Back from the Drawing Board: Recycled Star Wars Aliens

The upcoming television series Star Wars Rebels reintroduces several well-known concepts drawn by the late Ralph McQuarrie into the Star Wars universe. One of the more prominent McQuarrie concepts that has been given a new life is the character Garazeb “Zeb” Orrelios, a Lasat. Although, this is not the first time the early Chewbacca concepts have been refurbished into a new alien species. In 1988, West End Games released Tatooine Manhunt, which included a bounty hunter named Puggles Trodd, accompanied by an image that bore a striking resemblance to McQuarrie’s early Chewbacca. Thus, the Lasat species was born. Now, 16 years later, that species is explored again in Rebels. But Zeb is not the only character that is based on abandoned Star Wars aliens developed for film; the galaxy is filled with them. Many found their way into the Star Wars universe through various ways, from West End Games to Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

Podracers and Droid Builders

Several designs for the prequel movies have been reused in the six seasons of The Clone Wars, but we’ll get to those later. After the release of The Phantom Menace in 1999, a few unused alien concepts had already found their way back, through means of the Episode I Racer videogame. In this game, released by LucasArts for various platforms, players are able to take control of all the Podracers from the movie, and then some. Among the new characters, several are clearly based on existing concepts for aliens that might have ended up in The Phantom Menace. The racers “Bullseye” Navior (1) and Toy Dampner (2) are based on discarded Podracer pilot designs by Terryl Whitlatch. The latter’s Podracer can be seen during one of the scenes for the Boonta Eve Challenge, although he is never included in any of the sources describing the contestants. Fud Sang (3) was drawn and even sculpted as part of the designs for the Podrace sequence, but not included in the final version of the movie. The concept sculpt can still be seen in Episode I, in the form of a statue on Anakin Skywalker’s desk. Slide Paramita (4), a Ciasi racer, first appeared in concept art, but also in early drafts of the script. His homeworld Tund eventually made it into the final movie as Ben Quadinaros’ origin. Several of the new Podracer vehicles introduced in the game also found their origin in the designs for The Phantom Menace.

conceptspecies2One of the best known examples of a conceptual species returning to the Star Wars universe is the Neimoidian-Geonosian case. Early concepts for the Neimoidians had them resemble their B1 battle droids. In the original background story, the battle droids were supposed to mimic the appearance of the skeletal remains of their Neimoidian creators. The early concept for the Neimodians (5) by Doug Chiang was used in a substantial amount of the concept art. Later in the process, the design was changed to allow for masked actors instead of computer animated characters. The early Neimoidians returned to the drawing boards during the design stage for Attack of the Clones, where they would eventually evolve into the Geonosians, builders of the battle droids. Another early concept for the Neimoidians by Chiang would also come back and change into Archduke Poggle the Lesser (6), leader of the Geonosians.

When Revenge of the Sith was released in 2005, we were first introduced to the Utai, diminutive inhabitants of Utapau. They looked surprisingly similar to a conceptual alien that was included in Monsters and Aliens from George Lucas, a 1993 book that provided stories based on art from various Lucasfilm productions. One of the characters introduced in this (non-canonical) book was Kaat Thrick-Thrick (7), a horticultural educator who might well have inspired the Utai designs. Another concept that came to life during the prequel era was Nilo the Rodisar (8), a contestant in The Cauldron in the 22nd episode of Genddy Tartakovsky’s original Clone Wars series. This unfortunate being was based on sketches of Nilo Rodis-Jamero for the Gamorrean Guard of Return of the Jedi. His name Nilo, and his species Rodisar, are an homage to the original artist. Alta Ranga, a Jedi Master only seen in a desing by Dermot Power for Attack of the Clones, was actually a revamped podrace crowd alien that was initially sculpted for The Phantom Menace. Although he never made it in both films, he was provided with a name in The Art of Star Wars Episode II. The Viis, only known by the occurrence of the Viis Empire in Wizard of the Coast’s The Unknown Regions, was originally an alien species in the (non-Star Wars) Alien Chronicles. Artwork by Terryl Whitlatch was used to portray the Viis on the now defunct Alien Chronicles website, which she also used to depict an alien Senator in The Wildlife of Star Wars.

Sith Witches and Lemur People

With the release of The Clone Wars, we were introduced to a plethora of new alien species, part of which found their origin in abandoned concepts of the six movies. Jedi Master Tera Sinube’s species, the Cosian (9), was first seen in the episode “Grievous Intrigue.” Sinube was based on an Episode I design by Terry Whitlatch for an alien senator. Early pre-preproduction designs for Jar Jar by Whitlatch would be used for the Zilkin colonel Meebur Gascon (10), who made his debut in the episode “Secret Weapons.” This early Jar Jar design had evolved into a smaller creature in later concepts, in which it appears as a sort of Gungan pet. The same designs were previously used for Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds as the Glurrgs, a non-sentient workforce for the Gungans. An unused fish-like Jedi concept for Episode I by Iain McCaig would evolve into the Patrolian (11), first seen in the form of Robonino in “Hostage Crisis”. One of the Nightsister Sith Witch designs for Episode I by Iain McCaig – an image from his worst nightmare – was eventually used for Mother Talzin (12). This piece of concept art was initially intended for the villain of Episode I, who would later become Darth Maul.

