One of the best things about the Star Wars trilogy is its look. The films were unlike anything fans saw before. However, it wasn’t just George Lucas who came up with these awesome concepts. Check out this gallery of concept art images from Ralph McQuarrie which helped define Star Wars.
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All images via Lucasfilm.
Ralph McQuarrie is the artist behind so many of Star Wars original and timeless designs. Here he is in a photo from Lucasfilm actually painting one of the mattes they used for the original trilogy. Click ahead to see how his concept art translated into on-screen images.
Perhaps one of his most famous images is this one of an early concept for C3PO and R2D2. Anthony Daniels has famously said that he wasn’t convinced to take on the role of a robot in a sci-fi movie until he saw this painting and felt a deep emotional connection to everyone’s favorite golden protocol droid.
Of course, the final look of those characters is slightly different from what Ralph McQuarrie envisioned. Still, without his concept art, these two would look (and probably sound) very different.
Some of the concept art drawn by Ralph McQuarrie made its way into the film virtually unchanged. This image of the Millennium Falcon entering the hangar bay of the Death Star should look very familiar to fans of Star Wars: A New Hope.
This final shot of the scene is almost identical to the drawing, save for the fact that the white-suited troopers replaced the black-suited troopers in the drawing. Though, those black-suited troopers served as inspiration for the TIE Fighter pilots and, later, the Death Troopers who debuted in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
Speaking of the Millennium Falcon, our introduction to the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy also should look very familiar. The concept art created by Ralph McQuarrie for this moment is pretty much what we got on screen. However, the characters did end up looking different in most cases. (But Luke always loved his ponchos!)
Docking Bay 94 in Mos Eisley is where the Millennium Falcon entered the pop culture consciousness, forever. If you think about it, it’s amazing how faithful the set designers were to the concept art originally envisioned by Ralph McQuarrie.
In fact, it seems that a lot of the more high-concept ideas in Star Wars, such as Cloud City on Bespin in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back looks virtually unchanged from the concept art.
Even the updated CG imaging in the special editions maintains its faithfulness to the concept art created by Ralph McQuarrie. Including the fun little ships they use to police the skies around the floating city.
Of course, some of the concept art created by Ralph McQuarrie does look a little different in the final film. This image of Luke Skywalker training with Yoda looks familiar, but there are a lot of subtle changes from Luke’s outfit to Yoda’s actual look.
One has to wonder if Mark Hamill is grateful that they decided to give Luke a dirty gray jumpsuit, instead of making him train on the Dagobah set shirtless.
The confrontation between Luke and Darth Vader on Cloud City also can trace much of its look to the concept art from Ralph McQuarrie.
The actual set design of the Cloud City carbonite freezing chamber maintains some of its shape from the Ralph McQuarrie concept art, but there is more atmosphere and color in the final product. Fitting for one of the most iconic scenes in the franchise.
This bit of Ralph McQuarrie concept art shows the Emperor’s arrival on the second Death Star from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. However, the Emperor doesn’t appear in this scene. Though, McQuarrie had a much different idea of what the Emperor would look like as you’ll see later in the gallery.
This shot from the production shows the Imperial Guards, Vader, and the Emperor himself. While we don’t see his retinue of advisors and so on, they are present briefly in the actual film.
We’re all aware of the fateful confrontation between Luke Skywalker and Emperor Palpatine. It’s one of the best moments in the original trilogy. Yet, when doing the concept art for the film, Ralph McQuarrie had a unique take on the Lord of the Sith.
This version of the Emperor is legitimately terrifying. He looks more like a monster than a man. While fans love the Emperor we got, this guy is something to behold.
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.