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Tag Archive: production design


By C.J. Bunce

Of all this year’s books we’ve read and reviewed at borg in 2018, more than 100 all told, we’re hard-pressed to find one that matches the beauty of design in The Archive of Magic – The Film Wizardry of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, a new elaborately designed and detailed look at the film, the story, and the production of the new fantasy film from the mind of J.K. Rowling.  Not only is the photograph reproduction quality superb, every page incorporates the style of the film, created by the very designers who made the images for the film.  That’s MinaLima–the dynamic art duo of Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima–who also designed props for the Harry Potter movies as well as a new series of classic book reprints (reviewed here previously at borg).

Writer/editor Signe Bergstrom provides several textual elements that make The Archive of Magic stand out.  She presents the narrative of the story itself in a way that will help moviegoers understand the sequence of events in the densely packed film.  She also incorporates in-world elements, like examining new characters and story elements, and she steps out of the fantasy and interviews the film’s creative staff, writers, and actors, to provide an in-depth guide through the production.  Readers will find final as-filmed versions of costumes and set production, in contrast with The Art of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, which consists primarily of pre-production concept artwork (see our review here yesterday).

The Archive of Magic takes the paper ephemera book tie-in concept that has exploded in the past three years to another level.  Included are several reproductions of paper props that were key to the story, not merely set dressing, but the book also includes tipped-in reproductions of set dressing, too, created by the artists who made the very props seen in the film–for any past Harry Potter universe film replica props like this would sell for at least $10-20 each.  It begins with a deluxe hardcover, magnetic wraparound cover with gold embossed Art Nouveau designs.  Included are Leta Lestrange’s note she finds in the Ministry Records Room, a 3D-lenticular photo identification card for Newt Scamander, a book mark incorporating Grindelwald’s logo on paper stock like that seen in the film, Credence Barebone’s dual-sided birth certificate, Queenie’s postcard from Tina, the Spellbound magazine that incorrectly reports on a Newt Scamander/Leta Lestrange engagement, Nicolas Flamel’s business card that Dumbledore gives to Newt, Butter Beer logo label stickers, six reproduced newspaper pages, and two folded, full-size circus posters.

Take a look at this book trailer produced by Harper Design, and sixteen interior pages from the book:
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Review by C.J. Bunce

For a film inside the giant, magical world of Harry Potter, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald seemed to come and go from theaters with little fanfare.  J.K. Rowling‘s newest world is a bleak one full of darkness, and without her trademark happier, lovable, wonderful bits to echo the Harry Potter universe that draws its fans to this new series.  The spin-off series may suffer from prequel-itis.  Does it indicate that, like George Lucas and his prequels, the bestselling living author might benefit from letting someone else step in to edit these screenplays into a more accessible story for her fans?  The original screenplay to Grindelwald clocks in at a whopping 304 pages, nearly three times the standard, and it may have been simply too difficult for the production to whittle it all down into a cohesive story.  Regardless of what you think of the finished film, it is difficult to deny the amazing level of work that went into the production design.  We’re featuring some great behind-the-scenes books that spotlight the artistry behind the film over the next few days, beginning today with The Art of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, by concept artist Dermot Power, who also penned the predecessor book The Art of the Film: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

The Art of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald showcases the work of fifty-five artists, with notations provided by each creator, including what they were commissioned to draw, what inspired the look, and where the piece belonged in the story.  Art Nouveau inspired much of the film, coupled with a very steampunk industrial look that did not appear in the Harry Potter films.  Highlights include blueprints for stage sets, concept art that influenced the various Paris scenes, the design for Grindelwald’s vial, circus images that didn’t make it into the film, and Newt’s half-flooded basement zoo.

Best of all, Power’s new book gets to the heart of what is missing on the big screen from both Fantastic Beasts films: more images of the elaborate, intricately stylized, fantastic animal creations.  Unlike many “art of” books, the author pulls out far more fully rendered drawings, paintings, sculptures, instruments, 3D set builds, character designs, and visual effects try-ons–concept artwork that didn’t make it into the final film.  He also provides clearer images of the creatures that did make it into the film but were lost in the shadows because of the dimly lit cinematography used in the film, like the ethereal half-animal, half-vegetable Kelpie.

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Last weekend San Diego Comic-Con spotlighted women costume designers and the creations of more than a dozen women designers created for actresses for some of the decade’s biggest genre films.  The Costume Designers Guild presented a panel Saturday featuring members Sanja Hays (costume designer, Captain Marvel, Star Trek: Beyond, Star Trek: Insurrection), Amanda Riley (costume designer, Supergirl, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), and Laura Jean Shannon (costume designer, Iron Man, Titans, Black Lightning, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle) who provided highlights and anecdotes about their careers designing costumes for some of the most popular current and recent productions on television and in film.  A big high point for attendees was Hayes, whose new Captain Marvel costume will be the next benchmark in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, to be worn next year by Brie Larson in Captain Marvel–the first Marvel film with a woman in the title role.  Hayes commented that she found working on Marvel movies  different from past projects in that many details of design and even minor changes require extra levels of approval from Marvel’s continuity side.  Each of the designers stated they have arrived at a stage in their careers where they now have the power to cherry pick costumes to personally dive into from their projects and assign other production team members for the rest.  They also stressed the value of having close-knit and exceptional artists on their teams that can work together to meet the requirements of production.

