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Book Review: The Art of John Alvin

Book Review: The Art of John Alvin

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.
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.

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
concert that never took place is among the most collectible and

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. 

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