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Top 7 Ralph McQuarrie Concepts That Changed ‘Star Wars’

by Culture Slate 11 months ago in star wars
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While George Lucas was widely known as the creator of Star Wars, he did not do it alone. Even though Lucas was as confident as he could be in his story and characters, he knew he would need help to bring them to life. Enter Ralph McQuarrie. If you are not familiar with the name Ralph McQuarrie, you are definitely familiar with his work. He had done artwork for E.T, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, just to name a few. However, he may be best known for the concept art which brought Star Wars characters like Darth Vader, C-3PO, and R2-D2 to life. This is supposed to be a list, but as far as I can tell, there are no official names for each artwork he did for the films. To get around this, I am going to just label it as whatever the concept art is showing, and even though this will start at number seven and countdown to number one, there is no particular order for this. All of these pieces are fantastic.

7. Sandcrawler

The Sandcrawler was one of the first major “sci-fi” vehicles we were introduced to in Star Wars. Often described as “treaded fortresses,” it was one of the big spectacles of A New Hope, and McQuarrie’s concept art did a great job of realizing this vision. It was one of the designs that did not change much in the transition from concept to screen, and I think a large part of that probably comes from McQuarrie’s design. It was a large, looming vehicle, but it was relatively simple in exterior design. However, that did not change how amazing of a creation it was.

6. Stormtroopers

Here was one of the designs that we changed a bit from the final film. It showed stormtroopers wielding swords and shields. They were not wielding just any sword either. They appeared to be holding lightsabers. At one point lightsabers were meant to be a common weapon. It also seemed Chewbacca’s design was slightly different. McQuarrie was still able to create the perfect sci-fi setting with the pristine white interiors combined with the almost robotic stormtroopers. McQuarrie did a fantastic job of showing the interior of the Death Star and the intimidating stature of the stormtroopers.

5. AT-AT

Most of the entries on this list came from the original Star Wars: A New Hope film. However, that did not mean that Ralph McQuarrie stopped with the first movie of the trilogy. For The Empire Strikes Back, Lucas once again got concept art from McQuarrie, and one of the coolest pieces was the AT-AT. Like the sandcrawler, you could tell that the AT-AT transitioned from page to screen with only few changes. Not to mention that the worm’s eye view of the walker really showed off how massive this contraption was. In the same concept artwork, we got a brief look at the snowspeeders too.

4. Tatooine

While extremely subtle, this one showed off the world of Tatooine perfectly. It instantly showed this desert world that appeared familiar at first glance, but when you looked closer, you saw the fantasy and sci-fi elements sprinkled in. The two suns, the hover vehicle, and the droids in the background told you that this was a strange desert world. While it had the appearance of Death Valley in California where some inserts were shot, I think McQuarrie used the location to ground it in our own world before revealing that this was actually an alien world, and it worked extremely well.

3. Dagobah

When you think about Master Yoda and the world he lived on, you imagine a small, green, and wise creature in a mysterious and magical swamp. In this bit of art, McQuarrie sold this completely. The strange hut, the looming forest, and the fog rolling in all created the eerie and mysterious atmosphere of this world. Yoda speaking to Luke even carried its own weight. Even though Luke was the taller, more imposing one, Yoda’s small stature and stoic, calm pose kept him from looking frail and weak. I know I already mentioned it, but I have to say one more time how cool the hut's design is. While it changed a bit in the final film, it looked just like the place an ancient space wizard would inhabit.

2. The Droids

This was actually the first painting made for Star Wars, and I think this showed a lot of what the film would be. First of all, the amazing work showed the early designs for C-3PO and R2-D2 alone in the desert. In the background we saw the pod they crashed in, and they were now left by themselves in the desert with only that rock formation as company. The humanoid shape of 3PO contrasts the obviously robotic R2, and you could argue the piece revealed their contrasting personalities. This one image really portrayed the strange, futuristic world of Star Wars.

1. Darth Vader

This was it. This was the perfect image to sum up Star Wars. I don’t mean this was the best of this list or the best design for Star Wars. I mean this image captured everything that was Star Wars in a single piece of amazing artwork. Not only do we see the imposing terror that is Darth Vader, but we also saw his confrontation with Luke, which was one of the main conflicts in all the original trilogy. Of course, at this point in the drafts, Luke Skywalker was called “Deak Starkiller.” He was also shown to be wearing a breathing apparatus, which was supposed to make traveling from ship to ship easier. While Luke’s design changed rather drastically from this image to the final product, the design still looked incredibly cool, and it was interesting to see the many changes they made. Aside from a few minor tweaks, Darth Vader’s design was largely unchanged from this image to the version in the films. That was a testament to the imagination, skill, and foresight of Ralph McQuarrie. It is safe to say Star Wars would not be the same without his artwork.

Written By Alex Lenzini

Source(s): StarWars.com

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