It was announced on March 3rd, 2012 via facebook that legendary artist Ralph McQuarrie, best known for designing the look of the original Star Wars trilogy, has passed on at the age of 82. There are no words to describe how instrumental McQuarrie was to the overall popularity of Star Wars. George Lucas may have come up with the names and places and ideas, but it was McQuarrie who gave them their unique visual signature. If Lucas was Stan Lee, then McQuarrie was Jack Kirby, bringing what were just silly words on paper to vibrant life with style.
Born in Indiana, McQuarrie moved to California in the 1960s. Originally he worked as a technical illustrator for Boeing, as well designing movie posters and animating the news coverage of the Apollo space program for CBS. Impressed with his work in all these fields, a young George Lucas approached him about creating illustrations based on his upcoming science fiction script. McQuarrie designed many of the characters, including Darth Vader, Chewbacca, and drew many concepts for the film’s sets. McQuarrie’s concept paintings, including such scenes as the droid duo R2 and 3PO arriving on Tatooine, helped convince 20th Century Fox to fund Star Wars. Ultimately, The looks for almost everything in the classic trilogy was conceived of by McQuarrie.
Besides the original Star Wars trilogy, McQuarrie also contributed to such legendary movies as Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T., Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, and Jurassic Park. But it is for defining the Galaxy far, far away that McQuarrie will be remembered for most.