Saturday, May 8, 2010

The “Willow” that Wasn’t

The sheer amount of art that has been produced for Lucasfilm projects is overwhelming in its quantity and quality. One of the artists, whose contributions to Lucasfilm’s archives are particularly exciting, is French master illustrator Jean “Moebius” Giraud.

When I was in college, a friend showed me a book that was a retrospective of Moebius’ diverse works for various clients over his long career. I was stunned when I came to a series of spreads exploring a rich fantasy world through pen and ink and watercolor. I was further surprised when I realized that these designs were commissioned by Lucasfilm for the film “Willow.” As an enormous fan of Moebius and as a huge fan of these sketches, it is impossible for me not to imagine what a film driven by these designs would have looked like.

Moebius shows himself to be a master of understanding George Lucas’ influences for this film, which included Akira Kurosawa’s Noh influenced samurai films. His use of a Noh theater mask for the character of Sorsha is one of my favorite decisions. Another example of Moebius’ playfulness as a creative thinker is his making the Kael character a purple beast with a tattoo of a green dragon on his forehead. Essentially, a monster who has a tattoo of a monster on him!

UPDATE: "Sequential Art Primer Part 3" has just been posted and includes images of the Moebius 'bande dessinée' work from his groundbreaking "Arzach." It may be viewed by clicking HERE

For those of you who would like to watch Moebius draw, here is a video of him (now in his seventies) drawing on a Cintiq. Words do not do this man justice.


  1. Thank you for posting this work and for the insight into his role in projects I wasn't aware of. For me, part of what I find so remarkable about Moebius' work is his ability to visually invent using mostly his own personal visual mythology. I can see the 60's psychadelia influence in his form calligraphy but it's a note versus the theme. Please speak some to the forms he uses as you see them with your perspective on character design. He's one of the more singular illustrators and designers of our time.

  2. Wow, neat. The costumes are quite elaborate. Maybe... a sequel will be considered, and these ideas can be used.

    With the Moebius drawing video, it would have been nice if the camera was on the left side of him, since he's right-handed. It was tough to see the drawing at times.

  3. Here's an additional Moebius concept for Willow that is missing from the group-

    Guy is sucha legend.
    This and the other Willow concepts can be found in;

    Moebius: Fusions
    128 pgs HC
    Casterman (1995)
    ISBN 2-203-34605-1

    Also- I twitter about art books and art shows so check me out @en_b

    Rather inspired by your blog post so probably will do some peeks into my Moebius art book collection in the next week or two.

  4. Greetings everyone, and thank you for your comments and e-mails.

    In the last 24 hours I have received a flood of traffic to this post, the likes of which this web log has never seen. I fell in love with these designs (as well as the work of Moebius) as a college student, and when I started this web log, I knew that I wanted to showcase this collection of work and the paintings of Sensei Akira Kurosawa in some of my first few posts.

    To the thousands of you flocking to this link, thank you for sharing your enthusiasm for this collection of artwork (created by Moebius in the 1980's) that I also find so much inspiration in.

    This web log is meant to be an educational tool where visual storytellers can find quality resolution scans of the visual work by master artists as well as information on how myth, metaphor, and psychology inform our pursuits.

    Responses like the ones you've been sending make the hours of scanning and image clean-up well worth it.


  5. What a shame these were not implemented in the movie. It would have been ahead of its time instead of the fairly average film it turned out to be.

  6. Incredible! Thank you Shanth for posting the Master's work. Even though his concepts weren't used in the film, the art is significant, profound, and inspirational.

  7. You are absolutely welcome!

    This work (and Moebius) was a source of inspiration during my college years, and sharing these images became a part of my curriculum once I began my teaching career. Now, with this educational web log, it is wonderful that they can be shared with an even larger audience.

    The newest post in my "Sequential Art Primer" series showcases some pages from Moebius' "Arzach" which continue to be a similar source of inspiration.