Sci Fi Before Breakfast: A Visit with Tony DiTerlizzi
and Some Bonus Art from Ralph McQuarrie

h1 November 18th, 2014 by jules


An early sketch of Otto from DiTerlizzi’s WondLa trilogy
(Click to enlarge)


 


Ralph McQuarrie’s art from
Star Wars: The Adventures of Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight by Tony DiTerlizzi


 

Caldecott Honor illustrator and author Tony DiTerlizzi is visiting 7-Imp this morning for an in-his-own-words type of piece, meaning I’m going to hand the site over to him to share some art and talk about his new books. I asked him about wrapping up his WondLa trilogy, which he just completed; Book III, The Battle for WondLa, was released in May. In this third and final installment of the illustrated science fiction fantasy trilogy, Eva Nine is on the run — yet is the only one capable of bringing peace to the humans and aliens of Orbona.

I also asked Tony what it was like to be asked to adapt the original Star Wars trilogy into a picture book for children, which is precisely what Lucasfilm asked him to do. The book, Star Wars: The Adventures of Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight, features the existing artwork of concept artist Ralph McQuarrie, who was the artist behind the original Star Wars trilogy, and was released by Disney Lucasfilm Press in October.

Tony shares some process sketches and final art from WondLa, as well as some spreads from the Star Wars picture book adaptation. Here’s Tony in his own words, and I thank him for visiting.



 

* * * On WondLa * * *


 

The WondLa trilogy was a tale I’d had in my mind for over a decade. It came to me in the late 1990s as I was developing The Spiderwick Chronicles backstory. In Spiderwick, I was fascinated by the idea of a story from the past coming forward in time to the present. As I pondered this notion, I explored in the other direction and asked myself, “Could I also pull a story from the future back to the present?”

 





Characters in development: Eva Nine, Rovender Kitt, Muthr, Besteel
(Click each to enlarge)


 

Over the years, as I mulled over the plot and characters, several momentous events happened in my life: I tasted success, turned 40, and my daughter was born. WondLa soon became more than just a futuristic fairy tale –- it became a window to my thoughts, joys, and concerns as a parent. Consequently, the story asks a lot of questions: Are we the best caretakers for the planet? Are we alone in the universe? What happens when we die? In the end, the story offers no answers. For me, those are the stories that stick with you long after you read the last page.

 


“By dusk, a heavy fog had fallen upon the land, concealing it as far as Eva could see. From her vantage point atop Otto, she thought the mist below looked like a dark treacherous sea, and her mount was her faithful ship, The Mighty Otto.
Even in the dense murk she could still see Muthr, for the pale light of the Omnipod illuminated the robot’s form as she rolled alongside them.”
— From Book I,
The Search for WondLa
(Click to enlarge)


 


“With great force Rovender Kitt pushed the time-forgotten door open. A dank, musty smell greeted the explorers as they peered into the pitch-black room. Rovender nodded, then went in. Eva followed and found herself in an expansive round room.”
— From Book I,
The Search for WondLa
(Click to enlarge)


 

I thought I knew what WondLa was going to be about when I set out to pen the first book, but throughout the six years it took me to write and illustrate the trilogy, experiences in my life shaped the story. I am thankful for that. It may be skinned in a slick science-fiction veneer, but underneath the theme of WondLa is very tangible: Where is home and what defines family?

 


“…It was like looking into a warped mirror. Aside from the shorter hair, Eva Eight looked like an older version of Eva, complete with perfect porcelain features.”
— Sketch from Book II,
A Hero for WondLa
(Click to enlarge)


 


“A gawky alien in a flight suit stood on four thin rubbery legs
watching Eva’s every move.”
— From Book II,
A Hero for WondLa
(Click to enlarge)


 


“The rider entered the campsite, a young Caerulean seated in the munt-runner’s saddle. His mount’s wild scarlet eyes dilated as they neared the firelight.”
— Sketch from Book II,
A Hero for WondLa
(Click to enlarge)


 


“‘Before you go, I want to give you something.’ Rovender pulled off the frayed cord from around his waist. ‘Your cord from the council?'”
— From Book II,
A Hero for WondLa
(Click to enlarge)


 

Classics such as Peter Pan & Wendy, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz inspired me. Like those fairy tales, WondLa centers on a female protagonist, Eva Nine, who leaves home and ventures into a wonderworld of strange characters. The story also draws inspiration from the fantastic science fiction genre seen in films, such as Star Wars, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.

