A lot of people don’t see all the pieces that go into making a movie. They see the final product. Love it or hate it. Those who are interested in what’s under the hood find out that there are a lot of talented people who make up the whole of a great vision. As a kid, for me that first great vision was Star Wars.
I lived and breathed it growing up. Any info, art, music, story about it, I ate it up with a spoon. That’s how I discovered Ralph McQuarrie. I bought an Art of Star Wars book (a copy of which is still on my bookshelf) because I loved to see behind the curtain and wanted to try and find nuggets of imagery and story beyond what the films gave me. Ralph was a talented concept artist who worked on films such as Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, E.T. and Cocoon(for which he won an Oscar).
When you looked at his work, it became evident that he had almost as much to do with the success of Star Wars as George Lucas did. Of course, the story and concept was George, but the look and feel was Ralph. And the look was a big part of the appeal of Star Wars. You could say the same for Battlestar Galactica. Hell, a lot of movies that require building whole new worlds lean heavily on the concept artist. Take a look at the Lord of the Rings movies. They have Alan Lee’s touch all over them. I distinctly remember scenes that are literally lifted from Alan’s paintings. The same goes for McQuarrie’s work.
It takes a special talent to interpret written material into dramatic visual compositions. It takes imagination and technical ability. Ralph had both in abundance. He passed away yesterday at the age of 82. His influence on the imagination of kids and adults around the world can’t be understated.