It’s a sad day for Star Wars and sci-fi fans alike as legendary artist Colin Cantwell has passed away. Primarily known for his work designing the iconic Star Wars X-Wing and TIE Fighter vehicles, Cantwell has a resumé that most artists would rnvu . His loss is a true shame so let’s remember this extraordinary artist for all the good he did.
Passing after a lengthy battle with Alzheimer’s, Colin Cantwell lived for 90 years, working on projects from entertainment to NASA space missions. The designer impacted pop culture in a major way; while Cantwell may be gone, his legacy will live on forever.
Cantwell’s Star Wars work
As the title implies, Cantwell is most well known for his work on Star Wars, particularly the beloved X-Wing. The spaceship used by the Rebellion and protagonist Luke Skywalker became a cultural icon after it was used to blow up the Death Star during the original Star Wars’ climax. Beyond its iconic takedown of the Death Star, the X-Wing also made appearances in The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and even The Mandalorian.
However, Cantwell didn't just work on the X-Wing. The designer's contribution to Star Wars also includes designs for Y-Wing, TIE Fighter, Star Destroyer, Landspeeder, Sandcrawler, and Corellian Corvette (thanks Kotaku). While these designs would be tweaked by other Star Wars artists on the team like Ralph McQuarrie and Joe Johnston, we wouldn’t have them in the first place without Cantwell.
The historic designer's spaceship designs are an integral part of the identity of Star Wars, which in turn inspired other franchises. While the prequel era would mostly abandon these designs for sleeker models, the sequel trilogy returned to Cantwell's design philosophy. For example, the Ski Speeders in The Last Jedi is a direct homage to that aesthetic.
Early designs of Star Wars ships by Colin Cantwell.
NASA and 2001: A Space Odyssey
Cantwell’s incredible eye for spaceships likely comes from his work at NASA. He was part of the infamous Apollo 11 mission, passing information directly to the television presenter at the time. The future spacecraft designer also helped Americans understand how flights work as part of his job with NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Not long after, his interest in space brought him to Hollywood. According to BBC, he worked on the special photographic effects in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Considering how good that film still looks to this day, we can partially thank Cantwell for his work there. He also worked on a niche franchise called Star Wars, y ou might have heard of it.
Rest in peace, Colin Cantwell. You’ve made our nerdy lives so much better.