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the a rt of

film Volume two

F i l m se d ur f e at

s e Ring h t f o Lord byrinth La tory ding S n E r e Nev lla Godzi stal ry D a rk C e n Du

fantasy Delve into 40 years of classic fantasy film art, by master artists John Howe, Drew Struzan, Michael Kutsche, Brian Froud, and many more...

IFZ29 2015



[ 4 ] The art of film : Fantasy

The art of film : Fantasy [ 5 ]

volume two

Looking back at 40 years of classic fantasy films, and the amazing art that brought them to life…

The term fantasy has always conjured up a spectrum of imagery. Bloody barbarians and giant futuristic mechs, little people on big quests and aliens having a blast at destroying the world – there are all sorts in modern fantasy, and this book celebrates some of our favourite art linked to some of our favourite films. We could have gone further than 40 years, but as the first in The Art Of Film series was dedicated to Star Wars, it seemed fitting to pick up from there. And what art we’ve got in these pages! From original concept art that shaped the look and feel of films like Alice In Wonderland and Labyrinth, to inspired fan art that has helped introduce a new generation to these classic fantasy films. We hope you’ll find plenty here to inspire you to create your own art – and maybe even build your own fantasy film.

Beren Neale, editor

[ 6 ] The art of film: fantasy

In addition to a staggering number of book covers, the prolific artist created X-Wing packaging art for the WotC Minifigs game

The art of film: fantasy [ 7 ]

Dave Seeley Star wars (1977) The favourite book cover illustrator talks about his love of the Star Wars Universe


that was the start of my work on Star Wars.” Dave’s first book jacket was for the novel Rebel Dream by Aaron Allston, featuring Wedge Antilles in the cockpit of his X-wing fighter. The artist began researching the characters and vehicles but, at the time, neither had a clearly defined, consistent look (with few images of actor Denis Lawson, who played eventual cult-hero Wedge).

I can still feel that guttural rumble from back in 1977, when that glorious Star Destroyer cruised into view “The character appeared in relatively few frames in the film and was usually helmeted. The X-wing exterior was featured heavily in the film, but views within the cockpit were most always front-on. So what did it look like off to one side? I was able to invent some aspects of the control panels, and I also used Department of Defense photos of real fighter plane cockpits for ideas of what to show. It seemed

© Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

ifelong Star Wars fan Dave Seeley can still vividly remember the moment that the film series impacted on his life. “I can still feel that guttural rumble from back in 1977, when that glorious Star Destroyer cruised into view, leaving a profound impression on my teenage brain,” he tells us. “I’d never seen anything to compare, and I was instantly hooked. The worlds, the pace, the characters, the drama – all seared into my psyche. Star Wars was the first time I’d been able to immerse myself in a science fiction paradigm and take it entirely seriously. No nod and a wink, no farce, no suspension of disbelief. Star Wars shaped my interest and defined an aesthetic direction for my work.” It’s fitting that Dave has built a career creating immaculate book covers for the Star Wars extended universe, commissioned by Dave Stevenson at Del Rey Books. Dave Seeley cold-called the art director, who as it happened was a fan, and the work followed. As Dave Seeley tells it: “I picked up the phone and left Dave a message about coming in to see him. A short while later he phoned back: ‘Sure, come on in, I’ve got a job for you.’ Wow. And

Dave’s The Burning Of Kashyyk is one of the eye-catching pieces in the book Star Wars: Essential Guide to Warfare

[ 44 ] The art of film: Fantasy

Mark Molnar Dune (1984) The leading concept artist turns his imagination loose and creates new visions of a favourite world, just for fun

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Mark’s breathtaking image of Arrakeen at dusk displays all his expertise in concept art

or a number of years now, concept artist Mark Molnar has been working away at a personal project: a whole set of Dune paintings. He says he’s a huge fan of Frank Herbert’s original book: “it was one of the first science fiction stories of my childhood, and I still re-read it every two or three years.” While most of his friends were reading adventure stories like Winnetou by 19th-century German author Karl May (still a best-seller), Mark was reading Dune. “I have recently became a fan of David Lynch’s movie as well, even though it presented the story in a much more theatrical way,” Mark adds. “I also loved the computer


games based on this world.” For Mark, “the most fascinating thing about the Dune universe is that it feels really real, in spite of the science fiction elements. Besides the typical hero’s journey line, the depiction of various parts of society makes it one of best science fiction stories of all time, if not the best.” What’s the benefit of doing such personal projects? Doing themed personal projects like this always helps me to channel my extra energies and to try out new things. Most of the time in my professional works there’s no time to experiment with new techniques or individual ideas. You are hired to solve a visual or

design problem as quickly and effectively as you can. In my personal projects I can freely create whatever I want – but with a strong backstory, like Dune, it also becomes a great professional exercise. Did you base the look of Dune on the movie or the work of any particular artist, or neither? I am always looking at other artists I admire, but not for this project, to be honest. I was seeking my own voice when I started working on these images, so I tried to stay away from any influences. The overall style has changed a lot since the beginning, but little elements here and there in the pieces always show what I was interested in at that period.

