The Star Wars franchise has introduced us to many iconic concepts that have defined the science fiction genre for 40 years. Breathtaking scenery, awesome designs, and unforgettable characters have helped make Star Wars a multi-billion dollar business. A franchise as high profile as this is bound to have its fair share of behind-the-scenes content, and the company has done a good job of sharing those ideas with the fans. Still, there are always those secrets that the franchise would prefer to keep hidden.
At this stage, it’s tricky to find concept art that isn’t already ingrained in the public consciousness. We’ve all seen the early concept art for the original Star Wars movie, before the characters we all know and love came fully into place. George Lucas’ early draft of the film, called The Star Wars, has even seen publication as a comic book. However, despite all there is out on the internet, Disney would probably prefer fans not to see some of the things that almost happened. That's not just because the final product turned out very different, but because Star Wars is notorious for incorporating unused concepts into future projects. Here are 15 alternate Star Wars character designs that Disney would rather you not see.
One of the most memorable characters in the entire Star Wars franchise happens to be a droid who doesn’t really talk in any language we can understand. While his final appearance might resemble something close to a garbage can, legendary concept artist Ralph McQuarrie initially envisioned something quite different.
George Lucas gave McQuarrie very little direction in regards to the appearance of R2-D2, so the artist came up with his own concept. In an interview, he recalled “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.” Sound familiar? McQuarrie’s initial concept was eventually scrapped, but the concept was revived for The Force Awakens when it came time to create BB-8.
The Force Awakens was a new beginning for the Star Wars franchise, but it came with some familiar concepts. One of the most popular additions was a little droid named BB-8. While this guy was always planned to be a robot who could roll around on a ball, a few alternate designs exist that could have changed the way he looks.
Concept artist Christian Alzmann developed the visual characteristics of the now-popular droid. Initially, he constructed a concept that looks like it would have only allowed BB-8 to move forward and backwards, and required him to turn in order to change direction. However, his signature ball was soon designed to be omnidirectional in order to improve mobility. Different coloring patterns were experimented with until the final design was agreed upon.
When it came time to design C-3PO, George Lucas originally directed Ralph McQuarrie to Metropolis, the 1927 silent sci-fi masterpiece from Austrian filmmaker Fritz Lang. A devoted student of film, Lucas referenced many famous works over the course of the original Star Wars trilogy. In the case of the protocol droid, McQuarrie was instructed to create a form similar to the iconic android known as the Maschinenmensch.
In McQuarrie’s original art, C-3PO is far less humanoid than he ends up being, with small, beady eyes and a blank expression on his face. In this form, he would have come off as far more menacing and detached than he was meant to be portrayed. The final version has a more humanized face and more intricate detail on the body in order to make the character less ominous.
12 DARTH VADER
Perhaps the most iconic character that Ralph McQuarrie developed was that of Darth Vader and his signature mask. Before the finished product saw film, the artist had sketched out a working design that appeared slightly more aggressive than the final version. Looking at McQuarrie’s pencils, you can see how Vader stemmed from the initial concept of a gas mask. The helmet creates a sharp point that gives the eyes an angrier tone and the mouthpiece extends out into a more noticeable snout.
Darth Vader’s features were eventually smoothed over in the final version because the character’s presence was likely terrifying enough. The brow of the helmet was lifted to create an ominous open-eyed look and the back was extended to move away from German WWII-era helmet and closer to something that resembles a samurai.
11 BOBA FETT
Boba Fett is one of the most beloved characters in the entire Star Wars saga. We remember the gruff bounty hunter for his battle-worn armor, but before he made his debut, he could have looked much different. Ralph McQuarrie’s original design for the character was an all-white suit that was derivative of the stormtrooper.
Storyboard artist Joe Johnston helped to rework the character, maintaining the all-white coloring while attempting to differentiate the features of the suit. What Johnston came away with made Boba Fett look like a gunslinging gaucho. The poncho and angled belt gives Boba Fett a very western cowboy look as well. In the end, the design was colored and tweaked to create what would be known as his trademark Mandalorian armor.
10 KYLO REN
Early in the creation of the villain for The Force Awakens, the character who would eventually become Kylo Ren was simply known as the Jedi Killer. The original depiction of the bad guy was far more macabre and mechanized than the finalized version. Ren practically transformed into a separate and unrelated character entirely. Disney has shown off that design before as a nod to what could have been.
Industrial Light & Magic artist Christian Alzmann created several different designs that altered and distorted the original Vader helmet. Despite the skill in design, all five version were ultimately scrapped. While Disney wanted something that would invoke the feeling of Darth Vader, they didn’t want something that would seem too derivative. The studio likely went in the right direction with this one.
Disney hasn’t been shy about sharing what Yoda once looked like before he became the muppet we all know and love, but they haven’t embraced how weird things could have been. The original depiction of Yoda made him look something like a cross between a lawn gnome and a character from The Lord of the Rings.
Many of the designs that have surfaced over the years maintain several of Yoda’s trademark characteristics. He has the long pointed ears, his skin is a greenish blue, and he clearly lives in squalor. However, all these rejected designs also feature big, triangular feet that resemble a bird’s talons. Some designs give him a cap to wear on his head, while one actually has him completely naked! It’s good to know that his encounter with Luke could have been far more awkward.
