Ralph McQuarrie Star Wars concept art

Many fans credit much of the visual genius of the original Star Wars trilogy to concept artist Ralph McQuarrie. His beautiful concept paintings and early sketches inspired much of what we love about the galaxy far, far away. In fact, the current Lucasfilm creative team are using parts of McQuarrie’s original unused concept art as inspiration for the new Star Wars films and movies.

We’ve talked about how they have repurposed the original Chewbacca design for Zeb in Star Wars Rebels (among other things). Now I want to look at how much the late Ralph McQuarrie’s original unused Star Wars concept designs have influenced Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Hit the jump to check out our Ralph McQuarrie Force Awakens comparison guide.

Ralph McQuarrie

Ralph McQuarrie Force Awakens Comparison Guide

Warning: While this article doesn’t contain any known spoilers, it does make some observations based on the first Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser trailer and how it was visually inspired by Ralph McQuarrie’s early unused concept art. Some of these comparisons could possibly suggest specific planets and creatures we may end up seeing in the film. That said, I consider this article to be pretty safe for those of you wanting to avoid spoilers.

Ralph Mcquarrie R2-D2 concept design inspired the Force Awakens ball droid

R2-D2’s Original Design

I know, the above concept art doesn’t look like an exact match, but you’ll want to read this interview excerpt from Ralph McQuarrie talking about how his initial design for our favorite droid, R2-D2 was very different than the one we eventually saw on screen:

“I think Artoo was just described as a small robot. I thought of him as running on a giant ball bearing — just a sphere, a circle, wheel-like. He had gyros so he could go in any direction on this ball.”


Sounds like an exact description of the ball droid we see in The Force Awakens right? The above concept art, which looks a bit different but still uses the core idea, is the only publicly-available versions of McQuarrie’s original R2-D2 ball droid concepts.

Jabba's Palace Gate in Force Awakens

Jabba’s Palace Gate

Early TMZ photos revealed this familiar gate as part of The Force Awakens‘ Abu Dhabi set. The gate/arch was originally designed by Ralph McQuarrie for the exterior of Jabba’s Palace. The large castle-like complex was located at the fringes of the Northern Dune Sea on the planet of Tatooine, adding more to the theory that the sand planet we see in the trailer is in fact Tatooine.

Does this mean that Jabba the Hutt or Jabba’s palace will appear in The Force Awakens? Jabba the Hutt won’t appear in the new film as the gangster was infamously strangled to death by Princess Leia in one of the most iconic moments from the original trilogy. And since the arch wasn’t used in the exterior of the palace in the final film, JJ Abrams might just be repurposing the design for something else. But it is possible that other members of Jabba’s criminal family took over the castle and are now running things in the new film.

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