Retrocon 2024

An Early Teaser Trailer For 'The Empire Strikes Back' Used Only Concept Art And Cast Photos

I don't have much recollection of the early Star Wars movies as a kid. In fact, I was less than a year old when the original film hit theaters in 1977. It wasn't until maybe '83 or '84 that I remember watching it for the first time when we rented a couple movies and a VCR (yes, rented a VCR) for my birthday.

And it wasn't until the 1997 special edition releases that I got to watch Star Wars on the big screen for the first time. Then a couple years later, I remember all the hype surrounding Episode I. And now with the new era of Star Wars movies, the anticipation to complete the Skywalker saga is at an all-time high.

When I think about the original trilogy now, I like imagining what is what like back then. Once the original film became a mega hit, the anticipation level for Empire three years later must have been ridiculous and the reason why a teaser trailer was released featuring only concept art and photos of the cast!! Huh??

I don't know the story behind the trailer, but it leads me to speculate that pressure was mounting to release something to the public. Nothing against the fantastic art by Ralph McQuarrie but its crazy to think that something like this was put together for a highly anticipated film...and that people probably didn't care! The artwork zooms by so quickly that it's a true teaser and doesn't allow anyone to truly appreciate it. Let's take a closer look at these concept art paintings included in the trailer one-by-one.

(Click each painting to zoom in.)

One of the first images we see is a painting titled "Flight Line" where we get to see a couple X-wings and the Millenium Falcon inside the rebel Hoth base.

Next we get a another glimpse inside the base of more ships including a couple Rogues.

Our first glimpse of Darth Vader comes next while aboard a Star Destroyer. This painting is actually used again toward the end of the trailer.

Next we see another glimpse inside the base with our droid friends R2-D2 and C3PO.

We only get a fraction of a second with the next painting of Luke Skywalker recovering from his exposure to Hoth's cold with a concerned Han Solo and Princess Leia looking on.

Another brief glimpse of Cloud City follows with a peek at a passing ship and Leia holding a blaster pistol. The full view shows what appears to be Lando and Chewbacca with the droids.

Then we get an awesome closeup of Luke on his Tauntaun in the icy plains of Hoth.

Next is an outer shot of the rebel base with the ion cannon firing to protect the rebel ships in space.

The action continues with a long sweeping shot of an explosion and the Millennium Falcon. Viewing the complete painting, we see the scene is when it enters the "cave" to hide from the Empire.

The next quick sweep was too obscure for me to tell which painting it was taken from, but I did recognize the next shot which shows the rebels on the run. Laser fire begins with Storm Troopers turning the corner to pursue them.

We then get a great closeup of our heroes and their initial confrontation with Darth Vader at Cloud City.

A few more sweeps of previous artwork leads us into the mining and trade city over Bespin. In the actual painting we can see the twin-pod ship not shown in the trailer.

Then we get a quick glimpse of the Millennium Falcon on the landing platform at Cloud City undergoing laser fire.

Next we are whisked away to outer space and a couple Star Destroyers circling Hoth with its moon in the distance.

Another closeup of Cloud City leads us into our first scenes of Dagobah. The full painting reveals it's the swamp scene of Luke training with Yoda on his back.

Next, we get a full shot of Luke's X-Wing wrecked in the swamp with R2-D2 on the nearby shore.

We quickly go back to Hoth and focus on an Imperial probe droid looking for signs of life.

As we reach the end of the teaser trailer, the confrontation of Luke and Darth Vader is revealed.

And we also see more the lightsaber dual leading up to the platform scene.

Finally after a few more shots of Leia and Darth Vader in previous paintings, the trailer ends with some state-of-the-art effects (at the time at least) of cast photos followed the Star Wars logo being blown to pieces.

Looking back on this teaser trailer, you might have had the same initial reaction I did in that "they actually released this?" But I hope rediscovering the concept art might have altered your view as it did mine. Nowadays, I often feel that most teaser trailers are pointless if they include no footage and are simply announcing the movie. Anyone with internet access knows movie schedules so far in advance that it seems needless to make a teaser.

Again, I don't know the circumstances surrounding the release of this odd trailer. The video description says 1980, but the voice over indicates the movie comes out "next year" so I would say it was released in 1979. If the producers were under pressure, I think they did a great job. They deliberately left out some of the elements in the artwork and gave just the right amount visuals to excite fans without revealing any movie footage. Sounds to me like a great least better than most we get today.

Images courtesy

Close Menu