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Ralph McQuarrie's Star Wars concept art comes to life in this delightful short film

Ralph McQuarrie's Star Wars concept art comes to life in this delightful short film


Featuring a female Luke Skywalker and a lemur-like Chewbacca

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Star Wars might have looked radically different if George Lucas had stuck closer to the original concept images that he and artist Ralph McQuarrie produced to match the earliest versions of his script. A group of student filmmakers from the DAVE School in Orlando, Florida recently created a concept trailer that brought McQuarrie’s classic illustrations to life.

In 1975, George Lucas had just completed his second draft of an ambitious science fiction movie he called The Star Wars. Coming off the huge success of his film American Graffiti, he sold the idea to 20th Century Fox, but the studio’s executives didn’t fully understand what he was trying to do, and they hesitated on moving forward with the film. So Lucas turned to McQuarrie, a concept artist he met a couple of years earlier, to illustrate several key scenes from the script. His illustrations helped get the film made, and ultimately shaped the overall look and feel of the Star Wars universe.

But while McQuarrie’s original concepts were influential, Lucas continued to rewrite the original script. Chewbacca looked a bit like an oversized lemur. Stormtroopers had lightsabers, and Luke Skywalker was originally a woman: Luka Starkiller.

The students from the school decided to adapt the images into a trailer of their own, making costumes based off the original characters, and using green screens and digital effects to bring McQuarrie’s world to life. The result is a wonderful short collection of images come alive.

While there are notable differences, the trailer highlights how much of the Star Wars universe is recognizable from those first images. X-Wings and TIE Fighters dogfight over the Death Star, while Luka and a later visual concept for Han — a bearded, caped human — escape from Stormtroopers chasing them through its corridors.

While Lucas’ film ultimately came out differently, McQuarrie’s concept art remains a continual source of inspiration for the franchise. Elements from those images have been worked into Lucas’ prequel trilogy, while the art has directly inspired the look of more recent projects such as Star Wars Rebels. Hasbro released a series of action figures based on his art, and Dark Horse Comics even adapted the original script in 2013, using the concept art for inspiration.

But this concept trailer for The Star Wars takes us another step closer to seeing what Star Wars could have looked like in an alternate universe: delightful, recognizable, but still utterly strange.