John Alvin - Legends of Movie Poster Art vol.4

Young Frankenstein - art by John Alvin
Young Frankenstein - art by John Alvin
Empire of the Sun - art by John Alvin
Empire of the Sun - art by John Alvin
Mulan - art by John Alvin
Mulan - art by John Alvin

A tribute to one of the great movie poster artists.

John Alvin was born in Hyannis, Massachusetts in 1948. As a child Alvin would always be staring at movie posters in newspapers and billboards, fascinated by the imagery.

After graduating from the Los Angeles Art Center College of Design he found jobs working as a freelance artist.

In 1974 while working at an animation studio a friend asked if he wanted to work on a movie poster for a new Mel Brooks comedy titled Blazing Saddles.

Alvin designed a striking, colourful poster for the film which pleased Mel Brooks and he was asked to design the poster for his next comedy Young Frankenstein.

More poster work was to come, including Blade Runner, Gremlins, Cocoon, Star Trek VI, Willow, Empire of the Sun, Batman Returns, The Princess Bride and Always.

One of Alvin's iconic posters was for Steven Spielberg’s E.T. The Extraterrestrial featuring a riff on the famous Michelangelo painting of God and Adam, the poster shows ET and Elliot’s fingers coming together glowing at the touch.

The poster won a Saturn award for Best Poster art in 1983.

Poster art became a full time job for Alvin, he was also hired by Disney studios and provided poster artwork for Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Little Mermaid, Mulan, Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Lion King, Enchanted and many more.

Over three decades Alvin designed posters for more than 130 movies. His work has been displayed in several art galleries around the U.S.

Sadly John Alvin suffered a fatal heart attack in February 2008, he was 59. He is survived by his wife Andrea and daughter Farah.

The Empire Strikes Back - art by John Alvin
The Empire Strikes Back - art by John Alvin
Cocoon - art by John Alvin
Cocoon - art by John Alvin
Cape Fear (1991) - art by John Alvin
Cape Fear (1991) - art by John Alvin
Gremlins - art by John Alvin
Gremlins - art by John Alvin
The Lion King - art by John Alvin
The Lion King - art by John Alvin



Selected poster filmography –

1974 – Blazing Saddles
1974 – Young Frankenstein
1974 – Phantom of the Paradise
1976 – Silent Movie
1977 – High Anxiety
1977 – Star Wars (10th Anniversary)
1979 – Alien (15th Anniversary)
1979 – 10


1980 – Star Wars V The Empire Strikes Back
1981 – History of the World p.1
1982 – My Favourite Year
1982 – The Verdict
1982 – ET The Extraterrestrial
1982 – Blade Runner
1982 – Victor Victoria
1983 – Deal of the Century
1983 – Star Wars VI Return of the Jedi
1984 – Red Dawn
1984 - Gremlins
1985 – Cocoon
1985 – Legend
1985 – The Goonies
1985 – The Color Purple
1985 – Spies Like Us
1986 – Short Circuit
1986 – The Golden Child
1986 – Running Scared
1986 – Cobra
1986 – Raw Deal
1987 – Spaceballs
1987 – The Princess Bride
1987 – Project X
1987 - InnerSpace
1987 – The Lost Boys
1987 – Empire of the Sun
1988 – Willow
1989 – Always
1989 – Leviathan
1989 – The Little Mermaid


1990 – Darkman
1990 - Flatliners
1990 – Joe vs The Volcano
1990 – Arachnophobia
1990 – Rescuers Down Under
1991 – Cape Fear
1991 – City Slickers
1991 – Star Trek VI The Undiscovered Country
1991 – Hook
1991 – Beauty and the Beast
1992 - Aladdin
1992 – Batman Returns
1992 - Newsies
1992 – Christopher Columbus the Discovery
1993 – The Three Musketeers
1994 – The Lion King
1995 – Batman Forever
1996 – Hunchback of Notre Dame
1997 – Hercules
1998 - Mulan
2007 - Enchanted

ET the Extraterrestrial - art by John Alvin
ET the Extraterrestrial - art by John Alvin
Blade Runner - art by John Alvin
Blade Runner - art by John Alvin
Darkman - art by John Alvin
Darkman - art by John Alvin
The Golden Child - art by John Alvin
The Golden Child - art by John Alvin
Star Trek VI The Undiscovered Country - art by John Alvin
Star Trek VI The Undiscovered Country - art by John Alvin
Alien - art by John Alvin
Alien - art by John Alvin
InnerSpace - art by John Alvin
InnerSpace - art by John Alvin
Blazing Saddles - art by John Alvin
Blazing Saddles - art by John Alvin

More by this Author


14 comments

FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 4 years ago

For now, here are the films I have seen you list in titles that I have seen (I'll focus on the posters later) in order:

Blazing Saddles

Young Frankenstein

Silent movie

10

My Favourite Year

Blade Runner

Victor/Victoria

The Princess Bride

Cape fear (for Peck's cameo)

City Slickers

Star Trek VI

Hook

Beauty and the Beast

Aladdin

The Three Muskateers


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Hi Flora, your comments are always welcome and appreciated.

