In 1977, Star Wars: A New Hope hit theaters, forever changing the landscape of pop culture. The swashbuckling space opera introduced viewers to a galaxy far, far away and the diverse and engrossing characters that inhabited this strange new world. Across seven sequels (and counting), a plethora of cartoons, spin-offs, and tie-in merchandise, the Star Wars franchise has cemented itself as the biggest series in the galaxy. But it wasn’t like George Lucas just jotted A New Hope down and got to work; rather, the story of Star Wars required ample changes, tweaks, and revisions to arrive at the story we have today. And it’s not like every Star Wars idea was perfect; in fact, plenty of early Star Wars ideas were just plain bonkers.
From drastically different character designs, to stories that went in entirely different directions, the Star Wars franchise has seen it all. While fans often gripe that Star Wars isn’t always perfect (just read the comments section for any review of The Last Jedi), the Star Wars devoted still agree that the Star Wars we ended up with works just fine. But these early changes could have dramatically changed the Star Wars franchise, which makes them interesting to look back on and wonder “What if?”Join CBR as we take a look back through the years to bring you the strange concept art, the oddball plot ideas, and the out-there plans that we almost got.
15. THE EWOKS WERE ALMOST MENACED BY A GIANT GREMLIN
For a race of adorable teddy bear creatures, the Ewoks sure managed to hold their own against the brutal and efficient forces of the insidious Empire. Armed with rocks, spears, and traps a-plenty, the Ewoks fought cuddly tooth and claw for their planet. But in an early idea for the Ewok planet, the huggable alien creatures almost had to contend with a much stranger enemy than the Empire: a giant gremlin knock-off.
In concept art created by Ralph McQuarrie for Return Of The Jedi, the Ewoks are shown contending with a massive, long-haired green creature that towers over the diminutive aliens. It is unknown how far into scripting this idea went, but it was eventually decided that the Ewoks had their widdle paws full with Stormtroopers and the green monstrosity was dropped.
14. BOBA FETT RESEMBLED A STORMTROOPER
The stone-cold Mandalorian badass known as Boba Fett has amassed a legion of fans over the years, in no small part due to the character’s memorable costume. From his iconic helmet, to his imposing cape, every facet of the Boba Fett costume screams “cool.” But when creating the character, concept artists envisioned Boba as much more Stormtrooper-esque.
While planning the character, this concept art was created, showing a Boba Fett that resembled the character design fans would grow to know and love, with subtle differences. Gone is the iconic green-and-tan color scheme, replaced with stark white. The costume also lacked the cape, and added a triangle logo to the helmet. The design is certainly striking, but it’s possible Boba might not have become such a fan favorite if this costume was utilized.
13. LUKE WAS ALMOST NAMED ANNIKIN STARKILLER
Raised a humble farm boy, Luke Skywalker would break free from his humdrum planet to become the hero of the Rebellion and savior of the Jedi. But if George Lucas has stuck with his original plan, Luke Skywalker wouldn’t have been the intrepid hero of the Star Wars story. Instead, the story followed a character similar to Luke (a Luke-alike, if you will) named Annikin Starkiller.
In the 1974 rough draft of Star Wars, the story followed Annikin, the young, headstrong son of the Jedi Kane Starkiller. When Kane is killed, Annikin is taken under the tutelage of an experienced Jedi named… Luke Skywalker. With Luke serving as the Obi-Wan of the story, Annikin and Luke set off to train in the ways of the force and defeat the Empire. In subsequent script revisions, the story was dramatically changed. Annikin was dropped and Luke was made the hero.
12. HAN SACRIFICED HIMSELF FOR THE REBEL ALLIANCE
Beginning as a simple money-hungry smuggler, Han managed to overcome his own selfish impulses and fight alongside the Rebel Alliance, eventually becoming a hero of the Alliance. Sure, we all know by now that things didn’t work out so great for Han in The Force Awakens, but for a time, Han was content. However, in the planning stages for Return of the Jedi, it was suggested that Han should die. And this suggestion came from the most unlikely of source: Harrison Ford.
According to Ford, the actor campaigned for Han to perish during ROTJ, and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan helped Ford flesh out the idea, suggesting that Han would die in a blaze of glory protecting a Rebel fleet early in the film. Lucas balked at the idea, and the “Han dies” idea was quickly dropped, leaving Han free to meet his heartbreaking demise at the hands of Kylo Ren.
