Designer - Robert Kinoshita
Born: February 24, 1914 in Los Angeles, California, USA
Died: December 9, 2014 (age 100) in Torrance, California, USA
A personal message from Mr. Kinoshita to our club:
Hey!...B9 Robot Builders Club,
you, thank you, thank you! I'm truly flabbergasted and honored by
your support for "Blinky"! It's a well designed little
beauty! I shall really cherish it!
thoughtful remembrance is something we designers seldom are lucky
enough to receive. I shall really brag about it to all my friends
and relatives. It's a wonderful, proud feeling to be named for this
Clark tells me your group is doing an accurate and masterful job
reproducing "Blinky"! That's terrific! More power to you
and your group!
sincere appreciation... and thanks again with all of my heart!
Bob Kinoshita- May 14, 2000
are some photos taken at Bob's 94th Birthday Party held January
night, January 26th, Bob Kinoshita was joined by several B9ers and
friends to celebrate his 94th birthday.
Attending were Bob's friends Mike C. (not in photo); going from
left to right: Fred B., Bill W., along with B9ers Guy V. (center
rear), Tim S. (center right) and Thomas M. (right).
Bob was in good spirits and even with his hearing problems was able
to have some back and forth discussions with the attendees about
his career and the design of "Blinky." A booklet of birthday
wishes from the B9ers was presented to Bob...thanks to all who contributed!
As you can see in the photo, Bob was enjoying his birthday cake
and we all toasted him on his 94th. Perhaps we'll do a bigger one
for Bob's 95??
club members were able to attend, a great time was had by all!
following is an interview of Bob Kinoshita conducted by ICONs back
It contains some interesting insights into the design of the Robot!
Robot Bob Kinoshita Interview. A Conversation With Bob Kinoshita,
Lost In Space B9 Robot Designer
is known as the designer of two of the best-known Robot characters
in science fiction...Robby the Robot from Forbidden Planet, and
the B9 Robot from Lost in Space. Kinoshita worked with production
designer Bill Creber on the Lost in Space pilot, and was later promoted
to series art director when the show was sold to CBS. At that time,
it was decided to add another deck to the Jupiter II spacecraft,
and create a Robot character. ICONS spoke with Kinoshita briefly
about his involvement with Lost in Space.
ICONS: How many
designs did you go through before the Robot became the character
as we know it?
It took about six designs...a bunch of little rough sketches and
ideas. You're laying in bed, and something comes to you. Until finally,
you get to a point where you say "this could work," OK,
let's see what the boss man says and you present it to him.
ICONS: How long
did it take to complete the Robot...from initial design to finished
think it only took me six weeks, because I had a bunch of people.
They were always shifting people in the art department. After a
while, they became numbers...something to trade somebody else with...it's
like a baseball team, you trade the ones you don't want. At one
time I had 14 people working for me.
you designed the Robot was it with a person in mind?
we were trying to do it without anyone in there because we knew
it was dangerous. At any moment it could stop or trip wherever and
inside there is all kinds of stuff that he could get hurt on.There
was a yellow cord running up the back of the Robot that held 2,000
ICONS: How was
the decision made to have a man inside the costume?
was more talk about not having a Robot operator, because that would
save the cost of another actor. But it was harder to manipulate
theRobot on command if there wasn't a human operator. Plus the idea
was the guy inside operating would give it personality.
Bob clowns around
with his old friend during a recent visit to the ICONS Robot Factory.
ICONS: In this
case, Bob May. Can you tell us how Bob contributed to the character?
had a tough time in there, but he did a great job. He used the things
we built in very well. The Robot's head itself can have it's own
gesture or expression. The side things, which are his range finders,and
the inside mechanism and the electronic stuff are all used to create
a character. It's just like the old shortwave operators...each man
has his own mannerism of hitting the key, and that's the same thing
with the guy inside the suit. Bob would operate with responses...when
he hears a noise, he responds in a certain way to the noise, by
moving the bubble up "hey what's that?" or down, or turning
the body, or retracting his arms, or letting the arms go limp. That
will give him a little personality. The sets were so hot at the
time I used to pity Bob inside that suit.
is the most difficult aspect of creating a Robot character for television?
is the hardest thing to accomplish. How to move this thing. The
guys who were manipulating were part of the special effects department,
and they figured out a way to make it turn a corner quickly...and
they had this cable system where it would go to a certain point,
then they would hit this "release" and then the Robot
would pull another way. Almost a u-turn. Also, the Robot could walk
or motivate himself with the treads. Because each leg was independent.
