Marc Thorpe, ‘Star Wars’ VFX Artist and ‘Robot Wars’ Creator, Dies at 77

Thorpe worked on “Return of the Jedi” and the Indiana Jones trilogy

Marc Thorpe

Marc Thorpe, the visual effects artist who created the hit television series “Robot Wars” in which customized radio-controlled robots fight in metal arenas, has died. Thorpe was 77.

Thorpe died on Friday at a hospice facility in Alamo, California, according to his daughter Megan Feffer. Thorpe’s death resulted from complications of Parkinson’s disease. Doctors first diagnosed Thorpe with the progressive nervous system disorder in 1993.

“But if there’s one thing I know for sure it’s that my dad would want to be remembered – and not for his Parkinson’s Disease. He would want to be remembered for his art,” Megan Feffer wrote on Facebook.

She added: “From being a model maker at ILM on ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Indiana Jones’ to his creation of ‘Robot Wars,’ he made many, many beautiful, weird, detailed and strange things.”

In 1979, Thorpe started working at Industrial Light and Magic/Lucasfilm as a model maker and animatronic designer. He helped make visual effects for the “Star Wars” sequel “The Empire Strikes Back,” released in 1980.

Thorpe worked on visual effects for several other popular movies including “Return of the Jedi” (1983); the original Indiana Jones trilogy like “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981); as well as “Dragonslayer” (1981), “Poltergeist” (1982), “Explorers” (1985), “Howard the Duck” (1986), and “The Hunt for Red October” (1990).

Thorpe conceived “Robot Wars” – a revolutionary televised combat event featuring weaponized remote control robots designed by mechanics and engineers competing in mechanical gladiator fights to the metallic death in caged arenas. He initially came up with the idea in 1993 while working at LucasToys.

“Starting in late 1992, I began to create images of fighting machines that would give people a sense of what thisa was all about and to generate some excitement,” Thorpe wrote on his website. “I didn’t bother trying to make my robots operational — I just wanted to make them look cool and have the illusion of working elements.”

Marc Thorpe was born on Nov. 9, 1946 in San Francisco and grew up in nearby San Leandro. He went to Cal State Hayward University, then later earned a Master’s degree in art from UC Davis in 1971. There he studied under artist William T. Wiley.

Thorpe is survived by his daughter Megan, as well as his grandchildren Evelyn and Elliott.

The Hollywood Reporter fiorst reported the news.


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