In Memoriam: Ralph McQuarrie
When writers create worlds that never existed along with unusual characters and monsters that inhabit these new universes, it’s up to the conceptual artists to translate those words into a picture for set and costume designers. One the best artists in the business was Ralph McQuarrie, who died March 3 in Berkeley California.
Back in 1975, George Lucas commissioned him to generate a visual design from his Star Wars script in hope of getting 20th Century Fox on board. McQuarrie created the sketch’s for the classic film characters, including Chewbacca, C-3PO, R2-D2 and Darth Vader, along many concept drawings of the sets. It was these blueprints that finally got Fox to behind Lucas’ creation and help the Star Wars franchise to begin.
While Lucas wrote the script, it was McQuarrie’s designs that made the film series so memorable. He would go on to design the original Battlestar Galactica television series along with a host of top grossing motion pictures of the late 70s and 1980s and early 1990s, including Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Return of the Jedi, Cocoon (which he shared an Oscar on), Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, *batteries not included and Jurassic Park.
For many of us that grew up with the original Star Wars series, it was those impressive designs that rung true with us, and probably inspired hundreds, if not thousands, of artists world wide to create these never before seen imaginary worlds.