Other designs for Sith Lords by Iain McCaig also saw a return in The Clone Wars. The Terellian Jango Jumper Cassie Cryar (13) who first appeared in “Lightsaber Lost” was based on early Sith concepts from Episode I, too. Simultaneously, McCaig was also experimenting with facial tattoos for “evil senators,” which in the end would evolve into the tattooed Darth Maul. A blue-skinned design with yellow facial markings, based on photographer Greg Gawlowski, was reintroduced into the Star Wars saga as the Pantoran (14), seen in the episode “Trespass.” Senator Chi Eekway and Baron Papanoida were later confirmed to be Pantorans as well, which technically makes Revenge of the Sith their first appearance. An unused Medusa-like Sith female designed by McCaig for Episode II was brought back to life in The Clone Wars episode “The Unknown,” as Jedi Master Tiplar (15). While originally playing with the idea of creating a female Sith character, these plans were eventually moved aside in favor of Count Dooku. One of the more prominent designs for this female Sith by Dermot Power quickly found a way back as Sith Apprentice Asajj Ventress, who was first introduced to audiences in the comic Jedi: Mace Windu in 2003.

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In addition to the two variants of Geonosians (drone and male), the Kerkoiden (16) was also based on initial designs for the Neimoidians by Doug Chiang. The “trader baron” came to live as General Whorm Loathsom in the 2008 Star Wars: The Clone Wars film. Rig Nema (17), an alien Jedi healer that appears in the episode “Voices” is directly based on an early Episode I design for Mace Windu by Iain McCaig. At the time of designing Mace, Samuel L. Jackson was not cast yet, so McCaig based his sketch on ILM modeler Steve Aplin. According to a featurette included with the episode “Blue Shadow Virus” on the season one DVD, Doctor Nuvo Vindi (18), a Faust, was based on an abandoned concept of an alien astronaut for Attack of the Clones. He does, however, also look very similar to one of the alien senator sketches drawn up for The Phantom Menace. The Lurmen (19), who are sometimes referred to as Mygeetans, have their debut in the episode “Jedi Crash.” The Lurmen are a lemur-like species that was initially supposed to appear in Revenge of the Sith. The “Lemur People” were developed by Erik Tiemens, and George Lucas later asked for more variations and costume designs. Sang Jun Lee also worked on the designs, creating several different options for the physiology and clothing of the species. Robert Barnes worked on sculpts for the “Lemur People”, and described the design as a challenge, for they had to “take something cute and give it an edge.” In the end, the species did not make it into the movie, although Star Wars: Complete Locations does mention a lemur-like species that had been reduced to mere slaves on Mygeeto. Sang Jun Lee also worked on some alternate designs for Neimoidian warriors, one of which features a breathing mask. The design closely resembles the appearance of Kyuzo bounty hunter Embo from the episode “Bounty Hunters,” and may have been a source of inspiration for this species. Not only prequel concept art made it into The Clone Wars, some designs from the original trilogy were revisited as well. The Parwan bounty hunter Derrown, from the episode “The Box,” was loosely based on Ron Cobb’s “ambulatory plant” that was also used for the Revwien species. An owl creature seen on an early Ralph McQuarrie painting of the cantina showdown was further explored for the episode “Sphere of Influence”, but again abandoned during the design phase. The concept art galleries on the Blu-ray edition of season three names this species Sharalian (20).

Hole-in-the-Head and other Sightings

The ambulatory plant that formed the inspiration for the Parwan, was initially drawn by Ron Cobb in a series of designs for patrons of the Mos Eisley cantina, seen in Episode IV. While a few of those sketches were realized for the movie, such as the Gotal, others were left on the drawing board, some of them too complex to be made into a costume. The ambulatory plant, who was supposed to have a “great sense of humor”, soon made its way into the Star Wars universe through an appearance in the 1991 Miniatures Battles game as the Revwien (21). The Revwien later appeared in a variety of books, such as Galaxy Guide 12 and the Jedi Academy Training Manual. Another of Cobb’s sketches, an “arctic, mammal-like fish eater”, was brought to live in a Kellogg’s commercial, where he was given cereal by C-3PO and R2-D2. Three of Ralph McQuarrie’s concepts for The Empire Strikes Back were also used in books to depict new species. The Thranta Riders (22) are a humanoid species that perform stunts on Thrantas around Bespin, and were introduced in The Illustrated Star Wars Universe using different paintings by McQuarrie. They later appeared in The Bounty Hunters: Aurra Sing, albeit in a somewhat altered form. The Tulvaree were introduced in Wanted by Cracken, a book that used one of McQuarrie’s early concepts of the Mynock to portray this semi-sentient avians of the planet Pochi. Adventure Journal 2, published in 1994, included the adventure The Way of the Yrashu by Dustin Browder. The Yrashu (23), natives of Baskarn, are depicted using a McQuarrie concept for Episode V, although there is no information as to what this concept was for. It almost looks like a more developed concept of Chewbacca.

