Ron Cobb was born in Los Angeles in 1937. When he was three his parents yielded to the promise of a better life and moved less than a dozen miles away to the city of Burbank. The eldest of three children, he continually confounded his family's ideas of normal childhood by extending his preoccupations with fantasy and fantastic drawing throughout most of his adolescence.
"Middle-class Burbank life seemed bleak and unexciting at the time. The future held even less promise. I began to notice out of the corner of my eye distant vistas of fantasy, of a world out there glimpsed through the wonderful window of television and E.C. comics. I daydreamed and nurtured my fantasies, and to make them more real I drew. At the same time I became introverted, a terrible student, and waited for something to happen."
At 15 years old Cobb helped found the Chesley Donavan Foundation. Ron used C.D. as a place to laugh, to be free with friends, and to learn. All it's members were students at Burbank High School in Southern California.
An indifferent student at Burbank High School, Cobb's only strong subject was art, so on graduating it was merely a logical step that he join the team at Disney Studios, where he worked as an 'inbetweener' on Sleeping Beauty. When the film wrapped, he was laid off. His family, worried about the amount of time he spent drawing or daydreaming with the eccentric introverts of the Chesley Donovan Science Fantasy Foundation, decided that his economic well-being should have a more stable base. He was persuaded to become a mailman - by Burbank standards of the Fifties a very solid and secure job. But Cobb did not excel, and chose not to wait around for his pension. He drifted from job to job, the Chesley Donovan Foundation remaining the centre of his world.
"The Chesley Donovan Science Fantasy Foundation was a deliberately pompous and satirical name for a group of introverted and eccentric students. Our mutual fascinations with science, astronomy, philosophy and theology kept us together until we were in our early twenties. Our involvement in C.D. drew each of us out of our introversions, while we nurtured and entertained each other."
In 1961, Cobb was drafted, and entered the army for what turned out to be a three year stint, including a year's tour of duty in Vietnam as a draughtsman. It was a drastic way of expanding his horizons, of confronting a larger world and of breaking out of the circular boredom of suburbia.
"I was a prime target for the draft. I had to decide whether to evade it as most of my friends had done, or become a member of the military, one of the truly evil institutions of the state, according to the tenets of C.D. This became my great confrontation/escape. I allowed myself to be drafted. it confirmed that my basic anti-militarism was correct, but let me recognize some of my prejudices were unfounded. I gained confidence in the army, but I had'nt reckoned on spending a year in Vietnam."
For Spec-4 Ronald Cobb, the Vietnam War was less traumatic than was his vast leap out of army life into the great unknown that was Bohemian Hollywood in the early sixties. Ron settled into a ramshackle two-storey place around the bend from the Hollywood Bowl. There he eked out a living as a freelance artist painting monster magazine covers, selling his art to private collectors, and undertaking the inevitable commercial work.
At the beginning of 1966, Ron wandered into the offices of a new paper, the Los Angeles Free Press. Under his arm was the "Salted Peanuts" cartoon just rejected by Playboy. The Free Press published it and Cobb embarked on five years as their resident cartoonist.
In 1972 Cobb went to Australia with Phil Ochs on a tour for the Australian Union of Students. "When I arrived in Australia with Phil Ochs in mid-1972 for a six week campus tour, I discovered a country on a human scale: unpretentious, hardy and social. I began to come out of a non-productive, post-sixties slump which had lasted two years. The exuberant and colourful political scene intrigued me, the air of anticipation of a change in government after over twenty years of conservatism was infectious. I began cartooning with "The Digger", married an Australian, Robin Love, and stayed for a year."
On his return to America Cobb embarked on his movie career, firstly with the student film Dark Star.