Drew Struzan Tribute

Nostalgia Critic Drew Struzan by MaroBot.jpg

Date Aired
October 13th, 2008
Running Time
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NC: Hello I'm the Nostalgia Critic, I remember it so you don't have to! When you go into a video store, what's the very first thing you see?

Shots of walking down video store aisles, then Randall Graves from Clerks, then close-ups of movie covers, then posters
NC (voiceover): Besides the pretentious teenager who wants to tell you what's in his crappy best picks section. Covers! Tons and tons of DVD covers. Some of them grab your attention, others you're GLAD they don't grab your attention. But some are actually hand-painted, and practically suck you into the movie before you even see it. Would you believe that most of these incredible, hand-painted iconic posters like Back to the Future, Indiana Jones and Harry Potter were all done by the same person? That's the work of great illustrator and artist, Drew Struzan.

NC: Now, unlike the Nostalgia Critic, Drew Struzan is not a household name. But he should be.

NC (voiceover): This guy is responsible for getting audiences into those movie seats. Now I know you could say the trailers for movies were probably more responsible for that than the posters, but here's the thing. Trailers back then weren't like trailers today. Like here's a trailer for an older movie.
The trailer for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
NC (voiceover): Not very exciting. But when you look at the poster, holy shit, this looks friggin' epic. Look at the layout, look at the expressions, look at how he captures the size and scope of the whole movie just on a blank sheet of paper. If anything, you could make the argument trailers have tried harder to be more like Struzan's posters, than Struzan's posters like the trailers. These days, every trailer looks intense, epic and exciting, but Drew's posters have always had that, even from the beginning. That is, when he started doing posters. He first started out doing album designs, most notably Black Sabbath, Bee-Gees, and Alice Cooper's Welcome to my Nightmare. He started moving to B movie posters, but none of them were really epic enough to make him stand out in the biz. It wasn't until a certain B movie called Star Wars came out that Drew started getting real recognition for his work. Since then, Drew has done a ton of iconic movies, including the Back to the Future movies, the Muppet Movies, the Indiana Jones movies, and of course, the Star Wars movies.

NC: So what is it about Drew's work that makes it stand out so much? What is it that just makes the images seem to leap off the poster?

NC (voiceover): I mean for God's sakes, Follow That Bird looks like a friggin' epic. A lot of it is that he always captures the essence of the movie, always making it exciting and fitting as much as he can into one blank sheet. You look at all the characters and thrilling images and shout out "Dude, I gotta know what the hell this movie's about."

NC: Through the 70s, 80s and even a little bit of the 90s, Drew Struzan was the guy to go to for your movie poster needs.

NC (voiceover): But from the mid-90s on, digital technology was reigning supreme, and the idea of paying someone to paint a picture when they could just photoshop one together didn't seem cost effective anymore. Because of this, movie posters have suffered big time, just posting celebrity faces together and sucking out all the epic quality. When you look at a Struzan poster, you get the idea he was telling a story, and he wanted to share that story with you. When you look at a poster today, all you see is an ad, a marketing tool that wants you to just buy tickets. Now granted that IS what a poster is supposed to do, but it's also supposed to disguise that fact, and posters just don't seem to do that anymore. Like look at this Shrek poster. All they're doing is sitting there.

NC: Wheeeeeee!

NC (voiceover): And how many times have we seen just one egotistical face take up the entire poster? Like Tom Cruise, Nicolas Cage or Julia Roberts. These posters don't tell us what the movie's about, they don't even give us a reason to see the movie outside the fact that they have a celebrity who obviously got top billing. But thankfully Drew isn't out. When the Star Wars prequels came out, they commissioned him to do every single one of the posters. Probably the only thing that actually seemed reminiscent of the original Star Wars films. And when ANOTHER unnecessary Lucas sequel was released, guess who they got to do the poster? Good ol' Drew. Even some films like the Hellboy movies had work commissioned from him, but were never used. Look at these posters, here's the one that Drew painted up, and here's the one that they ultimately went with. What a load of bore.
"Load of Bore" comes up on screen
NC (voiceover): The few movie posters nowadays that DO suck you in all have to give thanks to the master himself, borrowing much of their layout technique from this big-scale artist.

NC: Today Drew does what he's always been doing, painting!

NC (voiceover): He's done album covers, novels, comic books, ads, and a whole slew of illustrations. Drew considers himself a true introvert, doing very few interviews and spending most of his time on his artwork. In fact, when I personally asked him to do an interview for the Nostalgia Critic, he very politely declined. Which is interesting, after I heard this from a rare radio interview he did:

Drew Struzan: I was just writing a guy that wants to do an interview for his website and I just told him "You know the old saying, better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt."

NC: THAT WAS ME! I was the asshole who wanted to do the interview! It's an honor to be blown off by you, sir! My status as obnoxious, pestering monkey is well assured!

NC (voiceover): For all the joking, Drew Struzan really IS a great artist, defining a whole generation of movies simply with his paintbrush and a blank canvas.

NC: When asked whether or not he'd succumb to the pressures of digital technology and do more computer work, Struzan had this to say:

NC (voiceover): "I love the texture of paint made of colored earth. Of oil from the trees and of canvas and paper. I love the expression of pain from a brush or a hand smearing charcoal. The dripping of paint and moisture of water, the smell of the materials. I delight in the changeable nature of a painting, with the morning light, or in the afternoon when the sun turns a painting orange, or by firelight at night. The paint is part of the expression."

NC: Drew Struzan really is a part of movie history, and very few people even know his name.

NC (voiceover): His artwork was grand, colorful, stylish, clever, and half the time, even better than the actual movie. If we were to judge a book by its cover, then every single movie Drew Struzan had worked on would be an epic masterpiece.

NC: I'm the Nostalgia Critic, I remember it so you don't have to.

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