RIP Ralph Mcquarrie

The great painter died, aged 82. He designed the look of Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. He also did designs for a host of other films like Raiders of the Lost Ark and Close Encounters. He lived up near where I’m from in Northern California near the Bay Area. A friend of mine who’s an artist got to spend some time with him once. Said he was a great guy.

He leaves a great legacy behind. I’ll bet his paintings fetch a bundle.

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  1.  Don’t forget Jedi, too!

    While I never quite “got” Frank Frazetta, I loved Ralph McQuarrie’s design work on the original Star Wars Trilogy and the original Battlestar Galactica.  The SW prequels and reimagined Galactica just do not live up to the original versions of those series.

    (* Note: I’m not sure that McQuarrie did work on any of the Indiana Jones movies.  His SW and Galactica work is what I’m most familiar with.  After SW, I love his version of Galactica.  I hated the Sy Fy update of Galactica…!)

    I think the only McQuarrie artwork I didn’t care for were his ideas for Star Trek but that’s probably because they were TOO radical, looked too much like his design work for Star Wars (his Enterprise looked like a Star Destroyer!), and just deviated too much from what Matt Jefferies established for Star Trek: TOS.  Still, at least two of McQuarrie’s concepts for the Enterprise made their ways into the backgrounds of both Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and the two-part Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, “The Best of Two Worlds.”  Not long ago, they sold a paper model of one of his Enterprise designs for a fair amount of  money at an auction.  At least $3.500 from what I remember…

    Don’t forget that McQuarrie helped design Vader and R2-D2.  R2-D2 is easily the most iconic robot in all of science fiction since the late 1800s.  McQuarrie’s original concept painting for the Luke/Vader lightsaber fight (1975) is easily my favorite illustration of his.  That concept painting is one I eventually want to buy a licensed print for and frame.  Easily my favorite Star Wars image, period.


    McQuarrie to my mind is the ultimate inspirational sci-fi film designer.  They just don’t make them like him anymore and film design is sorrier for his loss…  There hasn’t been a great/well-designed sci-fi film since at least the early 1980s.  Maybe the Fifth Element comes closest but even that film is a warmed-over revamp of “Harry Canyon” from the original animated “Heavy Metal” movie.

    •  Hud,

      I’m pretty sure the McQuarrie original Star Wars production paintings are long gone unless Lucas held onto them.

      There have been many lithos and reproductions sold of these paintings over the years.  The very first set of McQuarrie Star Wars lithos came out around 1978 or so.  One of those lithos was “The Duel” production painting that I raved about.  The Japanese statue-maker,
      Kotobukiya, released a plastic 3D version of this painting a few years back.  I didn’t get it (lightsaber statue blades molded in plastic droop! LOL) since I’d prefer to buy a litho of the painting instead…
      Hasbro itself has also released special action figure versions of many of McQuarrie’s concept sketches as well as a special edition Rebel officer version of McQuarrie dressed in Hoth Rebel general gear!  McQuarrie did have a cameo in The Empire Strikes Back dressed like that!

      •  Shoot… Should have mentioned the McQuarrie production paintings for the ‘Wars movies may be gone because of private auction.  Lucas has sold items from the LFL Archives/warehouses over the years for many tens of thousands of dollars. 
        One of the few things he didn’t hold onto from the original productions was a motion picture camera that somehow ended up in Debbie Reynolds’ movie memorabilia collection.  That camera — one of many used during the production of Star Wars — sold for well over $100,000 recently at auction!

        Lucas hasn’t kept EVERYTHING except the original film reels from the original movies.  (Kept many of the original models, yes, but some props and costumes have been let go to raise money for new productions and charity.)  Despite his protests to the contrary, the original versions of the films STILL exist.  I know this through a contact who visited Skywalker Ranch a few years back.  The original film reels were recomposited for the Special Edition re-releases and I’m sure that original film footage was probably digitally preserved around that time, too.
        Lucas is nothing but thorough in general.  It’s made him tons of money just like it did Walt Disney…  Disney was a certified genius.  Lucas has been shrewd, too, but arguably isn’t anywhere near as savvy or perceptive about his public image as Walt was…

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