When American designer and illustrator Ralph McQuarrie was tapped to do the conceptual art for a movie idea called Star Wars, he accepted, even though he didn’t have faith in the project: “I didn’t think the film would get made. My impression was it was too expensive.” But these early reservations actually turned out to be a blessing. Because he didn’t think the project would get off the ground he “didn’t have to limit” himself.

George Lucas, the story’s creator, commissioned McQuarrie to design characters and scenes from the script of the movie, including C-3PO, Darth Vader, and Chewbacca.

While the final Star Wars films depart from some of McQuarrie’s original concepts (for example, in his drawings, all the light sabers are one color), many of his ideas were reproduced almost exactly.

“The way that he illustrated them was an influence on those characters, how they acted,” said George Lucas. “There’s no doubt that centuries from now amazing spaceships will soar, future cities will rise, and someone, somewhere will say, ‘That looks like something Ralph McQuarrie painted’.”

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[via Buzzfeed]