How ‘Robby the Robot’ from Forbidden Planet inspired the development of C3PO in Star Wars

Jul 17, 2021 | In A Far Away Galaxy

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How Robby the Robot from Forbidden Planet influenced the development of C3PO 

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 sketchHow 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”

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.

Spielberg 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”
Jonathan and James in Mos Espa

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Jonathan and James in Mos Espa

5 Days / 4 Nights

Anakin’s Slave Quarters
Lars Homestead
Star Wars Canyon
Mos Espa
Short on time? Our Light Speed Tour includes the majority of Star Wars sites in Tunisia. You’ll still have plenty of time to take in the grandeur of Tatooine. Join us for the journey of a lifetime!

Jonathan and James in Mos Espa

8 Days / 7 Nights

Luke’s Childhood Home
Ben Kenobi’s Hermitage
Tosche Station
Mos Eisley
Our Tatooine: Outer Rim Tour is a comprehensive itinerary, taking you to each site George Lucas made into iconic Star Wars landmarks. Tour the South of Tunisia with us and see them all!

Jonathan and James in Mos Espa

13 Days / 12 Nights

Darth Maul’s Outlook
Chalmun’s Cantina
Historical & Cultural Museums
Coliseum in El Jem
Two great empires packaged into one tour! Our Roman & Galactic Empires Tour takes you throughout Tunisia. See history in ancient Roman ruins and the world of Star Wars all in one itinerary!

Jonathan and James in Mos Espa

5 Days / 4 Nights

Anakin’s Slave Quarters
Lars Homestead
Star Wars Canyon
Mos Espa
Short on time? Our Light Speed Tour includes the majority of Star Wars sites in Tunisia. You’ll still have plenty of time to take in the grandeur of Tatooine. Join us for the journey of a lifetime!

Jonathan and James in Mos Espa

8 Days / 7 Nights

Luke’s Childhood Home
Ben Kenobi’s Hermitage
Tosche Station
Mos Eisley
Our Tatooine: Outer Rim Tour is a comprehensive itinerary, taking you to each site George Lucas made into iconic Star Wars landmarks. Tour the South of Tunisia with us and see them all!

Jonathan and James in Mos Espa

13 Days / 12 Nights

Darth Maul’s Outlook
Chalmun’s Cantina
Historical & Cultural Museums
Coliseum in El Jem
Two great empires packaged into one tour! Our Roman & Galactic Empires Tour takes you throughout Tunisia. See history in ancient Roman ruins and the world of Star Wars all in one itinerary!