78 SERVO 07.2015
John told us that the seat in the
time machine was actually an antique
barber’s chair. He built the prop in
1997. In the middle stands Tobor,
with a chest full of bent metal tubing.
Tobor the Great
One of my favorite automatons is
Tobor the Great (Figure 7). You can
imagine where it got its name. When
I first saw the movie as a kid, I had
dreams of having my own robot. If I
remember right, it was the kid genius
in the movie who ‘saved the day’
against the bad guys when Tobor was
still able to follow the radio signal
when the bad guys smashed the ball
point pen that hid the remote control
for the robot.
Though very few of the robots on
display were actually used in movies,
this is not to say that John was not
heavily involved in making movie
props. The collage of photos from his
website shown in Figure 8 presents
the fabrication process of several
Tobor replicas with Fred Barton and
himself. Our group later toured his
‘prop shop’ on the premises in which
he has made many robots. I’ll
highlight that later.
Although Tobor was the robot
that first stirred my imagination about
robots, it was Robby the Robot from
MGM’s 1956 Forbidden Planet that
captured my heart, as well as many
other generations. The only other
movie robot that might have
Robby was the epitome of a
friendly and safe robot that utilized
Isaac Asimov’s Three Rules of
Robotics. The ‘robot’ was built by the
MGM Studio’s prop department at a
cost of $125,000 — a huge sum in
those days for a movie prop.
Robby had several movie
appearances after Forbidden Planet —
one of which was The Invisible Boy in
1957. Robby — or parts of Robby —
appeared in many TV episodes over
the years, as well. The original Robby
was bounced between several owners
over the years, vandalized, and
repaired a few times, then was finally
sent to Carnegie Mellon’s Robot Hall
of Fame in 2004.
The several Robbys that are on
display at the Robot Hut are every bit
as spectacular and accurate as the
original. John is shown in Figure 9
standing next to Robby, who is the
driver of the unique ‘taxi’ that was
used by Dr. Morbius to transport the
visitors to and from his residence.
John built both of the robots and the
unique ‘Jeep,’ as he calls it.
His first Robbys were built starting
back in 1987. Again, he would decide
Figure 8 - John Rigg re-making Tobor
as a museum display with Fred Barton
(in the black shirt).
Figure 10 - Another of John Rigg’s
Figure 9 - John Rigg standing next to
Robby and his space taxi car.
Figure 7 - Tobor the Great.