On Monday we were treated to not one, but two teaser trailers for the upcoming Solo: A Star Wars Story, featuring young Han Solo, Chewbacca, Lando, and, of course, the Millennium Falcon itself. We already knew the Falcon might be getting a redesign, thanks to some Lego leaks, but the second trailer confirmed it.
The thing is though, the so-called 'new' design for the Millennium Falcon might not be new at all. In fact I noticed that it has more than a few similarities to one of the early designs by legendary artist Ralph McQuarrie, whose work helped shaped he visuals of the Star Wars universe.
Here is the ship's new design, in the best quality I could pull from the trailer:
Overall the Falcon's new design isn't that special because it's still the same ship we were introduced to nearly 41 years ago. The new changes are pretty radical, however, particularly since the front two pincers have been filled in to create a far sleeker design than we're used to.
But the subtleties are a large part of what makes it stand apart, which is where the influence from McQuarrie's early artwork seems to come into play. Just take a look at this piece of art. It's not the original design for the Falcon, but it's the closest we have the the hunk of junk Han Solo's been flying around all these years:
Compare that to the ship up top, which we saw in the trailer, and there are a lot of similarities. Similarities that aren't present on the Original Trilogy Falcon.
First up let's take a closer look at the circular airlocks on the side of the ship:
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So as you can see on the left (a screengrab from A New Hope), the Falcon's airlocks are a bit, erm, let's say textured. McQuarrie's art features a relatively smooth airlock, which is consistent with the shot of Qi'Ra from the Solo trailer. That's clearly the Falcon, and it has very similar smooth airlocks as the McQuarrie art - albeit with less rust.
It's almost as if the older Falcon's had some panels removed from the airlock for one reason or another.
Now let's move onto the sensor dish:
The original Falcon has a pretty obvious protruding dish that's just begging to get caught on something (which it eventually did). The concept art, however, is much flatter and points upwards instead of straight ahead. While the shots of the ship in the Solo trailer aren't the best, we can clearly see that the sensor dish in the film is the same. Much flatter and pointing in an upward direction.
Now the main gun turret:
In the original films (and Episodes 7 and 8) the Falcon has a four-barrelled turret on it's top. McQuarrie's art only features one, though, a trait that seems to be continuing with the Solo variant of the ship. It's very difficult to tell in the trailer, seeing as how dark it is, so I'm going to defer to the leaked Lego set from a few weeks back:
Lego sets are a poor way to figure out spoilers, but given Disney's reputation for being overly protective of Star Wars merchandise there's no way it would let the company get away with a major design change. The same goes for the sensor dish, really.
Something I had considered about McQuarrie's art was it looks almost as though the Falcon doesn't have the missing space between its 'pincers' that might indicate Solo's arrow-shaped redesign that we've seen in both the trailer and leaked promotional artwork.
The problem is that the angle means it's impossible to tell. I have my doubts because of that, and the fact that the angle meant you couldn't see the full shape of the film-Falcon during the Mos Eisely spaceport scene either:
It's further confused by the existence of another piece of McQuarrie art that does feature the classic tooth-gap design inside the Death Star hangar:
The Falcon did get redesigned at least once, and while I'd like to think the second iteration of the Mos Eisely spaceport painting features the arrow-shaped Falcon it's impossible to tell. George Lucas might know, but considering he's been less than truthful about the origins of the name 'Darth Vader' could we trust what he has to say?
If you'e still not convinced of the McQuarrie influence, it's worth pointing out that his artwork has had somewhat of a renaissance in recent years - mainly due to the fact his designs have been incorporated into the artstyle of Star Wars: Rebels.
The original design for R2-D2 became Chopper:
The original C3PO was the Imperial infiltration droid from the third season episode Warhead:
Chewbacca became Zeb:
Kanan's lightsaber takes some inspiration from McQuarrie's designs, even if it's still in line with the ones from the films:
Darth Vader is a lot sleeker and villainous looking, much like the original paintings of his character:
We also got to see Darth Vader's castle in Rogue One, and while that idea was George Lucas's McQuarrie did throw together some preliminary art before the idea was scrapped.
It can't be a coincidence that the Solo Falcon's design emulates McQuarrie's early designs, especially with Lucasfilm's recent track record of adapting aspects of his work in new and interesting ways. They presumably have everything stored away in their archives, so why not take advantage of that work?
I'll just leave you with these two images, featuring McQuarrie's first attempt at the Mos Eisley Spaceport. Note the colour scheme: