In our final post of the three-part series celebrating the talented late Ralph McQuarrie, and his work on Masters of the Universe, we once again sat down with Gary to hear how much he enjoyed working with Mr. McQuarrie and the influence it had on the entire design and presentation of the final movie:
The entire finale sequence, when we brought Skeletor to Earth, was to be a massive “Air Chase” through the skies of our suburban city. Key to this sequence, is the idea I had come up with for the flying discs, and the “Air Centurions” that would be chasing He-Man though the streets, and over and around the rooftops. At this point I was still selling this idea to the producers and to the studio – it wasn’t yet in the script. But Ralph got what I wanted right away. Even in his earliest pen-and-ink thumbnails, there was a grace to the figures — he really had a great sense of staging and design. Air Centurions were an elite part of Skeletor’s Army, and they needed to have a military feel about them. Ralph and I met a few times and talked the idea over, and at one point, Ralph was going to do some color renderings of the Air Centurions in attack mode over a suburban town. But then he got the call to return to Cocoon, and we never got those color renderings, much to my disappointment. But we did get these very cool thumbnails and preliminary designs (see Post 2 of Ralph McQuarrie and MoTU), and later Bill Stout would use these for the basis of the final version in the film. The interesting thing about MASTERS is that we had John DeCuir, Sr. on initially, but then another movie, which he had signed on for, started up. And we had a break in our schedule from the time we started (in 1984) through the time we actually made the movie (1986) — when the project moved from Warner Brothers (where Howard Kazanjian was going to be the producer) to Cannon. Once we were fully funded, Bill Stout came on as the key concept designer, moving up to become the Production Designer early on. Bill brought in Moebius for some concepts of key elements and costumes, and Claudio Mazzoli contributed a great deal of conceptual art as well.
But Ralph was in there at the very beginning. Working with Ralph, though brief, was a pleasure. Thoroughly professional and easy to work with, it was always a positive experience when we met to discuss sketches and conceptual ideas. In the three weeks that we had together on Masters, we were able to just scratch the surface of things. But there’s no doubt his sketches, as simple as they were, helped me to sell the entire idea of the “sky chase” between the Air Centurions and He-Man. And it’s hard to imagine the movie without this exciting chase sequence that provides the climax to the second act.
This last pencil drawing by Ralph is my favorite – a lone Air Centurion, on a sleek aero-dynamic disc, ready for battle.
Masters of the Universe, He-Man and associated characters are trademarks owned by and under licence from Mattel Inc.©. Masters of the Universe The Motion Picture © Cannon Films Inc. and Cannon International.
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