Remembering Marc Thorpe: Legendary VFX Artist and Creator of Robot Wars Passes Away at 77

Marc Thorpe, the special effects creator behind the Star Wars and Indiana Jones films, passed away at the age of 77.

Before creating his iconic Robot Wars, a series featuring radio-controlled gladiators competing in what he referred to as “festivals of destruction and survival,” Thorpe contributed to blockbuster movies and special effects for decades.

He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1993, and after a long battle with the progressive disorder, he passed away at a hospice facility in Alamo, California.

Thorpe’s daughter, Megan Feffer, shared her father’s journey with Parkinson’s, stating, “For him, early onset Parkinson’s disease started out with relatively mild tremors and then over time progressed toward less and less bodily autonomy — something particularly torturous for a fiercely independent artist like my dad whose joy in life was to create things with his hands.”

While the disease is technically not terminal, it does eventually remove crucial functions like movement and swallowing, which are essential for life. Megan further expressed her gratitude that her father is now at peace.

Thorpe’s career began in 1979 when he joined Industrial Light and Magic/Lucasfilm as a model maker and animatronic designer. He worked on iconic movies such as the Star Wars trilogy and Indiana Jones franchise, among other notable features.

In 1993, while working as a senior designer at LucasToys, Thorpe conceptualized Robot Wars. What started as a notion involving a radio-controlled vacuum cleaner, evolved into a global franchise that attracted aspiring mechanical engineers to the field of robotics.

“The shows were manic, no-holds-barred death matches that featured stomping, slamming, spinning, murderous, mauling, manic machine mayhem. With the same sense and styling of a boxing match, the scenes could be far more brutal than two people slugging it out in a ring,” shared Kyle Barr in Gizmodo.

Today, Thorpe’s legacy lives on in events such as Robot Wars, a combat series that aired on British television and inspired a similar show called BattleBots.

Thorpe was born on Nov. 9, 1946, in San Francisco and raised in nearby San Leandro. Throughout his career, he was a trailblazer in special effects and robotics, leaving behind a lasting impact on the entertainment and engineering industries.

He’ll be remembered not just for his work on screen, but for his innovation in transforming his childhood visions into a reality that brought joy to countless fans.

Rest in peace, Marc Allen Thorpe.


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