In 1975, in a galaxy far far away, Luke Skywalker was Luke Starkiller, Tatooine was Utapau, and all Imperial Stormtroopers carried lightsabers. That was the galaxy of the “Adventures of the Starkiller” as taken from the Journal of the Whills, Saga I: The Star Wars, the second draft of the script that led to Star Wars in 1977 and, eventually, got us to The Last Jedi. Everyone knows how the Star Wars galaxy looks. This new trailer, however, shows us the original galaxy of the Starkiller–how Star Wars would have looked if it never had veered from the original concept art:
The trailer was made by the August and October 2017 graduating class of DAVE School–a games, film effects, and 3D animation school in Orlando, Florida–who turned the amazing Star Wars concepts by Ralph McQuarrie into living paintings. McQuarrie is the illustrator responsible for some of the most iconic designs in the history of cinema, including the spaceship of E.T. The Extraterrestrial, the mothership in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Cocoon, all the spacecraft in Battlestar Galactica, and even a redesigned Enterprise for a Star Trek movie that was never released.
But his most famous concept art is his work for Star Wars. In 1975, George Lucas commissioned McQuarrie to create illustrations that turned the second draft of Lucas’s space western script into images. His designs set the tone for the entire movie series. The Y-Wings, the X-Wings, Luke’s binary star home world, the designs for the Stormtroopers and Darth Vader–influenced by the aesthetic of the samurai–were all in these original illustrations.
Some of the concepts, however, were completely different from the designs that appeared in the original Star Wars: A New Hope. Chewbacca was not the fuzzball that we all love but an ugly alien without a nose; the Millennium Falcon looked more like a smaller version of what later become Princess Leia’s Corellian Corvette; and Starkiller and Han Solo looked more like Alex Raymond‘s characters in Flash Gordon.
McQuarrie went on to work in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, adding new amazing concept art that was more in line with what we saw in those movies probably because the design language had been set in the first film. McQuarrie’s very first Star Wars concepts look so exotic and retro-futuristic compared to his work for the second and third films.
I always wondered what it would’ve been like if they stuck to that exact look and script. This trailer is a good reminder that the galaxy far away feels a lot more grounded and real than McQuarrie’s original vision, probably because the final product resulted from a collaboration with other designers and visual effects people. On the other hand, the Star Wars prequels’ design had no gravity and felt emptier than the faux houses in Disneyland without the support of McQuarrie’s art, who declined to participate in those movies. That is perhaps a testament to the master’s vision, which continues to be brilliant and a pure joy today.