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

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.


This was really cool. I got chills.

Wonderful! I want to come with you to Alderaan. There’s nothing for me here now. I want to learn the ways of the Force and become a Jedi like my father.

"You’ve taken your first step into a larger world."

Very cool project! Also interesting to see how Lucasfilm went back to so many of McQuarrie’s depictions for inspiration when they put together Star Wars Rebels for Disney XD.

What has always amazed me is how bad Star Wars could have been. Much of the early drawings look like other b sci fi flicks of the times. Some of the ships were just blah. Instead what we ended up with where costumes and ship designs that weren’t like every other space movie and a score that lifted it above the rest (not to mention the sound effects). If things had gone differently it could have just been another crappy space movie from the 70s.

Speaking of how bad it could have been…check out this video of what the early version of the movie was like.

How Star Wars was saved in the edit

And I somewhat disagree that the movie would have been bad if they went with McQuarrie’s original designs. Many of his designs were used almost as is or close to it. Probably a lot of the actual movie’s aesthetic was due to budgetary and time constraints. Instead of an elaborate costume, look had on p, basically, a shortened bath robe for a shirt. And Han had a shirt, pants and a vest. Luke’s lightsaber was repurposed stage light with some greeblies glued on.

Not a stage light, an old hand-held flash with the bulb/reflector removed.

Thanks. I couldn’t remember and was too lazy to look it up.

And, boy, I should really proofread my posts before submitting.

Rebels used a bunch of this art as reference. Awesomly ,I must add.

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