Among the movie poster legends of the last century, artists such as Bill Gold, Drew Struzan, Tom Jung, Saul Bass, Bob Peak and Reynold Brown have all helped in some way to create movie posters that have endured for decades and have gone just beyond a movie marketing campaign, but have become memorable pieces of motion picture art that are instant throwbacks to our favorite films.
One movie poster artist/illustrator in particular, John Alvin was instrumental in creating some of the most iconic art for the motion picture industry in the last 40 years. Disney, Universal, Warner Brothers, FOX, Lucasfilm, and many other studios were just a handful of the clients that hired on Alvin to create visually imaginative worlds to aid in the promotion and marketing of movies.
We were fortunate to get a copy sent to us by Andrea Alvin, John’s widow and we explore the art, imagination and creativity of John Alvin’s work in our review below.
There’s something to be said about movie marketing. Nowadays in the digital world of the internet it seems that the movie trailer has been trying hard to dominate the online campaign for pre-selling a movie. And in the past decade it’s been multiple trailers for a single film. But when the movie’s finally released in theaters, then months later packaged and sold on Blu-ray and DVD and then eventually gathering dust on your home library shelf, what will you remember more? The minute and a 1/2 trailer you watched on your computer at work, or the movie poster that grabbed your attention on a weekend pilgrimage to the local AMC theater? Years later after a film has long gone from the current mainstream of pop-culture, what will you find hanging on your dorm room or home office walls? Will it be a flat-screen TV re-playing the teaser for your favorite movie, or will you have the movie poster from that film, prominently displayed hanging on your wall? Ultimately, and undeniably the art is what survives, it’s that one constant which allows us to look at a movie’s poster and get an instant vibe on the tone of a motion-picture’s characters,tone, story and star-power.
I had the honor of meeting John Alvin when he came into the motion picture studio where I was working back in late 2007, to visit my boss, who was an art director and print marketing Executive for the studios movie poster division. To have made friends with famous illustrators over the years like Syd Mead and Drew Struzan, to now to have met another designer of the movie posters that shaped my childhood and who’s art covered my bedroom walls and the VHS home-video cover-boxes that were daily parts of my life working in a Blockbuster Video store for over a decade, well it was a dream come true. Our exchange was brief, Alvin was cordial, but from his persistent cough, he seemed to be in less than great health at the moment. I was excited to have him return back to visit again when he was feeling better, as he mentioned he would do as he left. Hopefully then I’d have the chance to play fan-boy and tell him about all the posters of his I admired and appreciated over the years. Sadly, John past away in February of 2008 and I never got the chance. Over the years John’s widowed wife Andrea Alvin made several calls and emails to our department as she worked vigorously on acquiring art files and legal clearances from the studio in preparation for this book, and I’m so pleased to see it finally come to fruition and to have a chance to personally review it.
Andrea Alvin has assembled an incredible homage to her late husband in The Art of John Alvin. If you’ve heard of some little films like…oh, Star Wars, Blazing Saddles, E.T., Star Trek VI, Batman Returns, Jurassic Park, The Little Mermaid and Blade Runner, then you’ve probably seen John Alvin’s art, but may never have known the legendary artist/illustrators who helped create the iconic imagery of some of the 20th century’s greatest movie posters.
Jeffrey Katzenberg contributes to the foreword of this book with a quote that pretty much sums it all up, “Somehow, John was able to capture the emotion of an entire movie in a single image.” You’ll see for yourself how in The Art of John Alvin.
This book highlights 37 different movie projects with each chapter sharing a colorful array of sketches, rough compositions, promotional pieces and poster artwork (both comps and final payoffs). What’s great is to see the diversity of John’s talents, while at times he was an exceptionally talented illustrator, he also knew how to direct the compositions for numerous live-action films in which photography, not paint and canvas, were his assets.
The joy in this book is the realization that like most final movie posters that make it out into the world, no one ever sees the hundreds of explorations that get created, pitched, rejected, re-worked, tweaked and finally evolve into what makes it int0 the local theater’s marquee. From Star Wars to Spaceballs, Darkman to Willow (which, small world, a very good friend of mine actually purchased Alvin’s original art for that poster), fans of these films will delight in seeing some never before seen works in progress from some of their favorite movies. It truly makes you appreciate the time, effort and creativity that goes into trying to create one piece of art that has to sell an entire movie’s basic premise of plot, emotion and/or action and hopefully lure you into buying a ticket to get your butt into a seat for it.
Along the way the book also shares some backstory into the when and why of Alvin’s incredible paintings. Whether they were created for motion picture marketing, convention posters, home video art, movie related event promotions, etc.
If you love Jurassic Park, you’ll totally enjoy the 10 pages of amazing explorations that show the evolutions of the various directions of the films one-sheet poster campaign. Some you’ll wonder why they never made it to become the final product, but with politics and egos and lots of hats worn in the kitchens at the studios, sometimes other factors besides creativity come into play when making these final decisions.
Disney fans will love getting a taste of the various alternate creations for The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Pinnochio and The Little Mermaid.
This book also gives you a chance to appreciate the storytelling that John Alvin put into his work, sometimes subtle nuances, other times busy montages of people, places, things and events. These colorful and high-rez reproductions are beautiful to look at and, as for myself, instantly had me opening up an ebay page searching for some of these iconic posters to add to my own personal collection. I clearly gained a greater appreciation for John Alvin’s work from this collection of iconic marketing imagery.
I just love this book, it’s made an instant home on my book-shelf right next to my art of Drew Struzan and Bob Peak books. I encourage any fan of movies and movie posters to add this to your collection. Whether for a coffee table book that will be sure to generate nostalgic oohs, ahhs and reminiscent smiles from all those who read it, pick up The Art of John Alvin at Amazon.com.
Check out some pics below of some of the sections of the book to get a bit more of an idea whats inside…
What’s your favorite John Alvin poster? Let us know in the comments below…