When the “Star Wars” saga celebrated its 30th Anniversary in 1997, my husband went on the hunt for the much-anticipated Ralph McQuarrie Signature Series action figures, based in his original character designs of Darth Vader, Stormtroopers and other figures whose big screen counterparts would soon be iconic.
Even though there were several other figures released for the anniversary, we wanted to be able to hold in our hands a little token of McQuarrie’s contribution to the films.
Born in 1929 in Gary, Indiana, McQuarrie was known as the man who first gave a physical presence to George Lucas’s creative vision. It was McQuarrie’s concepts, for that matter, that first gave executives the confidence to finance Lucas’s promising little sci-fi movie in 1975, two years before it hit theatres.
For the generations who have grown so familiar with the big screen (and now little screen) looks of the Star Wars universe, McQuarrie’s original concepts of a cat-like Chewbacca, and an Asian-inspired Darth Vader may seem a little archaic compared to the sleek and clean finished products you can identify by their silhouette alone, true afficianados of the series know McQuarrie’s style well.
And it wasn’t just characters. McQuarrie’s background working with Boeing Company made his conceptual art of vehicles and other mechanical items both beautiful and practical.
When he passed away yesterday at age 82, he left behind some of the most powerful early images of what would soon to be Lucas’s most celebrated filmmaking opus.
Thank you for the inspiration, Mr. McQuarrie; you will be missed.