Robot Wars Creator And Star Wars Artist Dies At 77

By TeeJay Small | Published

Star Wars visual effects artist and Robot Wars concept creator Marc Thorpe has passed away at the age of 77. Thorpe’s death was announced by his daughter Megan Feffer via Facebook, with his official website confirming the tragic news shortly thereafter. The visual effects visionary was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in the early 1990s, and passed away as a result of complications with the disease.

Visual Effects For Lucasfilm

Marc Thorpe was a noted visual effects talent in the mid-twentieth century, garnering the attention of George Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic company in 1979. Before long, Thorpe became responsible for bringing sequences from Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and many others to life on the big screen. Thorpe also holds credits for special effects in a number of classic 80s and 90s movies, including Marvel’s Howard the Duck, Dragonslayer, The Hunt for Red October, and Poltergeist.

Robot Wars

Beyond visual effects, Marc Thorpe expanded into hands-on engineering, often toiling with applied robotics and combustion engines in his spare time. Thorpe began developing the idea for a Robot Wars event while designing Star Wars toys for Lucasfilm in the early 90s, before eventually leaving the media conglomerate to launch the first robot-building and battling competition in 1994. Before long, the Robot Wars craze swept through many major cities around the country, leading to a host of television specials and series that ran for decades to come.

Parkinsons’s Disease

The tragic loss of Marc Thorpe will be felt deeply by fans of the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises, as well as Robot Wars fans around the globe. Parkinson’s disease is a currently incurable illness that slowly impacts the nervous system, often resulting in shakes and making it increasingly difficult to freely move and complete basic physical tasks. Other notable figures diagnosed with Parkinson’s include Curb Your Enthusiasm‘s Richard Lewis, Muhammad Ali, former United States president George HW Bush, Neil Diamond, and of course, Back to the Future‘s Michael J. Fox.

Finding A Cure

Though the illness which Marc Thorpe struggled with has no cure at this time, science and medicine has made exponential strides in recent years toward treating Parkinson’s, partially due to the massive push from Michael J. Fox‘ foundation. Though Thorpe’s loss is tragic, his daughter claims that the final years of his life left him mired with an inability to work with his hands, which was always the source of his passion. With any luck, an effective long-term treatment or cure for the disease may soon be on the horizon.

Remembering Marc Thorpe

Marc Thorpe was born in November of 1946 in San Francisco California, and graduated from Cal State University and UC Davis. In his personal life, the inspired creator trained dolphins, raised alligators as pets, and inspired thousands to enter the field of robotics through his impassioned vision for entertainment and engineering. The VFX designer is survived by his daughter and two grandchildren.