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Tag Archive: Joe Johnston


Review by C.J. Bunce

From Star Trek V: The Final Frontier to four Next Generation movies and the J.J. Abrams Kelvin timeline movies, and Deep Space Nine through the Enterprise and Discovery series, concept artist, illustrator, prop designer, and model maker John Eaves has designed ships and objects familiar to any sci-fi fan.  This Tuesday the eagerly anticipated behind-the-scenes book Star Trek: The Art of John Eaves arrives from online retailers and book stores, and we at borg.com previewed a copy.  Just as you would expect, the book is full of hundreds of concept art designs, most of them ultimately used for the final model or CGI renderings seen on film.  John Eaves has developed his own style over the years, so in the past decade when even passing fans saw a ship on the big or small screen, they could usually tell when Eaves designed it.  Take a look at our preview pages from Star Trek: The Art of John Eaves here.

Eaves tells his story, referencing those artists of film that inspired him, some he would work with directly and others he admired from his youth: Joe Alves, Ron Cobb, Greg Jein, Grant McCune, Robert McCall, Nilo Rodis-Jamero, Ralph McQuarrie, Joe Johnston, Richard Edlund, John Dykstra, Syd Mead, and others.  The shifting look of Star Trek, its ships, and props, began to take on a new look with his designs for the Enterprise-B in Star Trek Generations, which required a modification to the Excelsior model to accommodate a key scene featuring Captain Kirk.  For the update to the ship Eaves incorporated a design from the World War II Catalina PBY-5A airplane.  Eaves grew up near an airfield, where he was first given a pad and pencil to make his own illustrations, and his understanding of aerodynamics can be found throughout his work.   And as Eaves tells it, Star Trek designer Michael Okuda would often be nearby to point out relevant components to incorporate.

The Eaves design aesthetic is unmistakable, in the elegant Vulcan lander and Phoenix rocket in Star Trek: First Contact, in the arc-shaped Son-a warship concepts in Star Trek Insurrection, in the removal of the “neck” and compact configuration of the Enterprise-E, and in the Reman Scimitar, the Romulan Valdore, and Scorpion fighters for Star Trek Nemesis.  The artist says his Discovery designs were inspired, surprisingly, by the rocket that took Taylor away and back in the original Planet of the Apes.  You can see the inspiration in the view of the ship from below.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Fans of the original Star Wars trilogy and the new film Solo: A Star Wars Story should take note of the fourth installment of Abrams Books’ Star Wars artbook series.  The Art of Solo: A Star Wars Story by Phil Szostak not only looks behind the scenes of the production of the second of the modern anthology movies and fourth of the modern sequels, it reveals the finest and the most evocative Star Wars-styled concept art created since The Empire Strikes Back.  Taking a different path from the episodic sequels, the creators that imagined the look for Solo took their inspiration directly from the work of Ralph McQuarrie (original trilogy production illustrator and concept artist), Joe Johnston (original trilogy ILM art director), Harry Lange (original trilogy art director and set decorator), and Colin Cantwell (the first Star Wars spacecraft designer), concept artists behind the original Star Wars movie.  Including artwork both used for the final creation of sets, effects, and costumes, as well as imagery that didn’t make it to the final cut, The Art of Solo provides visuals fans back to the 1970s have only dreamed about.

Solo is also the first movie of the post-Disney period of Star Wars to draw back to the actual input from George Lucas for more than merely sketches and early descriptions of his earliest ideas from 1973.  Lucas was involved from the beginning, planning a Han Solo movie since before the Lucasfilm sale, and so this sequel has inspiration and concept direction from the creator of the franchise himself.  Lucasfilm/ILM lead concept designer James Clyne, production designer Neil Lamont, costume designers Glyn Dillon and David Crossman, Neal Scanlan‘s creature department, and Rob Bredow and Pat Tubach‘s visual effects team were aware of the unique challenge facing this film–creating something faithful to the original trilogy and beloved characters while also taking the look and feel of the space fantasy into new territory.  The result is a film full of different worlds that still feels “Star Wars-y,” as the designers call it.  For this film, that meant a Western homage mirroring the American journey of settlers from the East Coast to the West Coast, and also importing story elements found in Akira Kurosawa’s Westerns, among many other classic films.

Many of the portraits and landscape paintings are poster-worthy.  Earthbound physical locations were tracked down to define new worlds Corellia, Mimban, Vandor, Kessel, and Savareen, along with CGI renderings, all to look like they belong in the Star Wars galaxy.  As Star Wars was created in the 1970s–taking place ten years prior to the original Star Wars–the artists looked for styles and ideas from the 1960s via movies, bands, computers and technology, and other cultural influences for costumes and set decorations.  So before Emilia Clarke was cast as Qi’ra, images of the character needed to establish her locations and costumes included drawings that look very much like Grace Kelly.  Incorporating images of younger versions of both Harrison Ford and Billy Dee Williams were obvious choices for creating their first looks, like the duo at the gambling table where Lando would lose the Falcon to Solo.  But soon Alden Ehrenreich’s image became the face of Han Solo.  All along, Chewbacca was Chewbacca, only the crew aimed to convey a different view of the Wookiee, where having all his hairs styled in place was no longer important–this was the young, wind-blown companion from the past, the one quicker to tear someone’s arms off.

