SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Could beloved Wookie Chewbacca’s creative inspiration be found in Ark-La-Tex bigfoot legends? Both creatures have enjoyed film acclaim and have a common creator.
The artist, Ralph McQuarrie, survived a bullet wound to his head during the Korean War and later became an illustrator for Boeing, animated CBS’s coverage of the Apollo space program, and by the 1970s was working for Howco International as a movie poster artist.
Joy Theatres, which showed B-movies produced by Howco International Pictures, were owned by Joy Houck Sr., who grew up in Magnolia, Ark. He was also part owner of Howco International, and one of their most successful movies was The Legend of Boggy Creek: A True Story (1972), which told the story of bigfoot sightings near Fouke, Arkansas.
The movie became a massive success after McQuarrie’s ominous poster drew in large audiences.
“That was a success, and the picture was a success. On the strength of that, I began to get more posters to do for independent producers,” McQuarrie said. “Then two writers I know showed my paintings to Lucas, who at that time, was just finishing THX-1138 and about to make American Graffiti. When we met he mentioned that he would like to do a really spectacular science-fiction picture.” The interview was recorded in the book Once Upon a Galaxy: A Journal of the Making of the Empire Strikes Back.
Before McQuarrie would venture with Lucas to a galaxy far, far away, he painted the famous image of Billy Coleman hunting with coon dogs Old Dan and Little Anne for Howco’s film Where the Red Fern Grows in 1974.
A 1976 Howco movie poster created by McQuarrie features bigfoot peering down at two men who are riding in an olive green Jon boat on a northern Louisiana Bayou at night. The words Creature From Black Lake stand out in bright yellow letters.
The movie was filmed in northwest Louisiana.
McQuarrie was the very first person Lucas hired to work on The Empire Strikes Back. The artist designed the appearances of Darth Vader, C3PO, R2D2, and Chewbacca.
Some credit Chewbacca’s look to George R. R. Martin. Lucas himself has stated Chewbacca was based on his dog.
Still, others believe McQuarrie used his experience drawing Ark-La-Tex bigfoot legends to create the earliest Chewbacca drawings for Star Wars.
McQuarrie died in Berkley, California, in 2012, so the artist’s inspiration for the towering Wookie warrior and pilot will remain a mystery.
Perhaps the only way to prove whether Chewbacca looks like the Boggy Creek bigfoot or the Black Lake bigfoot is to catch one.