Back from the Drawing Board, Part 2: Repurposed Star Wars Technology

Jawas aren't the only ones to see value in old droids. Learn how Star Wars creators have reused forgotten concepts for film and TV!

The previous installment of Back from the Drawing Board discussed the various aliens that were recycled from unused concept art. This time we will look at droids and starships that were originally designed for the movies, but ended up in other sources.

Bring in the Droids, Again

Some of the most obvious examples can be found in Star Wars Rebels, which draws heavily from the unused concept art of Ralph McQuarrie. One of the main characters, Chopper (1), finds his origin in conceptual designs from our other favorite astromech, R2-D2. A different design was used directly in West End Games’ Cynabar’s Fantastic Technology to depict the P2 astromech droid (3). Another iconic design by McQuarrie, the one intended for C-3PO, also ended up in Rebels in the form of the RQ protocol droid (2). This droid concept was previously used in Star Wars 80: Ellie, as the LE manifest droid LE-914.

The IG-RM thug droids (4), also seen in Rebels, originated as concepts for the IG-88. This design has seen multiple uses in the former Expanded Universe, as Eliminator 434 in The Star Wars Sourcebook, the Uulshos justice droid 2-124 in Wanted by Cracken, and as an Iron Knight in The New Essential Guide to Droids.

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An early concept for the battle droids of The Phantom Menace, by Doug Chiang, saw a second chance as the AAD-4 assault droid (5) that was introduced on the HoloNet News website prior to the release of Attack of the Clones. Other battle droid designs by Chiang formed the inspiration to the Juggernaut war droid (6) and the Scorpenek annihilator droid (7), both first seen in the book, The New Essential Guide to Droids. The LEP servant droid (8), introduced in The Clone Wars movie and seen throughout the series, was also a concept by Chiang for Episode I.

Pre-Owned Transports

The HAVw A5 Juggernaut (9), featured in a variety of sources, and the HAVw A6 that we know as the Clone Turbo Tank from Revenge of the Sith, both find their origin in an unused sketch by Joe Johnston for The Empire Strikes Back. This wheeled tank was eventually replaced by the AT-AT during the conceptual stages of Episode V. Other vehicle designs by Johnston were recycled for various speeder bikes in The Clone Wars and Rebels, such as the Starhawk speeder bikes (10) used by Hondo Ohnaka and his crew, the foldable Undicur-class jumpspeeders (11) used by both Ahsoka Tano and Sabine Wren, and the 614-AvA speeder bike (12) used by the Lothal gang.

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The AT-DP, or All Terrain Defense Pod (13) used by the Imperials in Rebels, was also an abandoned Johnston design that was intended for the scout walker that eventually became the AT-ST. The same design was used before to depict the All Terrain Advance Raider, or AT-AR, in the 1981 comic strip The Bounty Hunter of Ord Mantell. Hasbro also made use of Joe Johnston’s concepts when they released their “Expanded Universe” line in 1997. Three vehicles were included that were directly based upon unused artwork: an airspeeder, a cloud car, and a speeder bike. The single-pod cloud car could be seen in the PC game, Star Wars Galaxies, as well.

The game Episode I Racer similarly made use of some discarded concepts, both for its alien racers and its vehicles. “Bullseye” Navior’s Irateq RQ 550C Dart, Fud Sang’s Bokaan Race Engineering Block6 Tri-Ram (14), Bozzie Baranta’s Shelba 730 Razor (15), and Toy Dampner’s Turca 910 Special (16) were designed by Jay Shuster, but never made it past concept or early cinematic stages for The Phantom Menace. The M-31 airspeeder featured in commercials on the HoloNet News website was originally a design by Doug Chiang for Attack of the Clones.

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Galactic Battlegrounds, a real-time strategy game released in 2001, introduced a score of new vehicles, including a few Trade Federation war machines that were originally envisioned by Doug Chiang for Episode I, such as the S-TRN ocean troop transport (17), the S-DST aquatic destroyer (18), the S-LFRG light aquatic frigate (19), and the S-HFRG heavy aquatic frigate. More of Chiang’s concepts were included in Wizard of the Coast’s Star Wars Miniatures. In this tabletop game we are introduced to the aerial clone trooper captain (20) and the Dark Hellion marauder on a swoop bike (21).

Salvaged Spaceships

Just like the vehicles, there are plenty of spaceships that find their origins in unused concept arts. The H-60 Tempest bomber (22), first seen in the book, Inside the Worlds of Star Wars Trilogy, was based on early designs for the B-wing starfighter for Return of the Jedi. One of the concepts for the Mon Calamari battleships was turned into the MC30c frigate that can be found in games such as Empire at War and Star Wars: Armada. Marc Gabbana’s design for a retro-looking Banking Clan ship that was supposed to have appeared in Attack of the Clones was recycled for the BC-714 luxury transport (23).

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The Twilight (24), one of the main transports for our heroes in The Clone Wars, was based on a ship design by Erik Tiemens for Episode III. The “paddle wheel ship,” another of Tiemens’ concepts for Revenge of the Sith, was later used as initial concept for the Malevolence (25). Several other ships that appeared in The Clone Wars were based on abandoned concepts. The HH-87 Starhopper (27) was an Imperial shuttle design for Episode VI, by Norman Reynolds. The Eta-class shuttle (26) from “Grievous Intrigue” was based on a Joe Johnston design for the Imperial shuttle. The GX1 Short Hauler (28) seen in season four was also designed by Joe Johnston, but was already used by West End Games for their RPG before its appearance in The Clone Wars. “Plan of Dissent,” a season four episode in the Umbaran story arc, introduced a yet-unnamed dirigible-shaped separatist starship (29) that was based on a Ryan Church conceptual piece for Revenge of the Sith.

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Last but not least, two upcoming starships. While not a new design, the trailer for the second season of Rebels showed the A-wing starfighter in its white and blue color scheme originally seen in Ralph McQuarrie’s concept art for Return of the Jedi. The blue colors were swapped for red due to the use of blue screens in the shooting of the space battles. The T-70 X-wing starfighter used by the Resistance in The Force Awakens, which was first seen in one of J.J. Abrams’ “Force for Change” videos, seems to hearken back to an original McQuarrie design (30). Who knows what else might be hidden in the new season of Rebels and the upcoming movies!

Selected Reading

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 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)

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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