A lot of directors didn't know what to do with the Robot on set.
How to use it. And then there were others who knew exactly how to
use it very well.
there any problems that you could not overcome.
the Robot stops or goes, there's a "sway," you can't help
it because there's a guy in there. That was hard to overcome...it
was practically impossible because the man himself is in such a
confined space, and his platform where he's standing on is the size
of his foot. Anytime you made that motion to start or stop him...he'd
move. Also, the rubber "pants" of the Robot didn't come
out of the mold very well...they were kind of crinkled in appearance.
We re-did them later in the season.
was Irwin Allen's input on the designs?
either say he liked it or didn't like...that was about it. If he
didn't like it, he wouldn't quite say what he didn't like, but I
knew maybe he didn't like a certain look, or the total wasn't what
he was looking for. It was trial and error.
you were the main designer (along with MGM's Arthur Lonergon) on
Robby the Robot, a lot of people notice a similarity with the Lost
in Space Robot.
the designer of both of them, so you know, naturally, I get some
the Robot has no real "eyes" or "mouth," what
device serves those purposes?
"ear" things. The two would put a beam out and it would
focus on something. It's like a sighting system on an aircraft...the
two receptors give two points on the aircraft...and that gives them
the range. So the Robot's eyes are those two rotating receptors
below the bubble.
of the bubble...it must have been incredibly difficult to create
that shape from plexiglass. Where did you learn to do it?
used to be a designer right after the war at the Clever Brooks Company.
They were designing equipment for the armed forces. This is where
I learned to cast and form plastics. Forming the bubble could be
dangerous, because if you get a flaw in the plastic, and you heat
up the bubble and attempt to blow air in there so you can shape
it, it'll explode. You must wear goggles and protective clothing.
of a limited series budget, it seemed to recycle a lot of props
and sets on Lost in Space. Can you tell us about that?
was a junkpile we used to visit on the studio lot. From that junkpile,
we'd resurrect all kinds of things and add it to another thing you
were making to save money. Time is the main enemy on television.
When they wanted a new look for the alien planet, the cameraman
was going crazy trying to come up with something new and yelled
at me to come and do it myself. Moving all kinds of props, trees,
huge rocks, and colors, to try and change it. That was the hard
part, trying to make it look different each week, and you have the
same props to save money.
about the electrical equipment and the surplus electronics? There
are several rumours. One was that this material was already in Fox
rental stock. The other was that Irwin Allen personally purchased
surplus equipment from either JPL or the U.S. Air Force?
never visited so many junkyards. In those days there used to be
several surplus stores. A bunch of them around Torrance, Redondo
ICONS: The plexi
glass tubes for the interior of Jupiter 2. Were they custom made?
the Icons authentic B9 Robot replica. Mr Kinoshita was quite impressed
with Icons emphasis on quality.
We took sheets of plexiglass heated them on a table in the prop
shop then rolled them into the final form. We even hand manufactured
the ball bearing runners underneath the plexi to open and close
ICONS: How much
of the design element did Irwin interact with you on?
have to sell it. In other words you would doodle around and try
and get a design. And while in your spare time you would go out
to the junkyards and the get the ideas on what kind of components
that you where trying to find. Then try to assemble the whole thing
to get a design and sell the whole idea to Irwin Allen.
ICONS: Was he
a hard sell?
was a hard sell all the time. And right away he would ask how much
will this cost? (chuckles)
ICONS: Did he
often change his mind?
too often. Once he said okay, that was alright.
about the colors? People all always comment on how colorful the
cameraman and Irwin where always talking together about it and the
cameraman always warned Irwin about what not to do. In those days
certain motion picture film was used. At that time some colors would
not work with the film stock and that meant a constant liaison with
ICONS: How do
you feel about the Robot's incredible popularity 30 years after
Lost in Space ended?
glad for them. I'm glad Lost In Space and the Robot itself is still
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