August 09, 2014

The Man Behind the Most Iconic Movie Posters of the ’80s and ’90s


 Any art-collecting movie nerd worth his or her Reese’s Pieces owns at least one John Alvin creation. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Blade Runner, The Gremlins, Jurassic Park—Alvin designed poster art for all of them. By hand. They are among the most enduring images of recent film history, even if his name isn’t is as recognizable as, say, Saul Bass.

The Art of John Alvin should change that. The book, a collection of Alvin’s best works and the in-progress sketches that formed them, memorializes Alvin’s talent (he died of a heart attack in 2008). But as Alvin’s wife Andrea Alvin writes in the introduction, it also offers “a behind the scenes look at how John created a poster by showing his process and his thinking.”


“This book contains only a small portion of John’s work, so that we could feature much of the preliminary art that led up to the finish,” she writes. “Since illustration is almost never used in posters today, many people don’t understand that the movie posters that he created were actually drawn and painted by his hand.”

Growing up in a military family in the ’50s, the artist moved a lot, and used art to make friends. “At a certain age,” Andrea Alvin remembers, “drawing hot rods and naked women for the other boys became a wonderful form of currency for the ‘new boy.’” After graduating from the Art Center College of Design, both Alvins landed jobs doing layout for Hanna-Barbera. A chance meeting with freelance graphic designer Anthony Goldschmidt led to a gig doing the poster for a new Mel Brooks movie called Blazing Saddles. Alvin found his calling.

The move lead to a career creating posters for some of the best films of the 1980s and ’90s, from The Goonies to The Godfather: Part III. He also designed posters for beloved Disney films like The Lion King and The Little Mermaid. The new book, his wife notes, is intended to make sure his work is remembered.


“Much of his work was created in anonymity and bears no signature, or had the signature removed by the studio, and no credit,” she writes. “It is time to connect the name John Alvin with the incredible body of work he created.”

Check some of exclusive images from the The Art of John Alvin

The book, from Titan Books, hits stores Aug. 26.


By Angela Watercutter

With many thanks to Wired      

Top picture credit: Kung Fury

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