The ten best pieces of Ralph McQuarrie Star Wars concept art

Dec 12, 2020
vader fights luke concept art

Ralph McQuarrie Star Wars concept art designs

When George Lucas was thinking about and writing his early version of The Star Wars he would put his ideas down onto a yellow legal pad with a pencil.

While his stories were amazing, he needed to be able to show people how his film The Star Wars could look.

He engaged the services of an artist called Ralph McQuarrie and the rest is history.

Ralph took George's ideas and concepts and turned the words into the world that became Star Wars. Ralph did the robots, the villains, the landscapes and the heroes.

His drawings lead to so many iconic things being in Star Wars and thus his influence on the world is very marked.

Sadly McQuarrie died some years ago but we can celebrate his work by examining the top ten pieces of concept art he drew for Lucas.

c3po early concept design

This early draft picture of C3PO and R2D2 is perhaps the most significant work that Ralph did as it set the standard for everything else.

Lucas wanted the story to be told from the point of two robots (he was inspired by the bumbling duo in The Hidden Fortress) and after some experimenting with robot design, this was one of the images that Lucas took with him when he met studio executives as he pitched his film.

For C3PO, McQuarrie had pretty clear direction from George as to his design:

"Back when I was doing the initial concept artwork for Star Wars, George had photographs of the Metropolis robot, which he said he'd like C-3P0 to look like, except that I should make it a boy”.

original design of the Millennium Falcon

This is an early design of the Millennium Falcon, the cockpit and 'style' of the ship made it to the final design (which legend has it was based on a suggestion from Lucas that it resemble a pickle stuck to a bun).

The Falcon has become one of the most iconic ships in the Star Wars franchise - it's up there with the Death Star and Luke flying around in his X-Wing.

luke starkiller mos eisley concept drawing

This is Luke Starkiller looking over Mos Eisley as he was known at the time of drawing.  Note the speed racer, C3PO and most importantly two suns floating in the sky.

The two suns went on to famously feature in one of the most iconic Star Wars moments when Luke stared into them:

luke starring at two suns

The Death Star was destroyed by Luke's torpedoes in A New Hope.

Jedi originally was intended to repeat the formula with not one but two Death Star's being built above a plant called Had Abbadon. Here's what Ralph came up with as the conceptual design:

death star stations over had abbadon

Chewbacca is the furriest of all the warriors in Star Wars. His original designs by McQuarrie were not quite the final product you can see in the move but Star Wars Rebels fans will be pleased to note these early designs have been used for the character known as Zeb.

original concept designs of chewbacca

Here's an early concept of Han Solo about to be brought asunder by the bounty hunter Greedo. Check out C3PO and R2D2 to the left, an early design of a Storm Trooper and something that looks like an owl! Oh and Greedo had a tail.... This character actually appeared briefly in The Force Awakens - look for it at Maz Kanata's castle.

greedo han solo concept art design

A Jedi to be getting his training by Master Yoda in the swamps of  Degobah.

luke and yoda training concept artwork

Is there anything less iconic in Star Wars than Luke Skywalker taking on the Empire all by himself down the trench run while Vader is taking potshots at his X-Wing

No. There is not and McQuarrie's influence cannot be denied.

The final look of the trench was more detailed but there is no denying that the X-Wing looks pretty damn cool:

trench run concept design star wars

If The Empire Strikes Back is considered one of the greatest science fiction movies ever made, then it was Ralph's design work for the battle of Hoth that helped made it so awesome. Here's Luke contemplating his navel after his snow speeder crashed on the icy tundra.

luke crash empire concept art

mquarrie rebel base ice caves

This giant space tit joke has lasted the ages, but you'll have to agree, Empire looked awesome.

space nipple gun from empire concept art

So these are just ten of McQuarrie's great designs for Stars Wars, there's plenty of awesomeness to be found, heck we didn't even cover Luke and Vader duelling in Cloud City:

luke faces vader in Empire drawings
No, I am your father!

1 comment:

  1. Re: Chewbacca art/inspiration
    As much as I love McQuarrie's work, he stole the design for Chewie from another artist who was illustrating for (the now famous) George R.R. Martin:
    Search John Shoenherr + Chewbacca + 1975 - and you'll see the work McQuarrie copied outright


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