Sunday, 4 March 2012

Ralph McQuarrie

Another little bit of my childhood passed into eternity tonight.

Ralph McQuarrie started out as an industrial graphic designer. His work for NASA around the moon landings caught the attention of filmmakers but it was one in particular who really let McQuarrie's imagination loose on all of our eyes; yep, that fella again, George Lucas.

In an effort to try and raise funding for his embryonic project, The Star Wars (as it was known at that time), Lucas employed the awesome talents of McQuarrie to try and convey his proposed film in visual terms. McQuarrie was tasked with creating quality paintings that encapsulated specific scenes from what was (I believe) merely an outline and a series of ideas that Lucas had at the time. While his work for NASA showed his talent for designing believable space craft, his work on Star Wars also showed  a flair for character design, be it human, alien or droid. Many of these images persevered and survive in culturally iconic form in the finished film as we still know it today. Such was McQuarrie's talent. And he helped keep Star Wars alive visually, being a major contributor to Coruscant in the Shadows of the Empire project, something that carried over into the prequels.

Or to put it another way, he pretty much designed Darth Vader. No mean feat.

McQuarrie went on to design further aspects of Star Wars and did the same for The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi and contributed to the Indiana Jones films and other movies and his work is even felt in its influence of designers such as Doug Chiang and Ian Gracie in the newer Star Wars films.

In a time when we lose guys like Ralph and Bob Anderson (the sword master from the original trilogy - when we saw Vader duel, it was mostly Bob) I feel that little bit older. Ralph was 82 but this still feels like a bit of a gut punch to this geek.

Thank you, Mr McQuarrie. Word has it you were a kind, self effacing gentleman. Thanks for all the wonderful sights you filled my life with.

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