Ralph McQuarrie

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Ralph McQuarrie (1929 – 2012) is a conceptual designer and illustrator who designed ‘Star Wars’ (all of the original trilogy), the original ‘Battlestar Galactica,’ ‘E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,’ and ‘Cocoon.’

Initially he worked as a technical illustrator for Boeing, as well designing film posters and animating CBS News’s coverage of the Apollo space program at the three-man company Reel Three. Impressed with his work, director George Lucas met with him to discuss his plans for a space-fantasy film. Several years later, in 1975, Lucas commissioned McQuarrie to illustrate several scenes from the script of the film, ‘Star Wars.’

McQuarrie designed many of the characters, including Darth Vader and Chewbacca and drew many concepts for the film’s sets. McQuarrie’s concept paintings, including such scenes as R2-D2 and C3PO arriving on Tatooine, helped convince 20th Century Fox to fund Star Wars which became a huge success upon release in 1977.

‘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 was offered a role as designer for the ‘Star Wars’ prequel trilogy, but he rejected the offer, noting he had ‘run out of steam’ and Industrial Light & Magic animator Doug Chiang was appointed instead.

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