8 YOUNG HAN SOLO
By now, most Star Wars fans know that Han Solo was initially going to appear in the Prequel Trilogy. George Lucas wrote him into the script for Revenge of the Sith as a young boy living on Kashyyyk. Han would have essentially been raised by Chewbacca, but the whole thing was thrown out.
Despite the change in direction, concept art for a young Han Solo exists and appeared in the art book for Revenge of the Sith. Artist Iain McCaig decided to give Han an appearance that directly conflicted with how he looked in his adult life. This kid was a dirty slob compared to the dashing rogue he would grow up to be. Disney wasn’t in charge of Star Wars back then, but if they were, they probably wouldn’t want people knowing about lil Han.
7 GENERAL GRIEVOUS
General Grievous went through a number of revisions before the final design of a sickly robotic death machine was approved. Concept artist Warren Fu helped to create the character’s final look. Fu has worked on the Star Wars prequels, as well as Star Trek, and Terminator Salvation. In the end, Grievous may have looked cool, but he ended up being a pushover in the actual movie (less so in the subsequent series).
At one point, he looked like an organic freedom fighter with a skull-shaped face. It’s possible that this was what Grievous looked like prior to him becoming a cyborg. The Kaleesh are known for wearing elaborate masks, which was a design element that was eventually incorporated into his robotic armor. Grievous also had a sleek robotic body that was more reminiscent of Ultron than the Separatist General.
6 JAR JAR BINKS
We all hate Jar Jar Binks more than any other Star Wars character in existence. Concept artists Iain McCaig and Terryl Anne Whitlatch did substantial work trying to create the character that George Lucas was convinced would become as beloved as R2-D2. The art book for The Phantom Menace includes alternate designs that may have been better than the final product. Jar Jar wearing armor would have been an improvement.
Things could have been a whole lot worse, though, if they ultimately decided to let him go around without any pants on. Whitlatch’s initial concept gave the Gungan a more elaborate skin design with blue around the eyes. It also had him nude, which actually might be the creepiest thing ever. Thank you to whomever demanded he wear clothes.
5 KNIGHTS OF REN
The Knights of Ren remain a mystery, but we have evidence that they could have looked a lot different. The fan site Star Wars News Net came into possession of two pieces of concept art that were purported to be early depictions of the Knights of Ren. One of those pieces eventually entered the official artbook for The Force Awakens, but the other was noticeably absent.
The concept art in question makes the Knights of Ren look far more humanoid than their final depiction. Many of them are maskless bounty hunters that rely on blaster rifles rather than the samurai warriors who use bladed weapons that the artbook makes them out to be. It’s possible one of the characters was recycled as a member of Tasu Leech’s Kanjiklub gang as well.
4 PRINCESS LEIA
Princess Leia Organa went through many different revisions in preparation for the original Star Wars film. Described as a spoiled 15-year-old princess of Aquilae (the precursor for Alderaan) in the rough draft of the script, Ralph McQuarrie ran the gamut on different looks that would one day embody Carrie Fisher’s iconic character.
You can see how the various designs eventually came together to create the final product. Leia went from a spacesuit-wearing sidekick in the same vein as Buck Rogers to that of an elegant member of the royal family. There was also a time when her appearance was influenced by Eastern-style garments and hairstyles. The various robes she was depicted as wearing were eventually packaged together with her familiar hairstyle to create the character we remember today.
3 PADME AMIDALA
This is what happens when those that work on a project become attached to the characters. Concept artist Iain McCaig has claimed that his love for the Anakin Skywalker-Padme Amidala relationship kept him coming back to work on all three prequel Star Wars movies. Something as simple as Padme’s wedding dress went through many different elaborate designs, from a hair cage, to a flowing gown, to a rainbow train. Eventually, the creators settled on something a little more subdued for a secret wedding.
Padme Amidala suffered a tragic death in childbirth after Anakin Skywalker turned to the dark side of the Force. McCaig wanted Padme to survive and decided to create a depiction of her transporting her twins around on her back. This would have drastically altered the course of the films, of course -- possibly for the better.
We’ve seen pictures of Chewbacca in his original form as a lemur-like creature. Disney probably doesn’t want you to see how the character came into his final form, though, because it’s a little more derivative than some would want to admit. When Ralph McQuarrie was working to redesign the original character, George Lucas handed him a drawing from the July 1975 issue of the science fiction magazine Analog.
On the cover was a depiction of ape-like creatures drawn by Dune cover artist John Schoenherr for an old George R.R. Martin story. These creatures formed the basis of the final Wookie design, with McQuarrie removing the breasts from Schoenherr’s creation and adding Chewbacca’s trademark bandolier. Disney probably doesn’t want you to see just how similar these initial images are before Chewie was thinned out and made a little more distinct.
1 DARTH MAUL
The origin of Darth Maul came about as a literal nightmare. When designing the new Sith apprentice, concept designer Iain McCaig was stumped. He originally tried a helmet reminiscent of the Nazis, but gave that up. George Lucas finally told him to create his worst nightmare. That ended up being an undead creature with ribbon-like red hair falling across its face. Then McCaig tapped into his fear of clowns.
The eventual design for Darth Maul came about when the artist decided to superimpose patterns over the faces of people working on the film. After several attempts, he finally overlaid a circuit board over someone’s face and the rest was history. It’s an interesting look at the progression of visual design, but there’s no doubt that Disney would prefer no one see that horrifying first attempt.
What other concept art do you think Disney would want to be hidden from view? Let us know in the comments.