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'Lost in Space' robot designer Robert Kinoshita dies at 100

Video of the B9 robot from
Video of the B9 robot from "Lost In Space" and his most famous catchphrases.
timtomp (via YouTube)

Robert Kinoshita, the Los Angeles native who designed the iconic robots from "Lost in Space" and "Forbidden Planet," has passed away. He was 100 years old.

Konishita died Dec. 9 at a Torrance nursing home, according to the Hollywood Reporter, citing family friend Mike Clark. His creations included "Forbidden Planet's" Robby the Robot, the B9 robot from "Lost in Space," Tobor from "Tobor the Great" and more. Kinoshita also created "Lost in Space's" iconic flying-saucer-shaped Jupiter 2 spaceship.

Kinoshita built the original miniature prototype of Robby the Robot out of wood and plastic by combining several different concepts, according to the Reporter; the Rafu Shimpo reported that he struggled with the design.

"I thought, what the hell. We’re wasting so much time designing and drawing one sketch after another. I said to myself, I’m going to make a model," Kinoshita told the Rafu Shimpo in a 2004 interview. "Then one day, the art director sees the model. He says, ‘Give me that thing.’ He grabbed it and ran. ... Ten minutes later, he comes running back and puts the model back on my desk and says, ‘Draw it!’"

Watch Kinoshita and his colleagues talking about the construction of Robby the Robot:

Robby the Robot's construction

The 1956 classic sci-fi movie "Forbidden Planet" — based on Shakespeare's "The Tempest" — went on to be nominated for a special effects Oscar.

Kinoshita later served as art director on the 1960s sci-fi TV series "Lost in Space," creating the arm-flailing robot — named B9 — who delivered the classic line "Danger! Danger, Will Robinson!" That robot received as much fan mail as the actual humans on the show, according to the Reporter.

Watch the robot's feud with "Lost in Space's" Dr. Smith:

The robot vs. Dr. Smith

The "Lost in Space" robot even inspired a B9 Robot Builders Club, featured in Forbes. Kinoshita sent a message in 2000 to the club, thanking them for their support for the robot he originally nicknamed "Blinky."

"I'm truly flabbergasted and honored by your support for 'Blinky!' It's a well-designed little beauty," Kinoshita wrote. "Your thoughtful remembrance is something we designers seldom are lucky enough to receive."

Kinoshita described the thought process behind its design in a 1998 interview.

"You're laying in bed, and something comes to you," he said. "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."

He told the Rafu Shimpo that he tried to create his robots to disguise the fact that there was a person inside. "I tried to camouflage it enough so you’d wonder where the hell the human was," he said.

Both the Japanese-American Kinoshita and his wife, Lillian, were sent to an Arizona internment camp during World War II, though they were able to get out before the end of the war and moved to Wisconsin, according to the Reporter.

While in Wisconsin, Kinoshita learned industrial design and plastic fabrication, designing washing machines for the Army and Air Force before returning to California, according to the Rafu Shimpo.

Kinoshita said that he had to overcome racial prejudice to break into working in Hollywood.

Kinoshita attributed his long life to clean living — along with daily doses of apple cider vinegar, family friend Clark told the Reporter.

Kinoshita also worked as a designer and art director on numerous classic TV shows, including "Kojak," "Barnaby Jones," "Hawaii Five-O," "Bat Masterson," "Sea Hunt," "Tombstone Territory," "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry's "Planet Earth" and more, according to his IMDB. His last TV show was 1984's "Cover Up."

Kinoshita grew up in Boyle Heights, according to the Reporter, attending Maryknoll Japanese Catholic School, Roosevelt High School and USC's School of Architecture. His career began with work on 1937's "100 Men and a Girl." Kinoshita graduated cum laude from USC, according to the Rafu Shimpo.

Watch Kinoshita speak at his 95th birthday gathering with the B9 Robot Builders Club. He said he hoped to make it to 100, and he ended up doing so.

Kinoshita's 95th birthday speech