By Chris Tyler
For people of a certain age, Star Wars was once everything; even if you’ve gone off it since the prequels. There will always be a special place in your heart for the original trilogy. There are several reasons for this, the sound design was memorable as was the music but being a movie you can’t minimize the importance of the visuals and the man who designed those visuals was Ralph McQuarrie.
When George Lucas lumped into Allan Ladds office on the 20th century Fox lot he wasn’t particularly hopeful, he’d been shopping his script, a sprawling space sage around for the last few months. No one, it seemed was interested. His pitch was pretty similar to many film makers that walked into offices. He had a breakdown of the script, a spec script and a pitch on how much money it could make. However, George had one ace up his sleeve. George had some Ralph McQuarrie prints. McQuarrie was as little known as Lucas was but he had produced some lush, exciting, almost fully formed scenes from the film. George often said “this is how it’s going to look”. Later, when the film was in production, when Georges words failed him he would point to the prints and say, “make it look like this”. And it looked amazing.
I said on my blog today that Ralph Macquarie designed my childhood and really it’s not far from the truth. Along with Chris Foss, Moebius, Syd Mead and Ron Cobb, Ralph McQuarrie’s designs wormed their way into my head and certainly had an impact on the way I view design today and probably how I think visually.
The Star Wars films owe almost everything to his vision and ability with a brush. If you go back to the original concept prints, the seeds for all we know and love are there, Darth Vader, C3P0, Chewbacca, The Millennium Falcon, the Death Star. The very idea of a used future. It’s all there. Of course at this time Han solo was still a fish alien so he looked a little different. And so too with the films so goes the toys, and the toys were a huge part of my childhood too. He also worked on the original Battle Star Galactica and that was a huge part of my childhood as well and if you notice that in the 2004 reboot the thing they did bring back were the ships and the Cylons. Yup, McQuarrie again.
Goodbye Ralph the world would have been a dull, uninteresting place without you.