Star Wars was a cinematic revolution. Though other filmmakers had attempted science fiction and fantasy before, the 1977 film showed worlds unlike anything seen before and inspired imaginations with its galaxy far, far away. One of the most important architects of that universe has passed away–conceptual artist Ralph McQuarrie died this weekend from complications related to Parkinson’s disease.
If you look at the image above, you can see how important McQuarrie was to the world George Lucas created. Though it may have been on the page, McQuarrie’s art brought it to life. His drawings were important to the success of the film – it was his art that helped Lucas get a green light for the movie. And when I look at this drawing of the Millennium Falcon, I get that chill that reminds me how influential his work was on my childhood:
McQuarrie not only worked on the first Star Wars trilogy, he also designed the spaceships for Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and E.T. – The Extra Terrestrial and was a conceptual artist for the original Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Raiders of the Lost Ark, *batteries not included, Jurassic Park and Cocoon – for which he won an Academy Award. Because of his Parkinson’s he retired in the 1990′s, and passed on working on the prequel trilogy.
Though the prequel trilogy has complicated my (and many people’s) relationship with Star Wars, and Lucas’ now perennial tinkering only serves to obfuscate what made so many of us fall in love in the first place, that universe – as it was originally created – still has a great power. And McQuarrie was one of the people who made that universe what it was, along with many other gifted technicians and collaborators. But you can see that he got it, and helped mold it. For those of us who were as fascinating by the filmmakers as the films, McQuarrie was and is a hero.
RIP Ralph McQuarrie