It’s really quite difficult to make science fiction films come alive on paper. A good visual presentation is crucial, and it took the artwork of Ralph McQuarrie for Star Wars to finally get the greenlight at Fox.
Anyone who’s a Star Wars fan knows the artwork McQuarrie created for the film, and even in the early stages of the creatures and designs, Ralph’s art was always terrific.
For me, and I’m sure millions of other fans, the designs of Star Wars were extraordinary. I wasn’t scared of Darth Vader, I thought he looked totally cool (although the Sand People and the Jawas did scare me). McQuarrie’s designs were terrific, and really brought the world George Lucas had in his head to life.
After McQuarrie passed away at the age of 82, Lucas said in a statement: “Ralph McQuarrie was the first person I hired to help me envision Star Wars. His genial contribution, in the form of unequaled production paintings, propelled and inspired all of the cast and crew of the original Star Wars trilogy. When words could not convey my ideas, I could always point to one of Ralph’s fabulous illustrations and say, ‘Do it like this.'”
Lucas has been a big fan of illustration, and had close working relationships with McQuarrie as well as Drew Struzan, who also created many Star Wars posters. Great illustration is clearly an important element of the sci-fi world – just think of all the great science fiction paperback covers in the genre’s history that took you to another world.
McQuarrie’s sketches were of course a big key to getting people to see what Lucas had envisioned and his material will always be a wonderful compliment to the Star Wars series, showing the origins of the saga, besides standing as great art on its own.