close encounters of a third kind

The United States of Horror


John Alvin’s poster concepts for Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (1991).

John Alvin is the artist behind the iconic movie posters for such Disney classics as The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. In addition to his work in animation, Alvin also did posters for live-action films like E.T., Blade Runner and Jurassic Park.

Alvin’s wife, Andrea, has released a GORGEOUS book highlighting her husband’s many illustrated accomplishments – The Art of John Alvin. As Mrs. Alvin frequently assisted her husband with his work, she also has a lot of fascinating back-stories about the paintings. Reprinted below is her account of the creation of the poster for Disney’s Beauty and the Beast:

“There were many concept sketches done of the two main characters in various settings and poses, both by the staff at Disney and by John. John’s method of working on this aspect of a job was to do very rough thumbnails of various ideas. From that point he would do a larger sketch, around 8.5 x 11 inches, with more attention to detail and composition. He would then move on to color sketches and color comps.

“John did not do too many small color comps on this film. Instead, he did several medium size paintings as color comps and at least two paintings that would be considered finishes. One was the couple dancing in front of a stained glass window featuring a rose, and the other was an image of the couple bathed in an ethereal light. The second was the image used on the one-sheet.

“The poster was done before the film was complete and the characters were not completely finalized when John started painting. That was one of the reasons to have them in somewhat of a silhouette. His technique to create the mood was to begin with a dark background and bring the subjects into the light. He applied the paint with an airbrush, building his paint in transparent layers, similar to a watercolorist. Most airbrush artists use a number of elaborate friskets or masks to protect the areas they don’t want painted at that time. However, John felt that light didn’t have hard edges, and so his painting shouldn’t really have hard edges. It was a game for him to see how few friskets he could use in a piece of finished art. He was fascinated by what he called “heavy light”—the light Steven Spielberg had used in E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. That was the look he was trying to emulate in the Beauty and the Beast art.

“The final piece was a hit and John was very pleased with it. The printers had some difficulty reproducing the magentas in the art, but in the end did a beautiful job. It was the beginning of a long and successful relationship with Disney feature animation.”

Amazon Associates link: The Art of John Alvin by Andrea Alvin

Little Details In Stranger Things 2 That You need to Watch out for:

1. Eleven dressing up and “hiding” as a ghost on Halloween is a direct reference to Steven Spielberg’s E.T.

2. Bob’s JVC camcorder is the exact same one Marty McFly uses to document Doc’s Time Machine experiment in Back to the Future.

3. And, speaking of Back to the Future, Max’s skateboard is the same make as Marty McFly’s.

4. During Hopper and Eleven’s fight, according to El, it has been 326 days since she last saw Mike and guess what? 3+2+6 = 11.

5. The ~rivalry~ between the pumpkin patch farmers is actually mentioned on the front page of Hawkins’ newspaper in “Chapter One: MADMAX.”

6. Paul Reiser (Dr. Sam Owens) famously played villain Carter J. Burke in the 1986 film Aliens, which was a major thematic influence this season.

7. In fact, there were a lot of other visual references to Aliens like the Demodog blips on the radar map in “Chapter Six: The Spy”…

8. …and the use of flamethrowers to keep the Demogorgon’s spawn from growing.

9. The shot of Will in the doorway in “Chapter One: MADMAX” is a nod to another Spielberg classic, Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

10. Will’s Ghostbusters costume is a little less “precise” than the other boys’ as Joyce made it her self.

11. Speaking of Ghostbusters, Dustin has a “Certificate of Anti-Paranormal Proficiency,” on his bedroom wall, which was given to members of the Ghostbusters official fan club back in 1984.

12. Steve and Nancy’s Risky Business Halloween costumes are a callback to Season 1 when Steve called Tom Cruise Nancy’s “lover boy from Risky Business.”

13. Hopper doubles back for his (very Indiana Jones-esque) hat just like, well, Indiana Jones famously does.

14. The music that plays when Dart escapes from the boys in “Chapter Three: The Pollywog” is VERY similar to the Gremlins theme song.

15. Kali (aka Eight) is also the name of the Hindu goddess of death.

16. Kali training Eleven to use her power is a complete homage to Yoda training Luke Skywalker to use the Force in The Empire Strikes Back.

17. Ray Carroll’s (the Hawkins Lab orderly from El’s flashbacks) retirement article on Kali’s hit list wall repeats over and over.

18. The Ben Cooper “mummy” mask that one of Kali’s gang members wears can also be seen hanging at Melvald’s General Store (where Joyce works).

19. Max using a wood box to reach the gas pedal of Billy’s car is a total nod to ANOTHER Spielberg film Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

20. Speaking of Goonies, you may have noticed Bob joking about looking for pirate treasure in “Chapter Five: Dig Dug.”

21. Dustin’s Snow Ball hairdo was a visual homage to Duckie’s prom look in the film Pretty in Pink.

22. And, finally, even though it ~sounds~ romantic, the Police’s “Every Breath You Take” (the song that plays at the very end of Season 2) is actually about stalking someone and links back to the Mind Flayer

There’s no denying the unique attraction of Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming. Also known as “Bear Lodge” or “Bear’s Tipi,” the dramatic monolith is a sacred site to several Native American Tribes. Familiar to many in movies like “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” it’s recognizable to people around the world. But according to photographer Lori Eckhart, “There’s nothing like standing there in front of it. Its size, and the way it stands out and alone from anything else, just demands respect and fills you with awe.” Photo courtesy of Lori Eckhart.


Some of the many cinematic inspirations within Stranger Things season 2

Included in this post are moments from the following films:

  • Ferris Bueller’’s Day Off (1986)
  • Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
  • Poltergeist (1982)
  • Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
  • The Evil Dead (1981)
  • Ghostbusters (1984)
  • Jeepers Creepers 2 (2003)
  • Gremlins (1984)
  • Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)