11. JABBA THE HUTT WAS ALMOST A BALDING PILE OF LARD
Designing a space slug crime boss is no easy task. The repulsive Jabba the Hutt’s final design has been described as a mix between a toad and the Chesire Cat, with sly eyes and disgusting proportions. But during the design process, the character underwent ample redesigns, with artists imagining Jabba as everything from a human to a slug with feelers. But one of the Hutt’s strangest OG designs was art that imagined Jabba as a pile of lard.
The Jabba found in this concept art barely resembles the alien slug the film settled on; Jabba’s massive, cat-like eyes were replaced with narrow, squinting eyes, buried under an avalanche of folds and fat. The Hutt also had a smattering of hair adorning his head, resembling sad, worn out dreads. It is unknown how far in the design process this concept art went, but this version of Jabba would certainly would have been vastly different than the Jabba fans know and love.
10. C-3PO AND… METROPOLIS?
In the pantheon of influential sci-fi movies, two films reign supreme: Star Wars and Metropolis. But before Star Wars became the cultural phenomenon it is today, the artists responsible for crafting the look of the series turned to the granddaddy of all sci-fi flicks for inspiration in designing the prissy droid C-3PO.
In early concept art from Ralph McQuarrie, C-3PO is shown with a smooth, segmented design, topped off with a head ripped straight from the Metropolis playbook, with empty eyes, open mouth, and a prominent head piece. Elements of the final C-3PO design were there, with the arms featuring the prominent hinges found on the classic C-3PO look that fans have grown accustomed to, but this initial design was still radically different. Over time, the design of C-3PO moved further away from this initial Metropolis-aping look, eventually arriving at the classic C-3PO design.
9. LITERALLY EVERYONE HAD LIGHTSABERS
Politics may divide us, and the internal debate on whether Pepsi or Coke is superior rages on, but there is one thing that we can all agree on: lightsabers are awesome. With their iconic look and memorable sound effects, lightsabers are just dripping with cool. But while the iconic laser sword may now be an exclusive weapon of the Jedi and the Sith, an early draft of Star Wars presented lightsabers as much more commonplace.
Initially, George Lucas envisioned the lightsaber as the preferred weapon of the galaxy, with Stormtroopers, civilians and Rebel soldiers alike all wielding the iconic sword. In early concept art from, you guessed it, Ralph McQuarrie, a Stormtrooper is shown menacing the heroes with an early version of the weapon. Eventually, Lucas decided that the lightsaber should become a Jedi-exclusive weapon, as he believed the weapon would add to the mystique of the mysterious warriors, and the swap was made.
8. YODA WAS ALMOST A GARDEN GNOME
When a headstrong Luke heads to the planet of Dagobah in search of the Jedi master Yoda, he believes he is finally getting a handle on this whole “Jedi” thing. But as Luke is pestered by a giggling green creature of the planet, he believes that Yoda is still hiding on the swamp planet, not realizing this new pest is actually the Jedi master he was seeking.
Fans grew to love this diminutive Jedi, but we wonder if Yoda would have been quite as popular if the film’s character designers had opted to go with Yoda’s initial garden gnome look. In this early concept art, Yoda was imagined as a tiny human-esque creature, clad in a giant bushy beard and a pointed cap. Over time, the decision was made to make Yoda appear more alien in nature, leading to this lawn ornament design being ditched.
7. LUKE’S ORIGINAL TWIN WAS NELLITH (AND THEY HAD A DIFFERENT DAD)
The revelation that Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa were actually brother and sister shocked Star Wars fans to their core. Also, it kinda grossed them out, what with the weird incest-y vibes that arose from the kiss the pair shared in Empire Strikes Back. But in the original script for Empire, Luke didn’t smooch his sister; in fact, this script gave Luke a twin sister and a non-Darth Vader dad!
In the initial draft of the script, Luke heads to Dagobah, where he meets a creature named Minch, who introduces Luke to the ghost of his father. Ghost Dad reveals to Luke that he has a twin sister named Nellith, who was hidden by Ghost Dad in another part of the galaxy. So Luke was not related to Leia or Darth Vader? Now that would have been one bonkers Star Wars story.
6. RETURN OF THE JEDI ORIGINALLY HAD TWO DEATH STARS
The stakes don’t get much bigger than a moon-sized super-weapon capable of blowing up planets, and that is exactly what Luke and the gang ran into in A New Hope. While the insidious Death Star would return to menace the Rebel Alliance in Return of the Jedi, the original plan was to have not one moon-sized super-weapon capable of blowing up planets, but two!
In concept art courtesy of Ralph McQuarrie, we are given a glimpse of the initial plot for Return of the Jedi, in which the villainous Empire constructs two Death Stars, with plans for an entire network of planet-sized super-weapons to follow. Perhaps realizing that two Death Stars would just be plain unfair, this plot concept was dropped early in production. Our intrepid heroes had a hard enough time with one Death Star, so a story involving two? That’s just plain bonkers!
