6 Unsung Geniuses Behind Classic Movies
Movies are like hot dogs; they pass through a lot of mystery hands before you get to consume them. As ending credits get exponentially congested, so too does our ability to acknowledge many of the hidden geniuses who stuffed the most delicious morsels of entertainment.
And with this awkward and completely inappropriate sausage analogy, it's time for yet another installment in our series devoted to the special people secretly behind some of your favorite moments in cinema.
John Bell Designed Our Childhood Vision Of 2015
The completely slap-shit design of Back To The Future II's 2015 became so iconic that mankind spent the last 30 years inexplicably using it as a cultural and technological benchmark for human progress. When the real October 21, 2015 hit, we celebrated with more reverence and reflection than we did on all the President's Days and 9/11 anniversaries combined. And yet, in all our joviality, nary a murmur was devoted to wondering who, exactly, we had to thank for such a glorious vision of meat-tenderizer helmets and sleek Texacos. Turns out that person is John Bell, an animator who was approached by ILM to sketch out a few ideas for a soon-to-be-written sequel taking place in the happenin' future. Those sketches?
Note to readers in the real future: The thing on the bottom right is called a "mailbox."
John scribbled out pretty much every futuristic Hill Valley technology you craved for as a kid, all the way down to Griff's automated baseball bat and rhino boots (which were apparently based on Bell's actual footwear at the time).
John Bell: design guru by day, the Iron Shiek by night.
What '90s kid didn't grow up wanting their very own go-go gadget hate crime bat? Remember the disappointment when you realized they didn't really exist? And now, 30 years later, we're still waiting for that groundbreaking extendo-bludgeon technology!
Oh, wait ... no, we're thinking of these:
Fuck you, gravity.
That's right, you shits. Along with the entire aesthetic of Back To The Future's vision of 2015, Bell designed the Holy Fucking Grail of fictional toys -- and consequently, every child's first taste of profound disappointment for the real world. Thanks, John! Any other ways you'd like to dominate our childhood fantasies like some kind of one-man dreamland cartel?
Hold onto your butts, because along with the entire futuristic world of Back To The Future, it turns out that years after a brief career break, John came back to once again pull an entire world of wonder out of his skull like some kind of twisted magician. Dude personally designed everything in Jurassic Park, from the main gate and T-Rex paddock, to the fucking ID badges and embryo chambers, to that godforsaken Barbasol can (a brand Bell personally chose for the film). As he describes it, the production designer put him on a "long leash," and as a result, his illustrations often were chosen by Spielberg for the final film ... meaning that nearly everything you visually associate with Jurassic Park came directly from this guy. He is your god now.
Ryan Meinerding And Lindy Hemming Are Why Superheroes Look Awesome
For better or worse, cinematic universes have an unavoidable way of standardizing their look and feel across a large array of storylines. Winter Soldier might be akin to a spy thriller, as opposed to a more universally appealing Avengers film, but both movies will inevitably feature helicarriers romped by an Aryan poster child strapped into an armorized American flag. But that isn't to say the costumes in Marvel films are somehow predictable or boring. In fact, despite the adaptation limitations, superhero costumes might be the most interesting part of the genre. And at the same time, it's nearly impossible to figure out who we should thank for stuff like this:
Besides Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's '60s mushroom stash, we mean.
There are at least a dozen people, ranging from concept artists to costume designers, all contributing to the look of the MCU ... but it's Ryan Meinerding, Marvel's Head of Visual Development, whose name seems to show up at every corner. In fact, all of those outfits you see above were modeled after his own designs.
His mom's refrigerator door hasn't had an uncovered spot in decades.
Let that sink in for a moment: Meinerding personally designed every version of Captain America, including the old-timey suit in the first film. He also did the Mach 1 Iron Man suit and Odin's helmet, and if you enjoy Daredevil's new suit ... well, that's his, too. Along with being the show's costume designer, Meinerding is Marvel's go-to visual department supervisor, which is a fancy way of saying that he gets to be in charge of how the Avengers look, and to sketch out awesome shit like this:
They could film his drawings, call it Infinity War, and maybe ten percent of viewers would notice the difference.
Like a figurative Johnny Depp, Meinerding wears many crazy hats and won't stop moving. But this is only one side of the superhero coin -- the other being substantially more charred in texture ...
No interns' faces were mutilated while perfecting Two-Face's look ... that we know of.
Who do we thank for Catwoman's goggle ears or Bane's mercenary chic? That would be Lindy Hemming, costume designer for all three Nolan Batman films, and the one responsible for 90 percent of 2008's most cliched Halloween getups:
His girlfriend is 2016's.
Describing it as "Vivienne Westwood meets Johnny Rotten," Lindy based Heath Ledger's Joker off a combination of comic influence and punk rock icons. She also personally designed Bane's French revolutionary bomber jacket from scratch, and was responsible for everything Catwoman wore, down to her goddamn underwear. And that's not even mentioning every freaking Batsuit from rubbery start to finish.