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cover_template_text    STII vinyl

The great composer James Horner died last year in a plane crash, leaving behind a legacy of some of the biggest and most memorable soundtracks that defined nearly 40 years of film history.  One of the most memorable for sci-fi fans is his score to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.  To celebrate Star Trek’s 50th anniversary, Mondo–the guys known for their redux poster interpretations–are releasing an extended LP edition of Wrath of Khan with music never before available on vinyl.  And the release includes Mondo’s killer level of artwork interpreting Khan and Kirk on Ceti Alpha V and the Genesis Planet.

But Mondo didn’t stop there.  The vinyl albums reflect the look and colors of the Mutara Nebula, where the Enterprise and the Reliant faced off.

10WoK-Discs2--FINAL2_1024x1024    STII LP reverse

Horner’s work on Wrath of Khan is impressive and established Horner as a major film composer.  His score adapts themes from Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky and Romeo and Juliet, and Horner would work cues from classical masters in many of his film scores over the course of his career.  Order your copy of Horner’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan 2-LP set today here at the Mondo shop.

Never heard of James Horner?  You certainly have heard his work.  His last score will be featured in the remake of The Magnificent Seven due in theaters September 23, 2016, but the variety of films he wrote for is unprecedented.  He wrote themes that made many an actor look good–many in multiple films, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sigourney Weaver, Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford, Matthew Broderick, Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Ed Harris, Denzel Washington, Julia Roberts, and Brad Pitt, and collaborated on movies with the likes of big filmmakers, including Ron Howard, Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Ridley Scott, Phil Alden Robinson, Wolfgang Petersen, Jean-Jacques Annaud, Michael Apted, Joe Johnston, and Edward Zwick.

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Star Wars Costumes The Original Trilogy cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

Sci-fi movie trivia question:  Which Star Wars actor played Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back and was a main character in Star Trek 2009 and Star Trek Into Darkness?  More on that later.

We have taken a close look at some of the best behind the scenes books on costumes and props from major movie franchises here at borg.com.  The best have included the latest in Weta’s tour inside the making of Middle-earth in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Chronicles: Cloaks & Daggers, reviewed here, and the dense examination of the Star Wars prequel costumes documented in the landmark work Dressing a Galaxy: The Costumes of Star Wars, reviewed here.  After nearly 40 years we finally have a behind the scenes look at the making of the costumes from the original three Star Wars films with Star Wars Costumes: The Original Trilogy, just released from Chronicle Books.  This is also the first time many of these costumes have been displayed and photographed since the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum featured dozens of costumes in its Star Wars: The Magic of Myth exhibit in 1997.

Boba Fett helmets

Author Brandon Alinger, my friend and fellow costume and prop aficionado, is chief operating officer of The Prop Store (formerly The Prop Store of London) and an expert who has handled original Star Wars pieces over the years.  Alinger interviewed costume designers and production staff from the original series to pull together this first ever analysis of the stories and people who earned Star Wars an Academy Award for Best Costuming, the only science fiction film to receive such an honor.  Original costumes from the Skywalker Ranch Archives were displayed on mannequins and photographed for the book by Joseph MacDonald of The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco–many for the first time since production.

The most striking revelation in the book is the rarity of each costume and the fact that some of these film artifacts may not survive many more years.  “Some of the costumes or costume components in the Archives are quite fragile and for this reason they could not be dressed onto mannequins to shoot,” Alinger recently said in an online discussion.  “The costumes are treated as artifacts and conservation concerns are top priority for the Archives team.”  Admiral Ackbar’s mask from Return of the Jedi is just one of these items.

Contributing to the book with Alinger are Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back costume designer John Mollo and Return of the Jedi costume designers Aggie Rodgers and Nilo Rodis-Jamero.  The book also includes invaluable detail from past interviews with Ralph McQuarrie, Joe Johnston, and Stuart Freeborn, along with contributions from dozens of other costume and art department staff from the films.