I remember you writing about why you haven't seen ET in Bruce's hub.

Cape Fear didn't scare you? It frightened my Sandra and it's not even a horror movie. De Niro was excellent as Max Cady, but so was Robert Mitchum in the original.

My favourite John Alvin poster? I really like Young Frankenstein and I used to have that Blade Runner poster on my door 30 years ago, those are my picks.


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 4 years ago

I prefer the original. I didn't much care for the remake, but Peck was in both, so...

In my opinion, Deniro tried too hard. Mitchum was much more frightening to me in being understated. You know if you see someone charming in public, no one would believe you that he is dangerous. Deniro was not charming. However, the remake is closer to the novel from what I understand.


Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 4 years ago from Virginia

I see that I like John Alvin's work...even though I had never heard of him before you excellent hub. First thought is...wow...I have never seen that poster for Alien before...which after 32 years is a pretty impressive accomplishment.

I would say I like the Blade Runner one the best...what awesome detail that he included...a close second was Innerspace. Sorry to hear he passed away at a relatively young age...but his artwork lives on. Great posters and lots of information....thanks for opening my eyes to another side of the movie business...voted up and interesting.


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 4 years ago

Looking over the posters you include, I agree that Young Frankenstein is tops. However, I have always loved visions of the water, so I put Cocoon's poster at number 2.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Bruce, Flora, thanks for the comments, they are most appreciated.

Flora, Robert Mitchum was an amazing actor, he could play a gentle father with his children, a cowboy hero, a cynical private eye and than in movies like Night of the Hunter and Cape Fear, believably creepy and evil.

Cocoon the movie, is an 80's favourite of mine, it's a little creaky now but still fun.

Bruce, I love that Blade Runner poster, its always been one of my favourites. I think an illustrated hub on that film is overdue.

btw my movie poster hubs have been 'selling' well, hundreds of hits from various google domains, and they make a nice break from the other hubs I write.


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

The poster for Alien is just amazing. The colours of his posters are very eye-catching, very interesting hub Steve. I just love the huge photos you give us!


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Thanks for that Jools, appreciate it.

I've always loved looking at movie posters, they were often more exciting than the movies they were promoting. When I was young my bedroom was plastered with posters, not any more. [sniff]


Mary Jane Thomas 4 years ago

Wow, what an inspirational man, I had no idea that he created all of those ICONIC posters! I loved Gremlins! I named my rabbit after Gizmo!

I always knew John for his work with Disney. My favourite Disney poster of his is the one for The Lion King which I used to have on my wall when I was 8! (Has anyone seen the stage production of The Lion King, by the way? It is BREATHTAKING http://oneinalonglineofgoodgirls.wordpress.com/201...

Looking at the pictures you have included above, I think perhaps ET is the most iconic? Or maybe Star Wars? What do you think?

So sad he died so young :(, at least we have his great artwork to remember him by.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Thanks for commenting Mary Jane Thomas. John Alvin was one of the great movie poster artists.

The most iconic? I would say from the ones I've posted above ET is the most recognisable around the world, the Blade Runner poster is pretty popular too.


Mary Jane Thomas 4 years ago

Oh Blade Runner, what a cracking choice!

Do you know how old John was when he started designing posters? Do you know where someone can get their hands on copies of these posters? I'd love to find an old Lion King one, like I used to have!

(By the way I chopped off a part of the link I tried to post before...It is supposed to be http://oneinalonglineofgoodgirls.wordpress.com/201... - just a Lion King thing. Silly me!)


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Going by his bio, John was about 26 when he started on movie posters.

It's been decades since I last bought a movie poster, I usually get them free inside movie magazines. :) I would say try ebay for old movie posters, they should have Lion King.


Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 2 years ago from Virginia

I can not believe it has been 2 years since I commented on this hub. I wonder what the poster to the prequel/sequel to Blade Runner will look like?


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 2 years ago from London, England Author

That was a classic poster, it'll probably be a photomontage of the actors heads now. I wonder if Harrison Ford would be involved, he's not exactly a fan of Blade Runner or Ridley Scott.

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