Original Robby the Robot suit and vehicle from Forbidden Planet on auction


Lorenzo von Matterhorn
Jan 31, 2009
Reaction score

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1956. Original Robby the Robot suit consisting of three main interlocking sections: His intricate "head," the upper torso with bellows-jointed arms, and the legs; constructed of Royalite plastic, metal, rubber, wood, acetate, and Perspex, with a 1950s pair of men's size 10.5B black leather loafers located inside Robby's feet; with Robby's original Jeep, control panel, alternate original "claw" hands, alternate original "Uncle Simon" The Twilight Zone head, and original wooden shipping "stage crates" with original painted studio transmittal information and shipping labels.

Originally created for M-G-M's outer space epic Forbidden Planet, Robby the Robot ranks among the single most iconic props in science fiction film history and arguably is the cinema's most famous and instantly recognizable robot. Bonhams is proud to present Robby, his Jeep, and his other major components at auction for the very first time.

Forbidden Planet finds the crew of the spaceship C-57D (led by Leslie Nielsen) discovering a scientist, Morbius (Walter Pidgeon), his daughter Altaira (Anne Francis), and Morbius' robotic servant, Robby, on the distant planet Altair-4. In the (literally) electrifying climax, the astronauts are confronted by the horrible "Id" creature that wiped out the extinct Krell species who once populated Altair-4.

Robby was built at M-G-M for around $100,000--a gigantic sum for a science fiction prop in those days. Designed by Robert Kinoshita, Arnold Gillespie, Irving Block, Mentor Huebner, and Arthur Lonergan, Robby was a quantum leap in futuristic movie robot design, breaking from earlier clunky "tin-can" mechanical man designs. His "sax valves," "gyroscopes," and other marvelous trappings are a pinnacle of 1950s futurism. Robby's comical, winning personality also marked a major shift in movie robots.

All of Robby's parts were created in M-G-M's prop shop, primarily the leather shop because of its advanced tooling capabilities. Royalite plastic was used for his head, feet, and upper and lower torso.

All of the spheres on Robby (arm gimbals, legs, and dome) were made of Lumarith (acetate). Metal, rubber, wood, and Perspex were also used in Robby's construction. Resistors on either side of Robby's front neon tubes blink, giving him the appearance of talking.

Robby ran on five 12 volt DC motors, which were originally World War II military surplus. Robby was also sometimes powered by a cable run from his remote control panel on wheels (included here) to his heel. The cable is visible in Forbidden Planet when Robby enters Morbius' house and says "Something is approaching from the west. . ."

Actor/stuntman Frankie Carpenter and former child star Frankie Darro alternately wore the Robby suit in the film. The bulky suit weighs approximately 120 pounds, which Carpenter or Darro had to shoulder using a "flying harness," akin to the ones worn by the Flying Monkeys in The Wizard of Oz (1939), made of metal with back padding and leather padded shoulder straps. The tiring task of playing Robby necessitated a rack for them to rest in between takes. (A similar rack, which was used during production of the film The Invisible Boy (1957) is included here; it also appears onscreen briefly in The Invisible Boy. It is uncertain whether or not it was used on Forbidden Planet.) Robby's huge Jeep was built on a Crosley car body; its futuristic adornments are mainly painted wood. The Jeep does not run because M-G-M cannibalized its steering mechanism and motor for another production.

Forbidden Planet was a colossal hit, and Robby figured heavily in its ad campaign. (The film's one sheet poster gave the false impression that the benign robot is a monster.) Since Robby was in many ways the film's "star," he was present at the film's Los Angeles premiere at Grauman's Chinese Theater. During the film's original release, Robby was shipped around the country on a promotional tour; his original wooden shipping "stage crates" are part of this lot. Like many of Forbidden Planet's elaborate props and costumes, Robby was reused frequently; he "starred" in The Invisible Boy (1957) and appeared in many TV series, including Lost in Space, The Addams Family, and The Twilight Zone. An alternate, simpler Robby head was used on the suit for its appearance in the The Twilight Zone episode, "Uncle Simon," and it is present here.

In 1970, Robby and his Jeep were purchased privately from M-G-M by Jim Brucker and both were displayed throughout the 1970s at Movie World/Cars of the Stars. By 1979, Robby had fallen somewhat into disrepair; filmmaker and collector Bill Malone, who had previously built the first full Robby replica, acquired him that year. Using original spare parts included with Robby, Malone restored him to his full glory. (Robby's current hands are recasts from his original hands; the originals were rubber and naturally deteriorated over time. The "bubble" dome on Robby's head is not an original but was made from an original M-G-M studio mold. An original Robby dome is included which has yellowed with age.)

After Robby's restoration, he occasionally cameoed in films like Gremlins (1984) and periodically made public appearances at conventions, screenings, and other events, including the 2016 Turner Classic Movies Film Festival. He has been replicated countless times as toys, model kits, and other memorabilia. Robby was also recently honored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in a special retrospective of Forbidden Planet; he remained on display at the Academy for two months. The original Robby is fully operational, has been carefully maintained for nearly four decades, and is as stunning as ever.


Mileage Rookie
Nov 2, 2017
Reaction score
I grew up watching that show! It had a way better robot than Forbidden Planet. I bet if you get enough curios like that, you could open your own tourist spot and get your investment back.


Still not Carl... ;-)
TRF Supporter
Jun 16, 2011
Reaction score
I'm on it! Where can I get a quick couple of mil?

You're gonna need more than that... Did you read any of the fine print? Buyer's premium of 25% on the first $150,000.00. So, if you pay a buck fidy for somethin, it actually costs you $187,500.00... 20% for $150,001.00 to $3,000,000.00, and 12% for anything over $3,000,001.00... WOW