McQuarrie visiting ILM in 2008
June 13, 1929|
Gary, Indiana, United States
|Died||March 3, 2012
Berkeley, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Parkinson's disease|
|Alma mater||Art Center School|
|Occupation||Illustrator and designer|
|Notable work(s)||Star Wars,
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,
|Awards||Academy Award for Visual Effects (1985)|
Ralph Angus McQuarrie (June 13, 1929 – March 3, 2012) was an American conceptual designer and illustrator who designed the original Star Wars trilogy, the original Battlestar Galactica TV series, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Cocoon, for which he won an Academy Award.
McQuarrie was born Ralph Angus McQuarrie on June 13, 1929 in Gary, Indiana and was raised on a farm near Billings, Montana. He served in the United States Army during the Korean War, surviving a shot to the head. After returning from the war, McQuarrie moved to California in the 1960s, studying at the Art Center School, then in downtown Los Angeles. Initially he worked for a dentistry firm, drawing teeth and equipment, before working as a technical illustrator for Boeing, as well as designing film posters and animating CBS News's coverage of the Apollo space program at the three-man company Reel Three. While there, McQuarrie was asked by Hal Barwood to produce some illustrations for a film project he and Matthew Robbins were starting. Mcquarrie married Joan Benjamin in 1983 and stayed married until his death.
Impressed with his work, director George Lucas met with him to discuss his plans for a space-fantasy film. Several years later, in 1975, Lucas commissioned McQuarrie to illustrate several scenes from the script of the film, Star Wars. McQuarrie designed many of the film's characters, including Darth Vader, Chewbacca, R2-D2 and C-3PO and drew many concepts for the film's sets. It was McQuarrie who suggested that Vader wear breathing apparatus. McQuarrie's concept paintings, including such scenes as R2-D2 and C-3PO arriving on Tatooine, helped convince 20th Century Fox to fund Star Wars, which became a huge success upon release in 1977. Neil Kendricks of The San Diego Union-Tribune stated McQuarrie "holds a unique position when it comes to defining much of the look of the "Star Wars" universe." McQuarrie noted, "I thought I had the best job that an artist ever had on a film, and I had never worked on a feature film before. [...] I still get fan mail — people wondering if I worked on Episode I or just wanting to have my autograph."
Around the same period, he was brought on board the design team of Star Trek: Planet of the Titans to re-design the USS Enterprise. McQuarrie went on to work as the conceptual designer on the film's two sequels The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983).
Christian Blauvelt of Entertainment Weekly praised McQuarrie's works as "pioneering of the 'used future' aesthetic" which unlike other science-fiction, "imagined a lived-in galaxy that was gritty, dirty, and in advance states of decay." He described McQuarrie's style as "strongly geometric subjects rendered in muted colors against a flat, purposefully compressed backdrop. A McQuarrie Star Wars design looks like what would have resulted if Salvador Dalí had sketched concepts for Universals 1936 Flash Gordon serial by way of Sergio Leones Old West."
McQuarrie played the uncredited role of General Pharl McQuarrie in The Empire Strikes Back. He appears in Echo Base on Hoth in the film's opening sequence. An action figure in his likeness as "General McQuarrie" was produced for Star Wars 30th anniversary. Action figures based on McQuarrie's concept art, including conceptual versions of the Imperial Stormtrooper, Chewbacca, R2-D2 and C-3PO, Darth Vader, Han Solo, Boba Fett, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda and other characters have also been made.
McQuarrie designed the alien ships in Steven Spielberg's films Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), while his work as the conceptual artist on the 1985 film Cocoon earned him the Academy Award for Visual Effects. He also worked on the 1978 TV series Battlestar Galactica, and the films Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and *batteries not included.
Retirement and death
Rick McCallum offered McQuarrie a role as designer for the Star Wars prequel trilogy, but he rejected the offer, noting he had "run out of steam" and Industrial Light & Magic animator Doug Chiang was appointed instead. McQuarrie retired and his Star Wars concept paintings were subsequently displayed in art exhibitions, including the 1999 Star Wars: The Magic of Myth. Several of McQuarrie's unused designs from the original trilogy were utilized for the Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated TV series, including the planet Orto Plutonia, which was based on McQuarrie's original design of Hoth.
Lucas commented after McQuarrie's death: "His genial contribution, in the form of unequalled 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'."
- Star Wars (1977) (production illustrator)
- Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) (Mother Ship designer)
- Battlestar Galactica (1978) (production and concept illustrator)
- Star Wars Holiday Special (1978) (illustrator)
- The Empire Strikes Back (1980) (design consultant and conceptual artist)
- Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) (ILM illustrator)
- E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) (scenic artist/spaceship design)
- Return of the Jedi (1983) (conceptual artist)
- Cocoon (1985) (conceptual artist)
- Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) (visual consultant)
- *batteries not included (1987) (conceptual artist)
- Nightbreed (1990) (conceptual artist)
- Back to the Future: The Ride (1991) (conceptual artist) (uncredited)
- Rees Shapiro, T. (2012-03-05). "Ralph McQuarrie, artist who drew Darth Vader, C-3PO, dies at 82". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2012-03-05.
- Magid, Ron (2004-09-28). "Ralph McQuarrie on Designing Star Wars". Star Wars Insider #76 via RalphMcQuarrie.com. Archived from the original on March 5, 2012.
- Kendricks, Neil (1999-09-23). "Behind The Force 'Star Wars: The Magic of Myth' showcases the work of artists who collaborated with the head Jedi, a.k.a. George Lucas". San Diego Union-Tribune. p. NIGHT & DAY-32.
- Michael Heilemann: George Lucas Stole Chewbacca, But It’s Okay, binarybonsai.com,18. September 2010, Sep 18, '10
- "Star Wars artist Ralph McQuarrie dies aged 82". BBC News. 2012-03-04. Retrieved 2012-03-04.
- White, James (2012-03-04). "Ralph McQuarrie Has Died". Empire. Retrieved 2012-03-04.
- Anders, Charlie Jane (December 31, 2010). "Ralph McQuarrie's concept art for a Star Trek movie in 1976-1977". io9. Retrieved July 28, 2013.
- Blauvelt, Christian (2012-03-04). "Ralph McQuarrie, legendary 'Star Wars' concept artist, dies at 82: A tribute to the man who designed that Galaxy Far, Far Away". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2012-03-05.
- Szadkowski, Joseph (2007-08-04). "Star Wars' concept art turned into action figures". The Washington Times. p. C09.
- Spelling, Ian (2009-11-24). "The real, incredibly mundane reason Darth Vader wears a mask". Sci Fi Wire.
- Watercutter, Angela (4 March 2012). "Star Wars Conceptual Artist Ralph McQuarrie Dies at 82". Wired.com. Retrieved 5 March 2012.
- "Ralph McQuarrie Remembered". Star Wars.com. 2012-03-03. Retrieved 2012-03-04.
- Ralph McQuarrie at the Internet Movie Database
- Official website
- Ralph McQuarrie Concept Sketches and Concept Paintings for Battlestar Galactica (1978)
- General McQuarrie action figure at Rebelscum.com
- McQuarrie Signature Series Concept "Starkiller" Hero (female) action figure
- Ralph McQuarrie obituary: Conceptual artist who brought Star Wars to life (Guardian article)