There's a good reason credits come at the end of a movie -- no one wants to watch the names of best boys and personal assistants drift across the screen for 11 minutes. But if you've ever bothered to stick around through the scroll, you may have realized that some of the same names keep popping up in all your favorite movies, and they aren't next to jobs like "director" or "Indiana Jones." In fact, you've probably been a diehard fan of the following seven people your entire life without ever realizing it.
Quickly, what's your favorite scene from the original Star Wars trilogy? The first moment you see Darth Vader? When Luke loses his hand and finds out the truth about his father? The battle with Imperial Walkers on Hoth? Whatever it was, chances are it was conceived long before A New Hope was ever made, and not by George Lucas.
Ralph McQuarrie was the production illustrator -- basically, the guy whose job it is to get studios excited about the movie. He was supposed to sketch out a few ideas based on an incomplete script, just to give a hint of what direction the film might go. Here's what he came up with:
Looking at what he accomplished, it would be insulting to call his pictures "concept art"; they were Star Wars. Ironically, McQuarrie didn't have a lot of faith in the film, but that didn't stop him from illustrating the coolest universe he could think up, and Lucas was sold from the start. He even said after shooting the trilogy, "When words could not convey my ideas, I could always point to one of Ralph's fabulous illustrations and say, 'Do it like this.'"
But surely McQuarrie was just bringing George Lucas' ideas to life, right? There was, after all, some semblance of a story on which he built these worlds. Well, to get an idea of how pivotal McQuarrie was, take the most iconic character from the trilogy: Darth Vader. In the original script, Vader was only described as wearing long black robes; it was McQuarrie who decided he probably needed some kind of breathing mask to survive the vacuum of space.
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"Oh, and is it OK if I make him look awesome, too?"
Without McQuarrie, there wouldn't be a Darth Vader helmet, or a Boba Fett suit, or Storm Trooper armor, which means you would have spent an entire decade of your childhood dressing up each Halloween as a ghost or a skeleton or some bullshit. Unless you did do that, in which case, you should watch Star Wars, it's really good.
McQuarrie didn't just work on Star Wars. He also designed the mother ships for both Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T. You can even see some of his original drawings in the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark when Indiana Jones shows everyone the devastation the ark is capable of inflicting.
The Bible wishes it was illustrated by McQuarrie.
In other words, from the time you were old enough to make gun fingers until you hit puberty, just about every one of your fantasies took place inside of a world designed by McQuarrie.
Tim Burton sure is good at making memorable-looking characters: Edward Scissorhands, in his bondage suit made of old seat belts; the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland, dressed like a crazed, homeless clown; and the characters wearing sweet ape armor in Planet of the Apes, which may have been the most memorable part of the reboot.
But if you're wondering how he dreams up such remarkable and diverse attire for everyone in his movies, the answer is that he doesn't. Colleen Atwood does. She is the costume designer for nearly every single Tim Burton movie, and since that includes dressing Sweeney Todd and the alien prostitute in Mars Attacks! she's also served as the costume designer for at least 10 percent of every geek convention of the past 10 years.
Of course, that's just the tip of the iceberg. The academy handed her three little golden T-1000 statues for her work on non-Burton films Chicago and Memoirs of a Geisha, as well as Alice in Wonderland.
Her Etsy shop cleans up.
And she's been at it for decades. For instance, she's responsible for the terrifying look of one of the most memorable killers in modern film.
Atwood designed Hannibal Lecter's mask and getup for Silence of the Lambs, as well as the lesser-known adaptation, Manhunter, making her Hannibal's exclusive go-to-gal for prison jumpsuits and terror masks. It's hard to really get a perspective on how awesome that Lecter mask is until you see just how stupid it could have looked:
Steve Buscemi, someone has wronged you terribly.
Behold, the Con Air version, also known as the loincloth Michael Bay happened to have in the back of his car the day that scene was shot.
You may have noticed that every time you see the logo for Pixar, an adorable lamp trounces the "I" out of the company name and replaces it.
That lamp is there to remind everybody of two things: 1) Pixar can make you fall in love with a goddamn lamp and 2) Pixar and 3-D animation wouldn't even exist if it wasn't for the man who created that lamp over 30 years ago.
John Lasseter, seen here tossing the boundaries of reality aside like empty soup cans.
While working as an animator for Disney in the '80s, John Lasseter wanted to create the first fully computer generated children's cartoon. He went over his bosses' heads and started work on a deal to adapt The Brave Little Toaster as a CG film. Studio heads at Disney, who at the time were trained like drug dogs to sniff out can-do attitudes and innovation, heard about his plans and promptly fired his ass.
Undeterred, Lasseter got a job in the computer graphics division of Lucasfilm. While there, he wrote and directed a short film that would set the tone for your favorite animated movies of the past 10 years. It was called "Luxo Jr.," and it starred this lamp:
He later went mad with fame and OD'd on phosphorescent bulbs packed with benzos.
That character is based on John Lasseter's real-life desk lamp, forever immortalizing what must have been Lasseter's worst day of writer's block ever. Then he went on to create another cute little short called "Tin Toy," which was about toys that came to life when no one was looking.
Shit, we just can't place it.
Toy Story was the first full length and exclusively computer animated film ever. John Lasseter created the story, co-wrote the script, directed it and probably swept up the recording booths when everyone was done. This wasn't just the first of a genre, but also the first of an entirely new animation method. To find an equally impressive flurry of creativity and technical innovation, you have to go back to when Snow White was made by a man who now has a Land and a World named after him.
John Lasseter went on to co-write and direct A Bug's Life, Toy Story 2 and Cars -- and he was also a collaborator and executive producer on every single other Pixar film ever made. When Disney bought Pixar, they sheepishly gave him the position of chief creative officer for Pixar as well as Disney films, and presumably a letter of apology.
"I buried it underneath my star on the walk of fame."
Since then, Lasseter has been pretty much helping to design every animated film you've loved since 1995. Now you can thank him by name.
Adding a score to a film is like equipping an audience with spider-sense; it lets everyone know whether that mysterious locked door has a Narnia world behind it or a pile of corpses. Yet, considering how crucial the music is for telling us how to feel in a film, we're surprisingly good at pretending that it doesn't exist.
Music is the difference between this scene being creepy and whimsical.
For instance, you probably know the whole melancholy, sobering score to Who Framed Roger Rabbit without even realizing it. Or the delicate, meandering piano-driven score from the beginning of Forrest Gump while that feather is being blown around by cars and farts and stuff. Even the scores that have been pounded into your consciousness seem like they were just there when you were born. Nobody thought "I wonder who made this music!" while watching Marty McFly leave flaming tire treads in the DeLorean, because that music has secretly been playing in the back of your head every time you did something awesome.
But your brain was not born with the ability to directly channel a complex emotion into keys and chords. Alan Silvestri's was. He wrote the music for all those movies and is most likely moping in an empty music hall right now, scoring the sound of your willful neglect on a slide whistle. Silvestri has been heightening the action, suspense and gloom in your favorite movies for the past 30 years. He did the score for The Abyss, Flight of the Navigator, Predator and even Maid in Manhattan (look, composers have to eat, too).
"Caviar from a Slurpee cup, and Chivas."
Robert Zemeckis called Silvestri his "creative soul mate," which makes sense, since the most iconic songs Silvestri created were for Zemeckis films. Of course, that's only to date. We're not exactly at the twilight of Silvestri's career. He just scored Captain America, as well as The Avengers. So when you're sitting in the theater watching superheroes crash through buildings, take a minute to appreciate the fact that Silvestri's score is keeping you from wondering about all the innocent people who are probably being crushed by debris on the streets below.