One of the best things about The Force Awakens is how the movie does such an excellent job of balancing between the designs and feel of the original trilogy that so many fans know and love while still expanding the universe with new characters, ships, aliens and worlds. This level of respect for the source material can be credited with much of the film's critical and commercial success but we wouldn't have any of it without the hard work of the late, great Ralph McQuarrie.
You might not know the name but you're definitely familiar with the man's work. Ralph McQuarrie was one of the original designers for the Star Wars trilogy and developed some of the most iconic characters of the franchise beginning with A New Hope, including Chewbacca, R2-D2, C-3PO and even the legendary Darth Vader himself. McQuarrie would go on to do the design work for both Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi plus more science fiction classics such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T. and the original Battlestar Galactica series!
Science fiction and fantasy would be very different without the influence of Ralph McQuarrie. His art can be seen in the palm of your hand thanks to the slew of Star Wars games available for mobile devices such as the Star Wars: Card Trader game where you can actually access concept art for the series and see how it stacks up against McQuarrie's originals. Meanwhile, Battlestar Galactica continues to remain popular thanks to the critically-acclaimed 2004 reboot of the series that has even received its own licensed online game lending new life to the designs that have become the series' hallmark. Today, McQuarrie's creations can be found not just on the silver screen but across TV and video games as well.
Ralph McQuarrie passed away as a result of Parkinson's disease in 2012 but his illustrations and designs continue to capture the imaginations of millions even after he's gone. In fact, several of McQuarrie's unused designs ended up being used in the recent animated TV series Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels which included several planets and characters. The creators of the new trilogy of Star Wars films continue to mine McQuarrie's original designs for inspiration, some of which can be seen in the subtle tweaks to the design of the iconic X-wing fighter ship.
There are plenty of terrific art books for those interested in seeing more of McQuarrie's fantastic art and a nice folio book of Star Wars art might be just the thing for that belated gift for the geek in your life. We can't wait to see how his art will be used in the upcoming movies but if it's half as good as what they did in The Force Awakens then we'll all be in for a treat.