A few days ago artist / visionary Ralph McQuarrie passes away at the age of 82. For those NOT in the know, it was McQuarrie who’s conceptual art and designs helped shaped the look of not only the Star Wars universe, but E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and the original Battlestar Galactica!
When Star Wars hit when I was in fourth grade like most kids, we would look for and buy anything with the Star Wars logo. One of those things was the ‘Star Wars Portfolio’! This collection was a series of pre production pictures that looked a little like Star Wars, but nothing like the finished product! I can remember at that young age not knowing what to think about it. After looking at them every single day I really began to appreciate them and realize that without this, there would be no Star Wars!
This was the blueprint that George Lucas followed and what convinced studios that Star Wars could work.
In 1978 McQuarrie was hired to create the visual look for the TV series Battlestar Galactica and once again, he provided pure magic! It was his designs once again that created an alien world that I would spend a lifetime immersed in.
But for me the best was yet to come!
In 1980 he blew my mind in a way I have yet to recover from! Before the The Empire Strikes Back was released, I saw a few of his conceptual pieces; four of Hoth and one of Bespin! You can’t tease a kid like that! In fact when I saw the picture above this article I thought ‘Holy crap, Star Wars in the freakin’ snow? And what is that thing the guy is on?’
It of course was Luke Skywalker on a Taun Taun patrolling the planet Hoth!
McQuarrie has a few incredible honors that make his legacy even cooler. First he had an uncredited appearance in The Empire Strikes Back as General Pharl McQuarrie. Second, he had an action figure (General McQuarrie) in the 30th Anniversary line based on his conceptual art.
When the Star Wars prequel trilogy was in its beginning stage, Director Rick McCallum asked McQuarrie to create designs like he did for the originals. But being a true professional, he declined the offer telling him he had ‘run out of steam’ and had nothing to offer. He then retired.
On behalf of the millions of people you touched, than you sir! You were the brightest star in our make-believe sky!