   

At the giant Marvel Studios area on the convention floor, attendees could get up close to several key screen-used superheroine costumes from the past ten years, from Anna B. Sheppard‘s World War II Agent Carter uniform worn by Hayley Atwell from the beginning of the franchise to Evangeline Lilly‘s armor from The Wasp from this summer’s Ant-Man and The Wasp, created by Louise Frogley.  Eight other costumes bookended one side of the Marvel stage, including another four costumes opposite them in glass display cases–twelve heroines in all: Lupita Nyong’o‘s Nakia, Danai Gurira‘s Okoye, and Letitia Wright‘s Shuri costumes from Black Panther, created by Ruth E. Carter, Tessa Thompson‘s Valkyrie armor created by Mayes C. Rubeo for Thor: Ragnarok, Scarlett Johansson‘s Black Widow costume from Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Zoe Saldana‘s Gamora costume, Karen Gillan‘s Nebula costume, and Pom Klementieff‘s Mantis costume from Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, all created by Judianna Makovsky, Elizabeth Olsen‘s Scarlet Witch costume from Avengers: Age of Ultron, created by Alexandra Byrne, and Jaimie Alexander‘s Sif armor from Thor: The Dark World, created by Wendy Partridge.

A separate giant display elsewhere was created for Karl Urban‘s Skurge armor created by Mayes C. Rubio for Thor: Ragnarok.  DC Entertainment displayed Leah Butler‘s Shazam! costumes for Asher Angel‘s Billy Batson and his superhero alter ego, played by Zachary Levi.  And Lucasfilm presented David Crossman and Glyn Dillon‘s costumes from Solo: A Star Wars Story (a little more out of reach than the rest, posed high at the top of their exhibit), including screen-used costumes from Alden Ehrenreich‘s Han Solo, Joonas Soutomo‘s Chewbacca, Emilia Clarke‘s Qi’ra, Donald Glover‘s Lando, Erin Kellyman‘s Enfys Nest, and Paul Bettany‘s Dryden Vos.  And it wasn’t just about costumes, as many displays included the corresponding screen-used prop weaponry for the character.

Costume designers Laura Jean Shannon, Sanja Hays, and Amanda Riley at the costume designers panel at San Diego Comic-Con Saturday, July 21, 2018.

The following are photographs of all 22 costumes.  The lighting and glass displays limited the clarity of some of the images, and the Star Wars display was too high for our equipment to get any detail.  Yet some of the detail is better than you find in many behind the scenes books on the market today showing the costumes of DC, Marvel, or the Star Wars films–nothing beats seeing these close-up.  Take a look:

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luke-obiwan-peering-into-lightsaber

Review by C.J. Bunce

Roger Christian’s success is a testament to the idea of thinking outside the box.  If you stop in the middle of age-old processes, no matter what you’re doing and what field you’re in, and consider trying a different method, you may trigger something special.  In Roger Christian’s new memoir Cinema Alchemist: Designing Star Wars and Alien, it is the old Hollywood method of making movies that is the villain of sorts, with Christian coming to the rescue as the hero with a new way of creating movie magic for audiences in 1977.  And it just so happens he came to the rescue of George Lucas and landed a gig making of one of the greatest science fiction fantasy of all time, the original Star Wars, and the greatest sci-fi horror film of all time, Alien.

In Cinema Alchemist you learn Christian’s modern method of set decoration and design perfected in Star Wars, a method copied by many, that he would soon use again for Alien.  Ridley Scott specifically chose Christian to create the same look he came up with for the Millennium Falcon in his new ship the Nostromo and other sets.

Cinema Alchemist

In any memoir you can expect some amount of hyperbole, although Christian likely deserves a pass simply because the Academy Awards endorsed his work as set decorator of Star Wars with an Oscar.  So he is certainly the real deal.  Countless Star Wars fans have spent years re-creating his original design for the lightsaber, tracking down the original camera parts he used, as well as re-creating all the rifles and pistols used in the film.  Christian had his hands in the creation of R2-D2, C-3PO, the landspeeder, the Sandcrawler, Luke’s Tatooine homestead, the Millennium Falcon, the giant dinosaur skeleton in the desert sand, Mos Eisley and the Cantina, and set after set created for the film.

original R2-D2

George Lucas and the R2-D2 prototype Christian helped to create with a light fixture and metal bits and pieces Lucas called “greeblies”.

The value of the book is in Christian’s accounts of prop making, set design, and using found objects like old airplane scrap metal to create a “real world, lived-in” feel on Star Wars and Alien in light of severe time and money constraints, plus Christian’s personal recollections of conversations and observations with George Lucas on Star Wars and Ridley Scott, H.R. Giger, and Moebius on Alien, and his play-by-play of the filming of the Alien chest-buster scene, arguably the most famous horror scene of modern cinema.  After reading Cinema Alchemist, you will absolutely watch Star Wars and Alien differently, and notice details of the film you haven’t seen in your previous 300 viewings of the films.  That is quite a feat.

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Barry Newberry The Signature Collection cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

Telos Publishing has just released The Barry Newbery Signature Collection, an indispensible collection of photography taken by Barry Newbery of sets he designed and constructed as production designer on the Doctor Who television series from 1963 to 1984.  Now in his eighties, the most prolific designer of sets from the classic era of Doctor Who discusses decisions behind the design of historic sets well-known to long-time Whovians as well as a behind-the-scenes look at his work as a designer working for so many years at the BBC.

Expect to see several images of the Daleks, the TARDIS, and the various interior designs of the ship that has always been bigger on the inside.

Early TARDIS crossing the Gobi Desert

A great early image of the TARDIS being carried across the Gobi desert.

The book showcases more than 250 black and white and color photos in surprisingly good quality considering their age.  It includes many full-page photos as well as up to five images of items per page for things like further set detail.  The Barry Newbery Signature Collection also includes design sketches from “The Awakening,” “The Brain of Morbius,” “The Aztecs,” and “The Silurians.”

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