October 15, 2016 – Serious fans of Star Wars know that the late Ralph McQuarrie (1929-2012) was second only to George Lucas in bringing the Star Wars universe to life.
As a conceptual designer and illustrator, McQuarrie initially produced a dozen or so concept paintings, which helped Lucas to persuade 20th Century Fox to back production of the first Star Wars movie. Thereafter, the American artist drew hundreds of sketches, storyboards, and paintings for all manner of Star Wars visuals.
In side-by-side comparisons, the following video shows how closely ILM (Industrial Light and Magic) followed McQuarrie’s conceptual designs in scene after scene. Hundreds of his images and art work helped to bring George Lucas’s vision – the architecture, the landscapes, characters and costumes – to the big screen and into our lives.
Fortunately, McQuarrie survived a bullet shot to his head in the Korean War while serving in the U.S. Army. After the war, he worked for a dentistry firm (drawing teeth and dental equipment) and, later, for Boeing as a technical illustrator.
In 1975, George Lucas commissioned McQuarrie to illustrate several scenes from Lucas’s early script. But after reading the script, McQuarrie had some doubts at first:
I just did my best to depict what I thought the film should look like. I really liked the idea. I didn’t think the film would ever get made. My impression was it was too expensive. There wouldn’t be enough of an audience. It’s just too complicated. But George knew a lot of things that I didn’t know.”
McQuarrie suggested adding the breathing apparatus to Darth Vader’s mask, and he designed many of Star Wars’ characters, including C-3PO, R2-D2, Chewbacca and Darth Vader. In addition to A New Hope (1977), he also contributed designs to The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983).
Even after McQuarrie’s death in 2012, his design concepts are still being used: The characters Zeb Orellios and Chopper from Star Wars Rebels are but two examples of posthumous use of the late artist’s designs. Other designs can be spotted in The Force Awakens.
Amazon is now offering Star Wars Art: Ralph McQuarrie (Abrams Books), perhaps the most definitive tome on the artist and his concept drawings. While the price has fluctuated between a low of $150.00 and a current price of $170.00, both prices are still far below the MSRP of $250.00. Moreover, once the print edition runs out, future demand will likely send the price soaring on secondary markets.
A deluxe slipcase holds two hardcover books weighing 21.5 pounds. Each book is about 400 pages (total: 800 pages) with sketches, colored photos and text galore. While previous McQuarrie art books have been released, none has the depth or detail of this latest production. Star Wars Art: Ralph McQuarrie also includes never-before-published interviews and recollections from friends and colleagues.
The massive book set was first released on September 27, 2016.