For the lack of nipples alone, she deserves both an Oscar and a Nobel.
And now that she's also designing the costumes for the upcoming Wonder Woman film, Hemming is scooping up DC heroes like they were Pogs. Not to mention her budding monopoly on costuming unbridled sociopaths, as the Clown Prince isn't the only iconic murderer she's worked on...
Because total disregard for human life is no excuse for looking shabby.
Heidi Moneymaker And Chris Brewster ARE Black Widow And Daredevil
For all their rage ogres and sarcastic human missiles, the most fear-inducing testament to how not-to-be-fucked-with the Avengers are can most easily be summed up in this single five-second moment:
Reminder: Her superpowers are shooting you or electrocuting you.
Black Widow has a disturbing knack for inflicting unimaginable anguish through a series of incomprehensible leg suplexes and shit-your-pants gadget weaponry. If she were a Mortal Kombat character, her Fatality would be to physically manifest through your TV and centrifugally remove your limbs with her pelvic muscles. Here's an entire YouTube compilation, in case you have no idea what we're talking about:
Like every other superhero, it's this stylized way of kicking ass that makes up a substantial chunk of who Black Widow is. And that's all due to the fighting abilities of Heidi Moneymaker -- a name and face you'd attribute to a Bond Girl, but with all the combat agility to put 007 in the dirt like a child's forsaken hamster.
No silly Hollywood strings required.
Fucking something. Here, have some more:
Few others can look this badass while getting chucked into a goddamned car.
Note Vin Diesel, the "hero," sitting on his ass the whole time.
If you haven't figured it out yet, Moneymaker was big into gymnastics. She's appeared in everything from Mr. And Mrs. Smith to Serenity to The Expendables to one of the Crank films. But all of that is dogshit compared to not only performing as, but helping to design the fighting techniques of everyone's favorite deadly redhead. Unless you count costumed reds, in which case we would have a clear tie:
If you aren't caught up with Daredevil, you're at least familiar with the bone-breaking fight scenes between a wheezy Matt Murdock and various mook hordes. The Devil of Hell's Kitchen manages to keep the upper hand though a combination of pain tolerance and whole-bodied force, like some kind of drunk ninja -- a physical presence we can attribute to stuntman Chris Brewster, who not only performs all of Daredevil's fights, but also choreographs them with the show's star. Here he is seen at his other job:
Oh right, it's probably worth mentioning that Chris doesn't just double for Daredevil, but Captain Goddamn America:
If they had given him anything but a shitty wooden shield, it would've been unfair.
He's secretly both Captain America and Daredevil, you fucking guys. That's like being Jesus and Jesus's gritty blind kung-fu buddy. Plus he's done mocap stunts for the Iron Man suit, meaning that he's played as many successful superheroes as Halle Berry, Chris Evans, and Ryan "Third Time's A Charm" Reynolds combined.
Chris Sanders And Glen Keane Created Modern Disney Films
More than the output of its Marvelous subsidiary, Disney films are nearly impossible to attribute credit for. Your average fan can't even name a writer or director responsible for their favorite animated adventures. It's weird, right? Not only because these films have shaped the lives of like 80 percent of the entire population, but also because they absolutely exist because of a handful of easily-pronounceable names. Disney artists are like emotional street cleaners -- too taken for granted to be celebrated personally, but so important that society would turn to shit heaps without them.
Take this guy, for example.
Remember Stitch? Stitch was voiced by Chris Sanders, a writer/director/illustrator who has been working for Disney since the '90s, when he began as a story artist for The Rescuers Down Under. Eventually, Sanders worked his way up the ranks until he was asked by the head of animation for any ideas he might want to develop. In response, he showed his boss a long-forgotten storybook he put together 18 years prior:
It's everything you love about Stitch, plus a charming case of jowl-jaw.
Nearly every detail of Lilo & Stitch's bizarre tale was conceived before Sanders was even working as a story artist -- a job that clearly took way too long for him to move up in, as he once put together an entire storybook about Disney's inability to recognize innovation. One such case of "Holy shit, this guy is talented" happened while making The Lion King, when the film's directors were struggling with one last added scene between Simba and his giant ghost father. After hitting a wall, they handed it off to Chris, who, after a 3 a.m. epiphany, returned with these drawings:
*James Earl Jonesing intensifies*
Yeah. That scene. Sanders drewthat scene. How freaking often does one person contribute so greatly to multiple generations of childhood fondness? Apparently, more often than we realize, because we haven't even gotten to Glen Goddamn Keane ... the man who is essentially responsible for every modern Disney princess. No, really -- check out every Disney princess who existed before 1989, and their respective bluebird money shots:
Each bird had more personality than the princes who came later.
