Lots of things get thrown out and redesigned in the early design process of a film. Sometimes people design things just for fun, and other times concepts make it all the way to final design before being changed.
One thing that irritates me is an image floating around that supposedly shows how some famous characters ALMOST looked. While it's very entertaining, it completely misrepresents the design process.
The inherent message is that some really goofy ideas almost made it into the film. The problem is that they mixed real concept art with really early concept art and concept art that has NOTHING TO DO with the final film.
It's popular, but complete garbage. I'll break down why. I'll also do something no one else is bothering to do: source the images.
Check them out after the jump and click to enlarge.
Avatar Navii by Jonay Bacallado
The movie Avatar has some freaky aliens and brilliant designs, but this isn't one of them. Jonay Bacallado, the artist did work on Avatar. But he already said this wasn't done for the film. "The images were created before anyone at costume department was hired... These pics were my passport, just to prove I could handle the job, they gave me freedom to create...this is NOT AVATAR CONCEPT ART."
X-Men: First Class Azazel by Jerad S. Marantz
In the film X-Men: First Class, there is a teleporter known as Azazel that has a frightening appearance. This one reminds me of the design for Emperor Doviculus in Legend. But, in Jerad's own words: "I was on the film for a short time but was able to contribute."
So, while the look is pretty cool, it may have too early in the design process to be seriously considered.
Thor by Wesley Burt
Wesley Burt describes this as "Super early Thor film concept art sketches."
Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983) Jabba the Hutt by Joe Johnston
Ralph McQuarrie did designs for Jabba in Star Wars, but he said "In my sketches Jabba was huge, agile, sort of an apelike figure. But then the design went into another direction." Joe Johnston took McQuarrie's sketches and made them saggier and gave him a slug-like appearance.
Chewbacca by Ralph McQuarrie
This one is definitely by Ralph McQuarrie and was done for the film. It's pretty freaky looking, but here's the original description from the rough draft dated May, 1974: "The eight foot Chewbacca, who resembles a huge, grey bush baby with fierce baboon-like fang."
McQuarrie said, "George thought of [Chewbacca] as looking like a lemur with fur over his whole body and a big huge apelike figure. I took another track, added an ammunition bandoleer and put a rifle in his hands. I had shorts on him and a flak jacket and all kinds of gear, but that was edited out."
So, based on Lucas' description, this is exactly what he wanted. It wasn't until Lucas' decided to use the hairy, triple-breasted creature designed by John Schoenherr that Chewbacca took on his more familiar appearance.
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer Silver Surfer by Constantine Sekeris
In Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, the menacing Silver Surfer is played by character actor Doug Jones. The design for the Surfer seems bizarre and weird until you compare it with another Doug Jones role: Abe Sapien from Hellboy (2004).
Iron Man 2 Whiplash by Ryan Meinerding
I'm 99% sure this is his work. Since the costume looks almost exact and it has Mickey Rourke's face I'm assuming this was extremely late in the design process. Of all the concept art this is the only one that truly reflects a final interpretation.
In that sense, it is definitely NOT "early concept art."
Harry Potter Hagrid by Unknown
I couldn't find this anywhere except for a behind-the-scenes video. So it's probably legit.
X-Men: First Class Beast by Constantine Sekeris
These design of the Beast was done for the film and were not picked. I think it's pretty cool. In the film Beast was more athletic before he put on the costume than after.
This design makes Beast look like a monkey.
The Amazing Spider-Man Spider-Man by Eddie Yang
One of many, many designs by Yang and others. When talking to concept artist Jerad S. Merantz about the design process, he said the director wanted to start fresh with the design of the Spider-Man costume and all ideas were on the table. That said, this was no more likely to become the Spider-Man suit than anything else.
Yoda by Joe Johnston
A "Design of Star Wars" trading card describes the process for Yoda. "Yoda plays an essential role in THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, but it took scores of sketches to settle on the look of the 900-year-old Jedi Master." The card said, "The artists at first were told only that he appear very old and have non-human characteristics. The early efforts made Yoda too animalistic, but they evolved into a character that was smaller, more wrinkled and gnome-like who seemed to have the weight of the galaxy on his shoulders."
I find it hard to believe they intended to use a garden gnome for Yoda, so I'm guessing this was either a joke or a reference image.
The next time you're tempted to laugh at "stupid concept art" remember that bainstorming is about putting all ideas on the table. You never know what might stick.
The funny part to me is I can find crazier concept art for all these characters that is 100% legitimate. Maybe I'll make one up sometime.
Image Source: The Chive