X-Wing & TIE Fighter designer Colin Cantwell has died

X-Wing & TIE Fighter designer Colin Cantwell has died

Cantwell at an auction of his works in 2014

Cantwell at an auction of his works in 2014
Photo: Jerod Harris (Getty Images)

While the great Ralph McQuarrie is rightly remembered as the main visionary behind the look of the star wars universe, he was not the only artist to play a major role in the creation of the original trilogy. There was also Colin Canwell.

Born in 1932, Cantwell had an incredible career that ventured far beyond artistic endeavors. To work at NASA on Apollo 11 assignment (he was in charge of transmitting information about the mission directly to television presenter Walter Cronkite) to help Hewlett Packard design computers, he also wrote two science fiction novels and helped Stanley Kubrick map the early scenes of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Cantwell showing some of his model designs – in this case a Y-Wing – to George Lucas during development of the first Star Wars

It’s for his early work on star wars, however, that he became best known. Employed at the beginning of the development of the original film, in 1974-75, Cantwell is the originator of many of the series’ most iconic and memorable ships, including theand X-Wing, Y-Wing, TIE Fighter, Star Destroyer, Landspeeder, Sandcrawler, and Corellian Corvette (which was originally intended to be the Millennium Falcon). He was also the original designer of the Death Star.

While other artists like McQuarrie and special effects guru Joe Johnston would later modify these designstheir original vision – cross-folding wings of the X-Wing at TIE Fighter bow tie silhouette—was all Cantwell, as you can see in the images below:

A very early design model of the X-Wing

Cantwell's Star Destroyer design has both its wedge shape and its already established animated towers

An even older design idea for a Star Destroyer

A model of Cantwell's Death Star design

The original Y-Wing, another design that (mostly) made it into the movie

Its TIE Fighter design is also instantly recognizable

While each of the models you can see above have been modified in some way by McQuarrie and Johnston, there is one creation by Cantwell that made it star wars without anyone making any changes. In one of the scenes right after Luke first encounters C-3PO and R2-D2, he is seen relaxing while playing with a model T-16 Skyhopper, which is a model built entirely from Cantwell’s sketches.

Luke's T-16 model was another of Cantwell's designs

Luke’s T-16 model was another of Cantwell’s designs
Screenshot: star wars

Cantwell was 90 years old, and suffered from Alzheimer’s for several years. He is survived by his partner Sierra Dall.

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