Long-Ago Times and Far-Away Galaxies: Celebrating The Visual Inspiration of Ralph McQuarrie!
Ralph McQuarrie is someone whose name may not be known to the public at large, but whose imagination gave rise to some of the most indelible, incredible imagery in all pop culture. He was a designer, a concept artist, and a creator who could take fantastic ideas and give them form, serving an essential role in the making of classic films and TV shows.
Born on this day in 1929, McQuarrie designed the spaceships seen in Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters Of The Third Kind and E.T., he conceived the look of the original Battlestar Galactica, he was responsible for a central image in Raiders Of The Lost Ark, he production designed Cocoon, and he worked as visual consultant for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. But inarguably, his major achievement was defining the look of the Star Wars universe.
McQuarrie began working with George Lucas in the early '70s, initially producing a handful of concept paintings that were used to pitch Star Wars to studios, becoming the primary architect of the film's look as Lucas and his team worked to bring the story to the big screen, and working in various capacities on The Empire Strikes Back, Return Of The Jedi, and a number of tie-in projects.
McQuarrie didn't just visualize Lucas' far-far-away galaxy, he did it many times over, creating countless variations of scenes, throwing out dozens of designs for characters and settings, going through draft after draft until he got something everyone was happy with, then tweaking and reworking to find approaches that could actually be captured onscreen with the available technology.
He guided the imagery each step of the way, from initial sketches to painted presentation pieces to promotional artwork, and he was directly responsible for many of the scenic paintings that are seen in the final films. He was an ideas man, a valued advisor, a bottomless font of imagination.
And after the original trilogy concluded, he continued to impact the Star Wars universe; many of his concepts that went unused in the first three films ended up being woven through the saga's many continuations, influencing the appearance of the Ewok TV films, the prequel trilogy, and Episode VII, and appearing in countless books, comics, video games, and other projects.
So today, on the anniversary of his birth, we celebrate the extraordinary creative vision of artist Ralph McQuarrie.
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