Sad news over the weekend. Ralph McQuarrie, concept artist most famous for his work on Star Wars, died at the age of 82.
If you are not familiar with McQuarrie’s work then you don’t know a big part of the story of how Star Wars became so great. His character designs are behind Chewbacca, C-3PO, R2-D2 and even Darth Vader himself.
In fact, other than Empire director Irving Kershner, I would argue that McQuarrie had more to do with the best parts of the saga than anyone else. I’d also note that, frankly, Lucas’ fingerprints are mostly on those parts of Wars that are the least appealing (and all over the prequels and subsequent changes for home video, DVD and Blu-Ray release).
Lucas himself noted this weekend that McQuarrie was the first person he turned to help envision what Star Wars would look like.
Some of McQuarrie’s original designs are arguably superior to what made it on screen. His famous lightsaber battle featuring a more streamlined and lethal appearing Darth Vader are one example of this.
Final note, it’s hard to imagine some of the most important pop culture franchises of the last forty years without McQuarrie. He painted original designs for features ranging from Close Encounters of the Third Kind to Raiders of the Lost Ark. Some of his best work influenced the look of the original Battlestar Galactica series. Although featuring unbearable dialogue and plotting that makes it hard to enjoy today, the creatures, settings and ships of the original BSG still make it an interesting series to look at.
RIP Ralph McQuarrie and thanks for giving us so many gods and monsters over the years.