Hot, hot stuff, but fundamentally different from the modern look of today's characters, right? That all changed when The Little Mermaid went into production, and an animator then known for villains like The Great Mouse Detective's Ratigan asked to work on the eponymous character ... and drew this:
No bluebirds, because Disney has this weird hangup about adorable animals drowning.
If you haven't figured it out, this pivotal moment in Disney's big renaissance resulted in all of their later princesses being modeled after Ariel. Keane would go on to completely kill it as lead animator in several more films, like Beauty And The Beast, Aladdin, and Pocahontas.
If you went broke at Disney World any time in the last 25 years, Glen Keane is to blame.
That's but two previously unknown people behind a bombardment of nostalgia, and something tells us we're merely at the tip of the mouse-shaped iceberg. And hey, speaking of iconic art ...
John Alvin Drew Every Single Movie Poster You Grew Up With
Thanks to Photoshop and terrible marketing, a person can be old enough to drive a semi but have no memory of when movie posters didn't suck ass. While the previously mentioned Drew Struzan was wowing our childhoods with Star Wars and Back To The Future, John Alvin was also secretly turning every video store into his own personal art gallery.
Eddie Murphy so loved how Alvin drew his eyebrow raise that he never stopped doing it, ever.
Go ahead, take a moment to reflect on the fact that you've looked at John Alvin's artwork more than your own parents' faces, and only now learned it. Then take a look at this:
Had enough? Let's throw in a few more to be safe:
In anyone else's hands, Ernest mugging from inside a pumpkin would've just looked silly.
Somehow, we're not done ... because we have yet to even talk about how Alvin got started in the business back in the 1970s, when he was working as an animator in Los Angeles. His breakout came when a friend asked him if he wanted to work on a poster for an upcoming comedy by a relatively new director, to which Alvin turned in this:
"Excuse me while I whip this out." --Alvin pulling out his brush and canvas
Luckily, that director really liked his more serious take on an otherwise silly film ... and Alvin ended up doing a whole bunch more for him.
So that's Mel Brooks, Disney, and basically everything beloved and successful in the '80s and '90s -- nearly making John Alvin's art the box office Midas touch.
Kathleen Kennedy's Name Should Be Right Next To Lucas' And Spielberg's
When talking of the architects of modern blockbusters, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas are regarded as the beardy fathers of every iconic adventure from the '80s and beyond. Either as directors or producers, they are behind such commercial successes as The Goonies, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Back To The Future, The Land Before Time, Gremlins, Indiana Jones, E.T., Hook, Star Wars, Jurassic Park, and the merchandise explosion that was Schindler's List.
And while we can certainly credit these two as contributing forces, for some reason, the casual public has opted to completely leave off a third and equally responsible name: Kathleen Kennedy, producer of over 90 major films (including everything we just listed) which have a collective gross of $11 billion and 120 Academy Award nominations. Oh, also ... she's the current president of Lucasfilm, and personally in charge of every future Star Wars and Indiana Jones movie.
Being the boss: the ultimate in cutsies.
Going from watching Star Wars to fucking running the show isn't something you achieve by sitting quietly and letting all the dongs to the talking, which is why Kennedy's first job as Spielberg's secretary went instantly screwball when she opted to constantly interrupt meetings, as opposed to taking notes. Instead of shitcanning her, her boss recognized that the words coming out of her mouth were awesome. Kennedy thus landed her first producing gig on Spielberg's film about a horrifying little alien named E.T. -- a story she personally hammered out with Spielberg. She even selected the eyes for the titular character.
Nightmare spheres courtesy of Kathleen Kennedy!
It was during this time that she helped develop Amblin Entertainment with Berg-Man and future husband Frank Marshall, whom she was secretly dating at the time, until George Lucas found out and, according to Kennedy, "told everybody."
Fast-forward through a decade of awesomeness, and Kennedy remained right by Spielberg on the set of Jurassic Park -- a film she not only helped rewrite the story for, but for which she pushed the use of CGI instead of stop-motion. Fast forward another amazing ten years, and there she is still, handing Spielberg the script to Munich. Ten more years after that, and Kennedy is sitting with a hesitant J.J. Abrams, whom she personally persuaded to direct The Force Awakens. Literally every description of this lady paints a picture of a highly persuasive, level-headed problem solver who puts the artists' needs over the studios'. Known pain-in-the-ass director David Fincher has described her in an email as "a DIRECTORS producer" and "all about the importance of DECISIVE MOMENTUM." And to top all of that off, she's also the one to thank for pushing for more women writers and role models in the Star Wars series.
Here she is, clearly torn up over anonymous trolls still crying about Rey being awesome at Jedi stuff.
In other words, Kathleen Kennedy is both the beginning and the end. The Alpha and Omega to your childhood and the childhoods of your children. Now everyone shut the hell up about George Lucas and fucking kneel.
David is a writer, columnist, editor, and office supply stealer for Cracked. Say hello to him on Twitter.
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