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McQuarrie, Ralph

Ralph McQuarrie

Ralph Angus McQuarrie was born on June 13, 1929 in Gary, Indiana, U.S., to a wood pattern maker father, Ralph McQuarrie from Canada, and an artist mother, Madeline McQuarrie.  The family moved to Billings, Montana when McQuarrie was one and they lived there for the next nine years.  During WWII, he and his family left Billings and moved to Seattle then to Vancouver, Canada so his father could find better work, they remained in Vancouver until 1948 when they returned to Seattle where he graduated high school.

McQuarrie gained his love for illustrating and art while he was a small boy, both his mother and grandfather were artists and as early as the age of ten McQuarrie was taking art classes and moved on to technical drawing in high school and at the YMCA in Seattle, a year after graduating he joined the army and worked for Boeing doing technical illustrations for parts catalogs.  During his work for Boeing he'd met people who'd been students at Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles (now in Pasadena, CA), McQuarrie felt this was the place for him and moved to LA.  Over a period of time he wasn't sure which direction, artistically, he wanted to go in and changed his mind several times then dropped out.  He went back to technical illustrations and worked on his portfolio and worked at Kaiser Graphics.

In the early 60's McQuarrie worked for Litton Industries (now Litton Corp.) a then small electronics manufacturing center.  He did the technical illustrations for their brochures and other projects.  In 1963 he left Litton to work for Boeing, again, where he worked on brochures, illustrations and story boards for films which headed to the Pentagon.  His film work connected him with the film industry in Los Angeles and he returned to the city in 1965

In 1969 he was called by CBS to see if he'd be interested in drawing accurate illustrations of rocket ships for the Apollo missions (NASA), he took the job and millions of people saw his illustrations during the missions (including that of the *lunar landing).  

One day, while working at CBS, a young film student graduate from USC was looking for work showing his animated film.  McQuarrie was impressed and they had lunch.  It was only a couple of years later that they met up again, except this time Barwood (and his friend/colleague Matthew Robbins) mentioned that he was working on a script that had planets and robots and the like and asked McQuarrie to do some illustrations.  He turned out 5 illustrations but the film was never made.  It turned out that Barwood and Robbins were friends of George Lucas (they were actually in a group with Lucas and Coppola called 'The Dirty Dozen' - hung out, saw films, made films, etc.).

The first time he'd met Lucas was when he was invited to a screening of Lucas' student film THX 1138: 4EB.  Screenwriters Barwood and Robbins showed Lucas some of McQuarrie's work and the pairing with Lucas and ILM began.  McQuarrie worked with ILM until the finish of Return of the Jedi.

McQuarrie lived in Berkeley, California with his wife Joan until his death on March 3, 2012.

*Editor's Note: I recall the CBS coverage of the lunar landing and McQuarrie's drawings (though I was unaware at the time, at four, of who he was) I was fascinated by the drawings and the landing.

Film Actor
Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back~1980 - General McQuarrie
Making of 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind', The (2001) (V) - Himself

Film Art
Star Wars: The Force Awakens~2015 (conceptual art created in the 70s and 80s)
Nightbreed~1990 (conceptual artist)
Total Recall~1990 (conceptual artist)
*batteries not included~1987 (conceptual artist)
Masters of the Universe~1987 (conceptual artist)
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home~1986 (visual consultant)
Cocoon~1985 (conceptual artist)
Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi~1983 (conceptual artist)
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial~1982 (scenic artist/spaceship design)
Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back~1980 (design consultant and conceptual artist - including Cloud City Matte paintings)
Star Wars~1977 (production illustrator)
Close Encounters of the Third Kind~1977 (conceptual artist)

Film Visual Effects
Raiders of the Lost Ark~1981 (drawing of the Ark of the Covenant in the Bible)
Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back~1980 (matte artist)
Star Wars~1977 (planet and satellite artist)

Film Poster (and Other where noted)
nm = never made
Space: Fantasy and Reality~1986 (Event in Ridgecrest, CA at the Maturango Museum)
The Empire Strikes Back (Radio Drama "Coming Soon")
Star Wars~1977 (2 styles)
Encyclopedia Britannica's Archaeological Dating: Retracing Time~1976
Creature From Black Lake~1976
Town that Dreaded Sundown~1976
Winds of Autumn~1976
Great Adventure, The~1975
Wilderness Family~1975
Where the Red Fern Grows~1974
Legend of Boggy Creek~1973
Night of  the Strangler~1972
Haunted River~
House Without Windows~nm
Julie of the Wolves~
North of the Sun
Starbird and Sweet William
Years of Happiness
Across the Great Divide

