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The man who gave the world his vision of Darth Vader, C-3PO, R2-D2 and so many other iconic ships and characters from science fiction movies has passed away. Legendary conceptual artist/painter Ralph McQuarrie died today at the age of 82.
Born June 13, 1929, McQuarrie worked as a conceptual designer for Boeing aircraft and then later doing conceptual painting for CBS News for the network's coverage of the Apollo space launches. It was McQuarrie's work for this touchstone of American spaceflight that drew the attention of a young filmmaker named George Lucas. In the mid-1970s, Lucas approached McQuarrie and asked him to develop paintings that would help illustrate a new movie story he was working on titled Star Wars. The rest was history.
The stunning success of Star Wars thrust McQuarrie into a new level of attention. He was soon hired by other movie studios to flesh out the looks of their sci-fi projects in development including Universal's Battlestar Galactica, a new look for the starship Enterprise in a proposed 1970s TV series titled Star Trek: Phase II, the mothership for Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind and spaceship for E.T.: The Extraterrestrial, and the aliens and their ship for 1985's Cocoon, for which he won an Academy Award.
McQuarrie's last work for Hollywood was producing designs for the Jurassic Park theme ride in 1993. While he was asked to be involved with the new Star Wars prequel movies he declined, saying that he thought that his day had come and gone and that the new generation of designers had things in good control. McQuarrie spent the last decade of his life retired and living with his wife while dealing with Parkinson's disease.
What is remarkable about Ralph McQuarrie's paintings is that they could still grab your imagination in a special way, even after watching the models and special effects of Star Wars or Close Encounters. McQuarrie leaves behind a body of work that created dreams in the imaginations of millions of people.