Ridiculously sad news this weekend, when word came that legendary artist Ralph McQuarrie passed away at the age of 82. McQuarrie is best known for his conceptual art for Star Wars, which was instrumental in getting George Lucas's crazy venture financed in the first place. It was McQuarrie's first job in the film industry, which is pretty damned impressive given the beauty, scale and imagination at play in his work for the film.
Although McQuarrie may well go down in history as the man who designed Darth Vader and C-3P0, his varied career found him working on such fantastical projects as Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Nightbreed (our personal favorite, although we're probably alone on that) and Cocoon, which is – believe it or not – the only film to earn McQuarrie an Academy Award, for Best Visual Effects (which he shared with David Berry, Ken Ralston and Scott Farrar).
We'll always remember Ralph McQuarrie for his concept design on Star Wars, of course. If you've seen his work (much of it can easily be found online), you'll probably see that McQuarrie's designs are generally more impressive than what actually wound up on screen. (Seriously, look at that conceptual art for Emperor Palpatine up there – that's f*cking beautiful.) The technology wasn't quite there, certainly, but it also may have just been impossible to live up to his visions.
Although the fans lament the passing of the man who designed many of the great pop culture icons, our hearts also go out to his family, friends and colleagues, who are doubtless experiencing the loss of their friend with greater grief than all the grateful fanboys in the world can muster. Rest in peace, Ralph McQuarrie. Thank you for your dreams.