5. DARTH MAUL WAS ORIGINALLY A WHITE GIRL WITH DREADS
In the hallowed halls of “cool Star Wars characters that were severely under-utilized,” Darth Maul reigns supreme. With his striking red-and-black Rorschach-esque face tattoos, his stark black robes, and his cooler-than-cool double-sided lightsaber, Darth Maul was poised to be the breakout star of The Phantom Menace. And then he went and got lopped in half at the end of the movie. While Darth Maul’s popularity has persisted and his story arc has been expanded in things like Clone Wars and Rebels, we wonder if Maul would have been quite as popular if Lucas had opted to use the character’s original design.
In this early concept art, we see a radically different Darth Maul; gone is the red-and-black skin and horns, replaced with ghostly pail skin and dreads. Additionally, this Maul was female, making for one strikingly divergent design. During the design process, artist Ian McCaig would stumble upon the idea of the Rorschach tattoos, and the Darth Maul fans love followed soon after.
4. EWOKS WERE ALMOST LEGGY MONKEY-FACED LUMPS OF FUR
Whether you think they’re huggable or hatable, there’s no arguing that the fuzzy Ewoks have become one of the most iconic alien species in the Star Wars universe. These forest-dwelling teddy bears have starred in comics, TV shows, and spin-off movies, and it’s all thanks to their lovable appearance. But while planning the Ewoks, initial concept art of the creatures were less “adorable” and more “absolutely terrifying.”
In this early concept art, the Ewok is imagined as an amalgamation of a proboscis monkey and a Pomeranian, with a horrifying monkey face buried under a mountain of fuzzy fur. As if this wasn’t horrifying enough, the artist built upon this idea, adding giant eyes, claw-like hands and spindly legs. Perhaps realizing that alien teddy bears were better than furry abominations, this design was (wisely) dumped.
3. MACE WINDU WAS ORIGINALLY THE HERO OF STAR WARS
Star Wars has become such a cultural phenomenon that you might think that the story and universe sprang from George Lucas’ mind fully formed, but Lucas had to do plenty of fine tuning to arrive at the Star Wars we have today. Characters were added, characters were dropped, and the story had to undergo ample retooling across several script drafts. But in the first ever draft of Star Wars, Luke Skywalker was nowhere to be seen; rather, Mace Windu was the hero of the story.
In Lucas’ first crack at Star Wars, then titled “Journal of the Whills,” Mace Windu, then called Mace Windy, was our protagonist. In this rough draft, Windy is a “Jedi-Bendu” training a Padawan with the not-very-Star-Wars name of C.J. The Windu Star Wars fans got bares little resemblance to Windy, but it’s truly bonkers how close we came to a Mace Windu-centric Star Wars.
2. K-2SO WAS ALMOST AN EVIL C-3PO
As the first ever Disney Star Wars spin-off film, expectations were high for Rogue One. Thankfully, the film managed to pull it off, releasing to rave reviews and big box office numbers. While the cast was praised, one character stood out from the pack: the dry, sardonic droid K-2SO, voiced by the affable Alan Tudyk. But the reprogrammed Imperial droid almost looked very different; in fact, the fan-favorite bot was nearly the spitting image of C-3PO.
As early concept art reveals, K-2SO was at one time planned to resemble the famous golden protocol droid, albeit with an Empire-appropriate midnight black paint job. At some point, it was likely decided that one 3PO unit was plenty for the Star Wars franchise, and this design was dropped, with designers eventually arriving at the hulking look that made K-2SO such a fan favorite.
1. HAN SOLO WAS ALMOST A GIANT LIZARD
With his devil-may-care attitude and his roguish charm, Han Solo has managed to cement his spot in fanboy’s hearts as the best smuggler in sci-fi. But we wonder if Han would have been quite as popular among the Star Wars faithful if the franchise had stuck with George Lucas’ original idea for the character: make Han Solo a giant humanoid lizard-man.
In Lucas’s original plot for Star Wars, Han Solo was envisioned as an Ureallian, a lizard-esque alien species. Giant Lizard Alien Han was an old friend of Kane Starkiller, and he would be enlisted by Kane to assist Kane’s son Annikin and Jedi Master Luke Skywalker in their quest. When Lucas decided to revamp the Star Wars story, Han became a standard human male, eventually becoming everyone’s roguish smuggler. But an alien lizard Han Solo? Now that would have been one bonkers Star Wars story.
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