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The Original "Star Wars" Concept Art Is Amazing

Incredible illustrations by artist Ralph McQuarrie. Not a trap.

Daniel Dalton / BuzzFeed

Star Wars (1977)

Ralph McQuarrie / Lucasfilm

Ralph McQuarrie (1929–2012) was an American conceptual designer and illustrator.

Ralph McQuarrie / Lucasfilm

In 1975, George Lucas commissioned McQuarrie to illustrate scenes from the script for Star Wars.

Ralph McQuarrie / Lucasfilm

McQuarrie designed many of the film's characters, including Darth Vader, Chewbacca, R2-D2, and C-3PO.

Ralph McQuarrie / Lucasfilm

He also drew concepts for many of the film's sets.

Ralph McQuarrie / Lucasfilm

"I just did my best to depict how I thought the film should look. I really liked the idea.”

Ralph McQuarrie / Lucasfilm

"I didn't think the film would get made. My impression was it was too expensive."

Ralph McQuarrie / Lucasfilm

“I thought there wouldn't be enough of an audience. It's too complicated.”

Ralph McQuarrie / Lucasfilm

"But George knew a lot of things that I didn't know." –Ralph McQuarrie

Ralph McQuarrie / Lucasfilm

Some of McQuarrie's concepts are quite different from the finished film.

Ralph McQuarrie / Lucasfilm

In his renderings, lightsabers were a single colour, and were carried by stormtroopers and other non-Jedi/Sith characters, before Lucas fully developed the mythology and made them a Jedi weapon.

Other illustrations are very close to scenes that ended up in the finished film.

Ralph McQuarrie / Lucasfilm

“Ralph was the first person I hired to help me envision Star Wars."

Ralph McQuarrie / Lucasfilm

"His genial contribution, in the form of unequaled production paintings..."

Ralph McQuarrie / Lucasfilm

"...propelled and inspired all of the cast and crew of the original Star Wars trilogy." –George Lucas

Ralph McQuarrie / Lucasfilm

The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Ralph McQuarrie / Lucasfilm

“It’s really a testament to how important he was..."

Ralph McQuarrie / Lucasfilm

"...that there’s such a connection between a lot of those iconic images and the movie scenes."

Ralph McQuarrie / Lucasfilm

“The way that he illustrated them was an influence on those characters, how they acted.” –George Lucas

Ralph McQuarrie / Lucasfilm
Ralph McQuarrie / Lucasfilm
Ralph McQuarrie / Lucasfilm
Ralph McQuarrie / Lucasfilm

"When words could not convey my ideas, I could always point to one of Ralph’s illustrations and say..."

Ralph McQuarrie / Lucasfilm

"...'Do it like this.'" –George Lucas

Ralph McQuarrie / Lucasfilm
Ralph McQuarrie / Lucasfilm
Ralph McQuarrie / Lucasfilm

“It was a special opportunity to start from the ground up."

Ralph McQuarrie / Lucasfilm

"Being able to create new characters, vehicles, and worlds…"

Ralph McQuarrie / Lucasfilm

"And since when I started it wasn’t clear that the film would be made..."

Ralph McQuarrie / Lucasfilm

"I didn’t have to limit myself." –Ralph McQuarrie

Ralph McQuarrie / Lucasfilm

It was McQuarrie who suggested that Vader wear a breathing apparatus.

Ralph McQuarrie / Lucasfilm

"George had described Darth Vader as having flowing black robes. In the script, Vader had to jump from one ship to another."

"To survive the vacuum of space, I felt he needed some sort of breathing mask."

Ralph McQuarrie / Lucasfilm

"George said, ‘OK,’ suggested adding a samurai helmet, and Darth Vader was born."

“Simple as that.” –Ralph McQuarrie

Ralph McQuarrie / Lucasfilm

Return of the Jedi (1983)

Ralph McQuarrie / Lucasfilm

“Ralph was a very special person for many more reasons than his undeniable brilliance with a brush.”

Ralph McQuarrie / Lucasfilm

“Beyond the movies, his artwork has inspired at least two generations of younger artists..."

Ralph McQuarrie / Lucasfilm

"All of whom learned through Ralph that movies are designed."

Ralph McQuarrie / Lucasfilm

“Like me, they were thrilled by his keen eye and creative imagination..."

Ralph McQuarrie / Lucasfilm

"...which always brought concepts to their most ideal plateau."

Ralph McQuarrie / Lucasfilm

“His influence on design will be felt forever."

Ralph McQuarrie / Lucasfilm

“There's no doubt that centuries from now amazing spaceships will soar..."

Ralph McQuarrie / Lucasfilm

"Future cities will rise..."

Ralph McQuarrie / Lucasfilm

"And someone, somewhere will say…"

Ralph McQuarrie / Lucasfilm

"...'That looks like something Ralph McQuarrie painted.'" –George Lucas

Ralph McQuarrie / Lucasfilm

All images sourced from Star Wars: The Art of Ralph McQuarrie. Artwork reproduced here with permission of Dreams and Vision Press.

Ralph McQuarrie quotes from here and here. George Lucas quotes from here.