ralph mcquarrie star wars the rise of skwalker

Concept artist Ralph McQuarrie helped craft the vision for the original Star Wars trilogy with his stunning concept paintings and early sketches. And long after the legendary concept artist’s passing in 2012, McQuarrie continues to influence the look of that galaxy far, far away even today. The Lucasfilm creative team had incorporated parts of McQuarrie’s original unused concept art in films like Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the prequel film Solo: A Star Wars Story, and they again return to McQuarrie’s vision for inspiration with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

It was McQuarrie’s concept art that helped bring Star Wars to life, so it’s only fitting that the artist’s unused art and sketches would help close out the final installment of the Skywalker saga. Lucasfilm creative art manager Phil Szostak revealed the particular piece of art by McQuarrie that would influence the design of the Emperor’s throne room in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

“1981 Emperor’s throne room thumbnail sketches by Ralph McQuarrie for [Return of the Jedi],” Szostak wrote in the caption for his tweet showing a side-by-side comparison of McQuarrie’s original sketch for 1983’s Star Wars: Return of the Jedi and an image from the final Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker trailer, which shows the throne sitting in the center of claw-like outcroppings.

With the (polarizing) impending return of the Emperor in The Rise of Skywalker, it’s fitting that McQuarrie’s concept art would be brought back as well. The sketch was an early design for the throne eventually shown in Return of the Jedi, though this particular design went unused, with the 1983 film opting for a more conventional sci-fi chair command chair at the head of the Emperor’s ship.

But this throne in The Rise of Skywalker appears to be in some sort of temple, which suits the more organic, fantastical design of the original art. The Emperor’s chair in Return of the Jedi can be seen in the wreckage of the second Death Star behind Rey and Kylo as they face off, but where does this throne room factor in? Somehow Rey comes upon it in the scene when she tentatively approaches what may be the Emperor’s throne, which appears to be floating and attached to some kind of mechanical device. The Emperor is played once again by Ian McDiarmid, who says in the trailer, “Long have I waited. And now your coming together is your undoing.”

This is not the first time that McQuarrie’s unused designs and early ideas have been incorporated into pieces of Star Wars mythos over the years. J.J. Abrams seems to have a fondness for the artist’s work, drawing major inspiration from McQuarrie in The Force Awakens, while the artist’s Darth Vader design found its way into Star Wars Rebels. Most recently, Ron Howard used McQuarrie’s art as a reference for the designs in Solo: A Star Wars Story.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters on December 20, 2019.

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