A long, long time ago (even before the Dawn of CAD software), on a drafting table not so far away, future “Star Wars” visionary Ralph McQuarrie got his start drawing teeth and dentist’s tool for a dental business and later drew the technical manuals for 1960s Boeing aircraft.
McQuarrie, who died over the weekend at age 82 from Parkinson’s Disease, was credited with creating the overall look of Star Wars droids, spaceships and overall architecture. Director George Lucas credits these drawings for getting 20th Century Fox to take him seriously as the future blockbuster series was outright rejected by many major Hollywood studios when it was pitched with the script alone.
Here’s what Lucas had to say about the creator of C3PO (original concept above), Darth Vader, R2D2 and the legendary Tie-Fighters and X-Wing Fighters:
“Ralph McQuarrie was the first person I hired to help me envision Star Wars. His genial contribution, in the form of unequaled production paintings, propelled and inspired all of the cast and crew of the original Star Wars trilogy. When words could not convey my ideas, I could always point to one of Ralph’s fabulous illustrations and say, ‘Do it like this.’”
According to The Washington Post, it was the designer’s idea to include a mechanical breathing mask on Darth Vader’s costume — which added to the villain’s mystique and intimidating presence.
His ideas were also instrumental in creating the spacecraft and architecture in Battlestar Galactica, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Star Trek: Planet of the Titans, Masters of the Universe, and Total Recall. Toss in the design work for the Back to the Future Ride at Universal Studios and the guy was a One Man Science Fiction Hall of Fame!
Not so surprising that before George Lucas called, McQuarrie had gigs with NASA and CBS News animating sequences of the Apollo space missions.
Outside of his dramatic impact fueling the imaginations of future engineers and architects, it is wonderful to know that McQuarrie is getting credit for his fabulous creativity and work. All too often it’s the executive at the top of the company who gets remembered for innovation.
Check out the outpouring of affection and tributes on McQuarrie’s Facebook page — and if you were similarly inspired, perhaps you might want to share your own story.