TV Art
Star Wars Rebels~2014 (using artwork created in the 70s and 80s)
Star Wars: The Clone Wars~2008 (using artwork created in the 70s and 80s)
Star Wars Holiday Special, The~1978 (illustrator)
Moonlanding (CBS)~1969

TV Visual Effects
Battlestar Galactica~1978 (effects illustration and design)

Poster (Other)
Posters for the Holocaust Teacher Resource Center from works by Peter Fischl:
"To the Little Polish Boy With His Arms Up"
"And the World Who Said Nothing" (2 versions)
"To Be or Not to Be"
Postcards: - "What Will You Do About It?" & "Peter Speaks"

Books, Book Covers, and Magazines (some dates are reprint dates)
Illustrated Star Wars Universe, The~1997 (Kevin Anderson)
Illustrated Star Wars Universe, The~1995/7
Star Wars - The Galactic Empire~1996
Star Wars- Ships of the Alliance: Ships of the Fleet, Vol. 0~1996
Isaac Asimov's Caliban~1993 (Roger Allen McBride)
Isaac Asimov's Inferno~1994 (Roger Allen McBride)
A Guide to the Star Wars Universe~1994
Art of Star Wars Galaxy~1994
Mos Eisley Cantina Pop-Up Book~1996
Jabba's Palace Pop-Up Book~1996
Robot Dreams~1990 (Isaac Asimov)
Robot Visions~1990 (Isaac Asimov)
Torch of Fear~1987 (Ward Hawkins)
Stone Arrow, The~1987 (Richard Herley)
Flint Lord, The~1987 (Richard Herley)
Golden Sunlands~1987 (Christopher Rowley)
Earth Goddess, The~1987 (Richard Herley)
Copernick's Rebellion~1987 (Leo A. Frankowski)
Sinister Barrier~1986 (Eric Frank Russell)
Sword of Fire~1986 (Ward Hawkins)
Blaze of Wrath~1986 (Ward Hawkins)
Genesis Quest~1986 (Donald Moffit)
Second Genesis~1986 (Donald Moffit)
Starquake~1985 & 1986 (Robert L. Forward)
With Fate Conspire~1985 (Mike Shupp)
Walk the Moons Road~1985 (Jim Aiken)
The Black Ship~1985 (Christopher Rowley)
Red Flame Burning~1985 (Ward Hawkins)
Return of the Jedi Portfolio~1983 
War for Eternity, The~1983 (Christopher Rowley)
Jedi Masters Quiz Book~1982 (Rusty Miller)
Future Life #19~1980 (magazine)
Battlestar Galactica~1979 (Glen A. Larson)
Splinter of the Mind's Eye~1978 (Alan Dean Foster)
Web of the Chozen~1978 (Jack Chalker)
Best of Jack Williamson~1978 (Jack Williamson)
World is Round, The~1978 (Tony Rothman)
Star Wars~1976 (original cover)
Planets~ (various)

Books About McQuarrie
Art of Ralph McQuarrie

Theme Parks
Back to the Future... The Ride (1991) (conceptual artist) (uncredited)

Galoob's Star Wars Micro Machines~1996/7

Star Wars Related
Star Wars Radio Show Posters~1983
Star Wars Christmas Album cover~1978/9
Lucasfilm moving announcement (from LA to Marin)
Lucasfilm Christmas cards
Topps Trading Cards (original Star Wars works displayed on the cards: Master Vision, Wide Vision, Star Wars 3Di, Star Wars Galaxy Magazine, Star Wars Galaxy Bend'ems and I, II, III, 80's Topps ESB cards and New Zealand Vintage Tip-Top Space Ice R2 D2 cards)

Other Works
NASA - Apollo Missions Technical Drawings for CBS broadcasts
Metrion - San Francisco shopping/theatre centre
Air and Space exhibit at the Smithsonian Institute (previous work blown up and behind props, etc.)

Awards, Honors, and Nominations
Academy Awards:
Rec'd 1986 Best Effects, Visual Effects for Cocoon (shared)


One of his fellow students at Art Center was Sid Mead

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