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Book Review: The Art of John Alvin

Photo of Greg Ehrbar By Greg Ehrbar | Animation Scoop August 26, 2014 at 8:15PM

The entertainment industry has no shortage of “unsung” heroes—great talents that are not widely known outside of peers and fans. Through this just published coffee table art book, Andrea Alvin is determined to make sure her late husband, artist John Alvin, is properly “sung.”
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john alvon posters

The entertainment industry has no shortage of “unsung” heroes—great talents that are not widely known outside of peers and fans. Through this eye-filling coffee table book, Andrea Alvin is determined to make sure her late husband, artist John Alvin, is properly “sung.”

And so she should. Alvin is the prolific mind and soul behind iconic and much-imitated movie poster art for such animated features as The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Pinocchio (1992 reissue), The Little Mermaid (1997 reissue), The Hunchback of Notre Dame and live-action landmarks like E.T., Blade Runner, Cocoon, Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, Jurassic Park. Alvin even created several projects for a seemingly trivial trifle, one that he initially (and regrettably) turned away but became his special passion: Star Wars.

The strength of the book’s images—many of which have never before been published—might have allowed the author to skimp on meaty text. However, Ms. Alvin, who often partnered on art and concepts with John, straddles the line between artistic expositions and “civilian” speak and shares behind-the-scenes anecdotes detailing how each project came to be.

Alvin Book cover

Even more fascinating are the projects that did not come to be. With successes also come setbacks. Some of John’s creations, good as they were, did not become the studios’ final choices; others were used in part, and still others were never used (his poster for a Star Wars concert that never took place is among the most collectible and difficult-to-find.)

With that in mind, prepare to be blown away by sketches, paintings and even tag lines that you never saw, but could have easily become the art and posters for your favorite movies. There are also plentiful images from the familiar blockbusters (just a few of these famous ones, it must be noted, for some reason are reproduced with a tad less definition than might be desired, but the art is already so ubiquitous that, given the choice, it’s better to have the rare artwork in crisp focus.)

Author E.B. White has this line from his classic Charlotte’s Web inscribed on his resting place: “A true friend and a good writer.” As the examples and quotes attest, if you substitute the words “great artist” you have John Alvin. Andrea Alvin's The Art of John Alvin (with a forward by Jeffery Katzenberg) is a perfect tribute. 

Alvin Pinocchio
John Alvin

This article is related to: John Alvin

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