Back in October 2013, I wrote a blog about the matte paintings used in "Return Of The Jedi" (to coincide with the 30th anniversary) and it seemed to go down well.
When I realised how long it had been since that post, I thought it was about time I took a look at other fantastic matte paintings used in the original trilogy. Hopefully you'll find some surprises in this selection...
Star Wars (1977)
Directed by George Lucas
Harrison Ellenshaw supervised the Matte Dept. but was moonlighting from Disney so didn't take a credit
|The escape pod and Tatooine - painted by Ralph McQuarrie|
|The Jawas take R2D2 to their Sandcrawler- painted by Harrison Ellenshaw|
(the bottom behind-the-scenes photo shows just how much of the sandcrawler was actually built)
|The Throne Room sequence - painted by Harrison Ellenshaw|
The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Directed by Irvin Kershner
Matte Painting Supervisor: Harrison Ellenshaw
|The bridge of the Executor - painted by Harrison Ellenshaw|
note - only one side of the bridge deck was built and the film was flipped to make two sides
|The Millennium Falcon arrives on Bespin - painted by Ralph McQuarrie|
|Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker square off in the Reactor Shaft - painted by Ralph McQuarrie|
|Luke is about to learn an uncomfortable truth (can you still give a spoiler for a film that's 36 years old?) |
- painted by Ralph McQuarrie
|The Bespin welcoming committee - painted by Harrison Ellenshaw|
Return Of The Jedi (1983)
Directed by Richard Marquand
Matte Painting Supervisor: Michael Pangrazio
|The Skiff battle (note that Lando is part of the painting), to remove struts and mattresses - painted by Frank Ordaz|
|Battle in the Endor forest - painted by Christoper Evans|
|The Empire Strikes Back Matte Department, October 1979|
from left: Michael Pangrazio (painter), Craig Barron (assistant photographer), Ralph McQuarrie (painter), Neil Krepla (photographer) and Harrison Ellenshaw (painter and supervisor) in front
Amongst many others, McQuarrie designed Darth Vader, Chewbacca, C3P0 and R2-D2 and drew concepts of the films sets and ships. He went on to work as the conceptual designer for both "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi" and also played (uncredited) an Echo Base General in "Empire".
|In discussion with George Lucas|
He was offered the designer role for the Star Wars prequel trilogy but felt he had "run out of steam" and retired. Even so, his original designs and unused concept art are still influencing the saga, both with the animated TV shows and also with "The Force Awakens".
McQuarrie died in his Berkeley, California home from complications of Parkinson's disease and is survived by his wife Joan. Following his passing, George Lucas said, "His genial contribution, in the form of unequalled production paintings, propelled and inspired all of the cast and crew of the original "Star Wars" trilogy. When words could not convey my ideas, I could always point to one of Ralph's fabulous illustrations and say, 'do it like this'."
Details of the Return Of The Jedi team can be found at my blog post here. There will be an Appreciation of Ralph McQuarrie post later in the year.