Chewbacca costume

Movie production staff and movie costume collectors are well aware that the typical movie shoot requires multiple copies of each cast member’s costume.  For example, it was common for the Star Trek and Lord of the Rings productions to create seven or more of each main cast member’s uniform, allowing for problems on set and dry cleaning.  The point is you never want to stop a multi-million dollar shoot so someone can re-stitch the only costume you have created for your film.  Star Wars Costumes: The Original Trilogy reveals that was not the case for many of the Star Wars costumes.  This means the Skywalker Ranch Archives possesses the one and only costume made for the trilogy for many items.  This also explains why the private collecting community has only seen a handful of authentic original trilogy costumes hit the market over the years, like the odd distressed Stormtrooper helmet, Ewok fur, C-3PO hand and foot, and damaged cantina alien mask.

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Star Wars Storyboards The Original Trilogy book cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

A new collection of artwork upon which the original Star Wars trilogy was built will have fans who have seen the films hundreds of times delving back in again, this time to match memory to history.  Star Wars Storyboards: The Original Trilogy is the second archive of selected storyboards edited by J.W. Rinzler revealing the works of a variety of artists hand selected by George Lucas and his visual design team to share ideas about what the movies would become.  The first was Star Wars Storyboards: The Prequel Trilogy, released last year.

Rinzler, known for several books on Lucasfilm, including his work on The Making of the Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars: Frames, reviewed previously at borg.com, also partnered with artist Mike Mayhew and colorist Rain Beredo this year to write The Star Wars–an eight-issue mini-series based on Lucas’s original draft screenplay of Star Wars.  Now that fans can examine the original film Episode IV: A New Hope, The Star Wars, and Star Wars Storyboards: The Original Trilogy, they can have a complete view of what is, what was, and what might have been, for the Force, the characters, the Rebellion, and the Empire.

SW Storyboards excerpt 2

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You’ll be hard-pressed to find another character like Boba Fett.  As merely one among innumerable creations of George Lucas, his own Man with No Name cultivated his own mystique and fans elevated him to cult status.  Those who grew up with Star Wars as I did first met Boba Fett on the front cover of an action figure package, an image of a freebie toy you could mail in to receive for saving the little proofs of purchase off the back of the packages.  If you ordered early, like the kid up my street did, you might get not only one but two rocket firing action figures and you could sit across from each other and fire away.  The most fun action figure ever made, Kenner quickly decided to glue in the rocket for safety concerns.

Boba also appeared on a holiday Star Wars special many prefer to forget (not me).  One of several of Lucas’s BF characters (like Bob Falfa in American Graffiti and Bib Fortuna in Return of the Jedi), there is no reason kids should have flocked to him like we did.  His appearance in The Empire Strikes Back was for mere minutes of film.  He was left to a cruddy death scene in Return of the Jedi, one of the reasons I saw Return of the Jedi in the theater once vs. having seen Star Wars in its original theater run ten times.

Boba Fett was so popular Lucas brought his image and armor back in his prequels in the form of his father, Jango Fett, even establishing that every Stormtrooper in the Empire was a clone of his father, and the early clone troopers became an early in-universe variant of Boba’s Mandalorian armor.  This wouldn’t have happened but for this unique status fans brought to this character.  Regardless of why we like him and think he is the epitome of all things cool, it’s hard to deny his incredible worn and damaged armor is a key part of his appeal.  Created by Joe Johnston it stands out among the best creations of any sci-fi character in any franchise.

So it is a superb pick for the subject of this year’s big charity event at Star Wars Celebration VI.  Working with the Make a Wish Foundation, the As You Wish Helmet Project is a charity event that invites designers and other artists to take a plain vanilla Boba Fett or Clone Trooper helmet, supplied by an entrepreneurial costume creation house called  The Dented Helmet, and turn the helmets into something unique.

More than 40 artists have signed up and are providing the finishing touches on their creations this week.  The final results will be displayed in the Dented Helmet booth at Star Wars Celebration VI beginning this Thursday, August 23, 2012 to Sunday, August 26, 2012, in Orlando, Florida.  After the Celebration is over, the Make-A-Wish Foundation will auction off all of the helmets on eBay, with 100% of the proceeds going to the charity.

Although it’s not a contest, you can’t help but recognize how the artists put all their passion into these creations, which are being previewed as they are finished on Facebook.  And with that, we’ve included several helmets above that will hopefully fetch some good bids for a good cause, including one that was re-created by original designer Johnston, shown above at the top of this article.  My favorite is the creation of my friend Tom Spina, who provided a stunning, inspired mash-up of the original Total Recall and our favorite bounty hunter, complete with life-like Arnold Schwarzenegger life-mask.  Like Spina’s creations in this year’s Super Bowl ad where he re-created the famous Star Wars cantina scene, here again he went all out and the result is as cool as Fett himself.

Mark your calendar for this auction.  It’s not every day that a Joe Johnston Boba Fett helmet is available to the public and even though it’s not screen-used, you know you want one.  With creations from Spina, WETA Workshop, ANOVOS, Sideshow Collectibles and dozens of other artists, this event will be sure to turn heads.  Check out the links above for images of other inspired works of sci-fi art.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

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