episode "Dr. Morkenstein". Robby portrayed a robot named Chuck, whom Mork befriended while working as a security guard in the science museum where Chuck was on display. Chuck was voiced by Roddy McDowall.

In 2004 Robby the Robot was inducted into the Robot Hall of Fame.

The early 1960's Gerry Anderson all-puppet science fiction TV series Fireball XL5 contained a robot character called 'Robert the Robot,' which may have been an homage to Robby.

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