Star Wars Origins - Imperial Walkers
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Joseph Campbell
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2001: Space Odyssey
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E.E. "Doc" Smith

The Droids
Imperial Walkers
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The imagery for Imperial Walkers (and even the ice planet Hoth) may have been inspired by this Syd Mead painting, published in the 1961 book Concepts1

Syd Mead began his career as a designer for the Ford Motor Company in 1959. From there he established himself as an in-demand "futurist" for several major corporations. In 1978 Mead designed V'ger for Star Trek The Motion Picture, which began his long career as one of the handful of artists most responsible for the modern vision of science fiction in film:

Syd Mead Star Trek I, Bladerunner (notably the 'Spinner' police car, cityscapes), Aliens, 2010, Tron, Strange Days, Johnny Mnemonic, Short Circuit, Timecop, Gundam
Ralph McQuarrie Star Wars (he designed almost everything), Battlestar Galactica (vipers, galactica, cylon ships), E.T., Raiders of the Lost Ark, Isaac Asimov books, Star Trek*
Jean 'Moebius' Giraud Tron, Bladerunner (costumes), Alien, The Fifth Element, Willow and The Abyss, plus he was a huge influence on Geof Darrow, who visualized The Matrix
H.R. Giger Direct contributions to Alien (creatures) and Species, plus innumerable rip-offs including the X-Files movie, the "ribbed" Batcar, ad infinitum
* McQuarrie did concept work for the second Star Trek series in 1977, which was never completed but strongly influenced the films and the Next Generation series.

Lucas has often said that his inspiration for the Walkers came from the loading cranes in the Port of Oakland, California, which he would drive by every day.2

The original science fiction "walkers" were the martian tripods from H.G. Wells 1897 novel The War of the Worlds. Can you imagine how mind-blowing the image of giant three-legged, tentacled war machines from another planet was in 1897? In those days most people had never even seen an automobile with their own eyes. H.G. Wells had such an incredible imagination that he was widely known as "The man who invented the future."

Other Inspirations

Sources: 1Infinite Worlds; The Fantastic Visions of Science Fiction Art, by Vincent Di Fate, artist identified by Nathan Campbell; 2Lucas interviews.
Star Wars created by George Lucas, © LucasFilm Ltd.
Star Wars: Origins © 1999-2006 by Kristen Brennan,
part of the Jitterbug Fantasia webzine.