[ 126 ] The art of film: Fantasy

No, it’s not a “spot the difference” puzzle – subtle changes of detail can make a big difference in the feel and impact of a movie poster

Drew Struzan Hellboy (2004) The master artist gives us an insight into his thinking behind the initial concepts for the Hellboy poster

This is a small attempt to do something unexpected. It isn’t your typical-looking movie poster, and certainly not your typical hero poster. I’d done a similar design for one of the Shawshank Redemption posters I painted and I thought this would be a nice place to do it again.

he thing about doing comps for movie posters is that, when I first started in the business, a film studio executive would say, “Do me a thumbnail, just a little idea.” Well, I found out very quickly that nobody understands what this means. I started doing them tighter and then I’d get the job because people understood what I was saying. Then other artists got wind of the fact that I was doing tighter comps and so they produced tighter ones, too. So then I had to do them tighter again and pretty soon I was doing colour comps. It got to the point where people were doing finished paintings to


try to get the job, because things had become so competitive. Late in my career, my comps are very tight. The composition is sound, the idea is sound and I’m thinking ahead to the colouration that I want to support the idea and the whole composition. So I start with black and whites and do as many as appropriate. I’m going to do a number of these to give the movie studio a number of choices, because they didn’t know what to do. Sometimes the studio would have concepts that they’d give to me, and sometimes they’d say, “Here are some of ours, give us some of yours,” but on this particular project all of the concepts were my own. So, I began by drawing blackand-whites of what I was thinking.

The art of film: Fantasy [ 127 ]

[ 158 ] The art of film: Fantasy

John Howe The Hobbit (2012) For the concept artist, working on the film trilogy turned out to be an epic undertaking. Appropriate, really

The art of film: Fantasy [ 159 ]

All images © 2012 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

John Howe’s painted-up concept art brings to life the primeval enormity of the goblins’ realm under the mountains

ilmgoers and Tolkien fans alike were somewhat surprised when director Peter Jackson revealed that The Hobbit would not be one film, but three. Yes, what is on paper a children’s story of little more than 300 pages (plus, admittedly, an additional 100-odd pages of “appendices”, because Tolkien himself loved filling in all the details) was turned into three feature-length films, every bit as ambitious as the director’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, released between 2001 and 2003. For John Howe and Alan Lee, the LotR concept artists who returned to New Zealand to work with Peter Jackson on The Hobbit,


it meant more than three years of hard work. Between them they produced well over 5,000 pieces of concept art, and even as the films entered post-production and the first, An Unexpected Journey, drew close to completion, the artists were still drawing away feverishly, supporting the film’s CG teams in the last-minute creation of digital sets for scenes that still needed work. Stepping one generation back into Middle-earth’s history meant there were plenty of stunning new environments, characters and monsters for us to enjoy. The goblins, Beorn, Smaug and the mysteries of Mirkwood all made their debuts on the big screen. “While The Hobbit [also] takes place in Tolkien’s Middle-earth, it’s

The Hobbit takes place in new territory, with new characters and new cultures – but it still needs to feel as though it’s in the same world

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Of this Gypsy Danger head design, Hugo says: “I used human anatomy as inspiration for the design of the Jaeger’s mechanics”

Hugo Martin Pacific Rim (2013) How drawing skills he learned as a child helped the concept artist bring mech designs to the multiplex

iant robots? Check. Awesome futuristic cityscapes? Check. Formidable sea monsters causing panic and wanton destruction? Check and check! The works of Hugo Martin tick all the right boxes. Beyond the action, however, he’s also a master of creating mood and atmosphere. It’s no surprise that he was chosen as one of the concept artists for the blockbuster Pacific Rim. He’s also worked on The Avengers and Wolverine, and a slew of computer games including Warhammer Online, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed and Halo Wars. When you ask most artists how they got started, they usually mention a project that put them on the map. Instead, Hugo recalls: “I remember getting a ‘Draw 50 Cartoon Characters’ book as a kid and spending hours following the simple instructions. Starting from a sphere and adding basic primitive geometric shapes on top, you’d build up the forms and then add in


the details at the end. In an hour I’d have a finished the character on the page and I was hooked!” Even when working on Pacific Rim, Hugo says, “I sat there with Guillermo del Toro doing basically the same thing on that film that I had been doing when I was eight years old.”

I got a ‘Draw 50 Cartoon Characters’ book as a kid and spent hours on it A little later, his mother found him an art tutor – the then-retired illustrator Rafael DeSoto, who had been a master of pulp in the 1950s and painted covers for The Spider, The Black Mask and more. Rafael introduced the young Hugo to the work of other inspiring illustrators from NC Wyeth to Norman Rockwell and on to Frank Frazetta.

Frazetta’s paintings, he says, are burned on his memory. Hugo went on to study for a bachelor’s in illustration at New York’s Pratt Institute. One day a group from the art department at ILM gave a presentation at the Institute, and this really opened Hugo’s eyes. “I knew halfway through their talk that that’s what I wanted to do with my life – become a concept artist,” he says. “The idea that I could make a living designing spaceships and robots seemed too good to be true. That realisation gave me focus and a goal to work towards.” However, Hugo didn’t apply for jobs right after finishing his degree at Pratt. Instead, his aim was to tune up his industrial design skills. The ability to render complex machinery, he reasoned, would boost his chances of drawing sci-fi imagery for a living. So he went to the Art Center in Pasadena, California, and enrolled in the transportation design course. “Making it through the first few semesters in the trans dept was

All Pacific Rim images © Warner Bros.

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“The red, white and blue markings, the classic blue steel WW2 paint job – Gypsy Danger is patriotic but not overstated. He needed to feel like an iconic piece of American military history brought back to life”

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