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The design stage of Return of the Jedi spawned a wide range of concepts for the gangster villain Jabba the Hutt. A few of them saw renewed use in the Star Wars universe. The Quockrans (24) were originally introduced in Galaxy Guide 6 in 1990, and eight years later Alien Encounters included an image for the species. This was essentially a reworked McQuarrie concept. Dyslogia Twang (25), first seen in the non-canonical Monsters and Aliens from George Lucas, made its way into the official Star Wars universe by means of the HoloNet News website that was created before the release of Attack of the Clones. His “Sightings by Twang,” a gossip section of HNN, was a very close approximation of the entry in Monsters. The Adnerem (26) were based on a design for Jabba’s majordomo Bib Fortuna by Nilo Rodis-Jamero. They were transferred into Star Wars by Wanted by Cracken and made several appearances in later works. Another of Rodis-Jamero’s designs for Fortuna was used in The Illustrated Star Wars Universe to represent Po Ruddle Lingsnot, a member of the Council of Tourism and Extra-Planetary Investment on Cloud City. Ken Ralston worked on various alien designs, some of which were abandoned before production. Wanted by Cracken used two of them to depict the Berrite (27) con artist Mexnean and the Khil (28) terrorist Greldo Farnor. The Berrite made an additional appearance in Galaxy Guide 12, now with a head-to-toe illustration. The Khil were extensively used in various sources, most notably the Knights of the Old Republic comic series, although the tendrils hanging from their face became more prominent over time. The Esoomian (29) was based on an discarded concept for the Rancor by Joe Johnston, and was also introduced in Wanted by Cracken.

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Several concepts that made it into but not past the sculpting phase were also recycled in later sources. The sculpt nicknamed “Hole in the Head” (30) was made for Return of the Jedi, were the creature was supposed to appear in Jabba’s palace. It was not used, but apparently proved to be an interesting enough design for West End Games to use in one of their books. Named the Adarian, this species with their characteristic heads appeared in Galaxy Guide 12 in 1995, and were provided with an illustration by Mike Vilardi. In 2008, the Complete Star Wars Encyclopedia used a picture of the actual sculpted bust to depict the Adarian. Several other alien maquettes were used by Decipher in their Customizable Card Game. Decipher superimposed the images on backgrounds from the movies, making it look as though they appeared in the scenes. Brangus Glee (31), a being from Dor Nameth, was originally known as “Alien 23” and referred to as “The thinker among aliens.” “Alien 25,” an alien with some elephant-like features, was used to depict Bron Burs (32), a being from Nentan who served as an Alliance commando. Niado Duegad (33), a native of Vodran, was known as “Alien 18.” This design had features similar to the Dianoga – his name is literally an anagram of Dianoga Dude – and was discarded because manipulation would be too difficult. “Alien 19,” a design with a four-horned head was provided with a torso and turned into the Makurth (34), a saurian native of Moltok. Neb Dulo (35), a Tocoyan disciple of Davrilat started off as a design with a beaklike snout. The blue-skinned “Alien 25” may have been a candidate for Jabba’s aide, but never made it that far. It returned as Soth Petikkin (35), a Tefaun recruiter for the Alliance. Sic-Six (36), known as “6-Eye” or “Alien 24” during the production, was a hand-operated puppet that was supposed to be operated by Simon Williamson, but did not make it into the final cut. The name Sic-Six was given by Star Wars: Chronicles in 1997 and copied by Decipher in 1998. The design, however, is significantly different from the images provided by West End Games for the Sic-Six in their 1989 Galaxy Guide 4.

Seeing as how the new Star Wars Rebels series draws heavily from the concept art of Ralph McQuarrie, and that some of his concept is also inspiring the work on Episode VII, it could very well be possible to see some of the concepts mentioned in this article – or other unused ones for that matter – appear in these or other future products. Who knows what the future holds?

Selected Reading

Monsters and Aliens from George Lucas (Bob Carrau, 1993)
Star Wars: Chronicles (Deborah Fine, 1997)
The Art of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (Jonathan Bresman, 1999)
The Art of Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (Mark Cotta Vaz, 2002)
The Art of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (Jonathan W. Rinzler, 2005)
The Illustrated Star Wars Universe (Kevin J. Anderson, 1995)
The Making of Return of the Jedi (Jonathan W. Rinzler, 2013)
The Making of Star Wars (Jonathan W. Rinzler, 2007)
The Making of The Empire Strikes Back (Jonathan W. Rinzler, 2010)
The Wildlife of Star Wars (Terry Whitlatch & Bob Carrau, 2001)
Wanted by Cracken (Louis J. Prosperi, 1993)

Kevin Beentjes (Wild Whiphid) is a molecular biologist working at the Dutch natural history museum. He is an editor for TeeKay-421, an administrator for Yodapedia, and fascinated with the myriad of alien life forms, in that galaxy far, far away.

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