In the beginning, in May 1977, there was a little science fiction flick called Star Wars, created and directed by an up-and-coming young director, George Lucas. The movie was not expected to account for much according to many contemporary newspaper reviews.
Being a long-term (since 1977) fan of Star Wars, I bought all of The Art of Star Wars books as they came out. Curious about the changes over time, I pulled out the six previous, laid them alongside the seventh, and looked at the differences.
The first book came out in 1979 edited by Carol Titelman. It included “the complete script,” character sketches and paintings by concept designer Ralph McQuarrie, costume designer John Mollo, storyboards, movie theater posters, comic book art, timely political cartoons and fan art. It was a simple book for an earlier time.
The next two movies, The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and The Return of the Jedi (1983) also had The Art of books that included design and production sketches and photographs of matte paintings for different planets.
Then came the fallow years with no new movies until 1999 when Star Wars: The Phantom Menace was released. Placed in galactic history before the original Star Wars, (now calledEpisode IV: A New Hope.) The Phantom Menace told the backstory of the villainous Darth Vader and the fall of the Republic.
Star Wars: The Phantom Menace was followed by two more in the prequel trilogy, Attack of the Clones (2002) and The Return of the Sith (2005). The The Art of‘s books hadn’t changed much though providing production drawings, storyboards, posters, costume sketches, as had the earlier.
They did show the shift to digital filmmaking with one chapter in Sith being titled “Digital Shot Creation.”
In 2012, Lucas sold Lucasfilm to The Walt Disney Company, which re-booted the series.
The 2015 Star Wars: The Force Awakens brought a new change to its The Art of book. It became a horizontal coffee table book, fat with concept art – paintings, sketches, and designs. Unlike in earlier books, there were no storyboards. It covers the development of the film’s concepts.
It will be interesting to see if there’s a The Art of Star Wars: Rogue One out in 2016 since some of the The Force Awakens‘s artists moved on to upcoming films. If nothing else, I look forward to seeing the book for Episode VIII – as yet unnamed.