Famed Poster Artist John Alvin Dies at 59

John Alvin, the creator of famous movie posters for popular films such as E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King, passed away on Wednesday from a heart attack at his home in Rhinebeck, N.Y.

Alvin’s work came became prominent in the 1970s when movie posters were considered one of the major promotional tools of the studios. After graduating from the Los Angeles Art Center College of Design, he began his career as a poster designer with Mel Brooks’ 1974 comedy Blazing Saddles. “Mel Brooks liked it,” Alvin said in an interview. ‘I didn’t look for work for about 15 years after that; it came to me. I just kept getting calls from strangers who asked, ‘Are you the guy who did so-and-so film?’ “

The E.T. poster came about as a suggestion by director Steven Spielberg, who wanted a reference to Michelangelo’s famous work ‘The Creation of Adam.’ Alvin used his daughter (actress Farah Alvin ) as a hand model for the poster, which features the alien’s bony fingers creating a glow as they touch Ellliot’s hands.

Alvin also worked on more than 100 classic posters such as Young Frankenstein, Gremlins, City Slickers, Batman Returns, The Color Purple, the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the anniversary posters for Star Wars. ‘There was a reason why The Lion King did the numbers that it did,’ said John Sabel, exec VP of creative print advertising at Disney in the Los Angeles Times on Friday. “There was a reason why Hunchback of Notre Dame became a big success. It’s because of the images that were produced and a lot of those were John Alvin’s paintings.”

‘John always brought this magical, almost romantic quality to his work,’ said frequent Disney collaborator Federico Tio (in the L.A. Times obit), who worked with him on Beauty and the Beast. ‘His sense of light and capturing a moment was spectacular … Not only was he a great illlustrator, he was a great thinker.”

Alvin last worked on design ideas for Disney’s Enchanted. ‘With any of my cinematic art, I want the viewer to embrace and relive the magic that we all felt when we go to movies,’ Alvin said in an Art Business News interview.

Alvin is survived by his wife and daughter and sister Suzanne Alvin of Seaside, Calif. Memorial donations may be made to the heart program at the Foundation for Vassar Brothers Medical Center, 45 Reader Place, Poughkeepsie, NY 12601 (845) 454-8500.