 


Cover art from Book III, The Battle for WondLa
(Click to enlarge)


 



“‘Will he be okay?’ Eva ran her hands over the scorched claws of the fallen guard.”
— Sketch and final art from Book III,
The Battle for WondLa
(Click each to enlarge)


 


 


“‘You are a mother with eggs, aren’t you?'”
— Sketch from Book III,
The Battle for WondLa
(Click to enlarge)


 

Because it is an imaginary setting, I relied heavily on my talents as an artist to illustrate Eva’s adventures. The intense world-building I had created in character and plot now continued on a visual level. From the design of the main characters and the places they visit to the artifacts they use, everything in Eva’s universe help convey the concepts and themes of the story. This is where my background in working on the Dungeons & Dragons game paid off. For D&D, I was required to do all sorts of world design, while I illustrated the various adventure modules and monster manuals. I had no idea then how invaluable that experience would be for me as an aspiring author and illustrator for children’s literature.




[Tony talks in the above video about the WondLa books,
if you’d like to see even more art from the trilogy]


 

* * * On Star Wars * * *


 

Last year, I was contacted by Lucasfilm to adapt the original Star Wars trilogy into a picture book format for young readers, using the existing artwork of concept artist, Ralph McQuarrie. Of course, I jumped at the opportunity (after I picked myself up from the floor).

As I mentioned, WondLa—as well as other stories I’ve created, including Spiderwick—were inspired by the films of George Lucas. To be asked to retell the tale of my childhood hero, Luke Skywalker, was an incredible honor for me. It validated me as an established storyteller for children.

 


“The Imperial fighters blew apart as the Millennium Falcon
fired on them from overhead. …”

(Click to enlarge)


 

I approached the project as a parent who grew up on these films and as a kid who may be enjoying them for the first time. Of the film’s many themes, I had to find one that would work best for a picture book. Like WondLa, I focused on the importance of family.

As it is with many classic protagonists, Luke Skywalker starts out an orphan. Through his intergalactic journey, he transforms from farm boy to Jedi knight, but he also reunites with his sister and saves his father. That is powerful stuff when you stop and think about it. I believe Luke accomplishes this by remaining optimistic throughout his adventure. And not just in his own situation but also in how he views others: he’d rather try to turn his father, Darth Vader, to the good side of the Force than strike him down. That’s a story I want to share with young readers.

 


“…Unclipping himself from the harpoon, Luke dropped down to the soft snow below. The walker continued on its mechanical march.”
(Click to enlarge)


 

I wrote the first draft of the book from memory, while looking at Ralph’s incredible images. I remembered that, as a kid of the 1970s, Star Wars didn’t establish its hold on me through repeated viewings of the film. In fact, it wasn’t released on VHS tape until the mid-1980s. Instead, it captured my imagination through play. Whether I was dressed up as Luke Skywalker or having an adventure with my Kenner action figures, the Star Wars universe was a place I frequented many times.

 


“…The next morning, Luke arrived at the palace. With weapons drawn,
Jabba’s gang surrounded him. …”

(Click to enlarge)


 

I tapped into that childhood memory while writing the text for this book. By highlighting favorite lines from the film and through the use of onomatopoeia, I tried to recapture the excitement felt when I first traveled to a galaxy far, far away. I hope readers, young and old, feel the same way.

 



 

* * * * * * *

All artwork above is reproduced by permission of Tony DiTerlizzi and Disney Lucasfilm Press.

Share!Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on Tumblr




One comment to “Sci Fi Before Breakfast: A Visit with Tony DiTerlizzi
and Some Bonus Art from Ralph McQuarrie”

  1. fantastic !!!

    http://www.pictures-books-for-childrens.com


Leave a Comment


Note from your webmaster: we are testing a recaptcha solution to address recent spam aggression.
Should you have trouble posting, please contact sevenimp_blaine@blaine.org. Thanks.