Saturday, December 28, 2019

Holidays Tribute : The Genius of Artist Eric Heschong

It's still the Holidays season and i want to pay a tribute to Eric Heschong, a highly talented artist, who did gorgeous artworks for WDI and many others companies. Eric, unfortunately, passed away at 62 years old on June 4, 2013, six and a half years ago.

Eric Heschong paintings have been an inspiration for many artists who admired his work - like Greg Pro, also creating artwork for WDI - and personally i've always been a huge fan of Eric's artwork since i discovered his artwork for Walt Disney Imagineering sixteen years ago with the fantastic Tomorrowland '98 paintings that you can see above and below.

Actually i remember being told by Eric that this artwork above - Eric's original - had been modified by another painter at the request of WDI. Here below is the modified version, check what has been changed!

Among other paintings that Eric did for WDI there is this other one for Tomorrowland '98... well as this other one showin the kinetic stucture and Rocket Rodss

And this next one for Disneyland Autopia...

beautiful painting of the Mark Twain Riverboat. Actually, this one was not an order from WDI, Eric did this painting for himself!

Tokyo Disneyland fans will be highly interested by the next artwork as it is an artwork that Eric did for a TDL project that never was. This "Fantasia" art-deco style building looks gorgeous don't you think? This "Fantasia" store was a project of Imagineer Eddie Sotto and was anchored by a huge animated sorcerers apprentice fountain inside, a miniature golf course on the roof and a restaurant. Unfortunately the project was shot down at the last minute and the "Bon Voyage" shop was built instead.

Eric also did great artworks for Landmark Entertainment, but first let me tell you more about Eric's career.

Eric was part of a well-known industry family. His father, E. Albert Heschong, was an Emmy award winning Art Director for CBS and ABC. Eric's brother, Gregg Heschong, is a Emmy nominated Director of Photography and Director. Born on Pearl Harbor Day, December 7, 1950 in New York City to parents joining the then budding TV industry, Eric grew up in LA, learning to surf as a "junior lifeguard" in Palos Verdes in the 50's and playing rock and roll music with friends in Encino in the 60's.

From an early age his greatest talent was always painting, creating compelling visualizations of what others could only talk about. He studied at CalArts in Valencia and with Fred Fixler at Brandes Art Institute in Van Nuys, and began his career painting scenery at CBS Studio Center, designing animation backgrounds for feature films and TV shows at Hanna Barbera Studios. He transitioned into a successful career as a creator of "artist's renderings" for major project developers, bringing their concepts alive on canvas.

He worked doing tight architectural illustration. and then for Landmark Entertainment, the company of Gary Goddard and Tony Christopher which was creating attractions, theme parks and resorts or casinos design. If you don't know Landmark, it's them for instance who designed the Terminator 3D attraction for Universal Studios and the amazing Spiderman ride at Islands of Adventure. At Landmark, back at the end of the 1990's Eric worked with Chuck Cancillier who was the designer. Chuck would do pencil layouts and then hand them off to Eric for paint. Every so often, he'd be asked to do the layouts.

"Working for Landmark was a fun time for me" told me Eric. "I enjoyed the work and tried to please. I used my portfolio from Landmark to get work at Universal Studios and Walt Disney Imagineering. Most of the work I did at Walt Disney Imagineering was for Tony Baxter."

As the entertainment industry transitioned to computer graphics over the past twenty years, Eric's painting skills became increasingly obsolete, but more prized by collectors. Although shy and unassuming, Eric was an extraordinarily generous person, who mentored other young developing painters in the entertainment industry. Eric never married yet also mentored many neighborhood children in art and music, providing a safe and inspirational after-school environment as he worked out of his home in Studio City.

We will now have a look at his paintings for Landmark, some of them are from his early work, but no need to say they were all gorgeous.

The first one above, is a painting of "Emerald City" which was done for a Wizard of Oz park that was supposed to go in somewhere in Kansas. Landmark didn't mind that Eric's Emerald City looked nothing like the one in the movie.

This next painting with the purple rocket was for a Paramount Pictures park. A Willie Wonka attraction (on the right) and a Godfather's restaurant (on the left) were to be featured.

The two next paintings were done of course for a Star Trek attraction. I don't think these scenes/decors were realised but Landmark is the company who also did the Star Trek Experience in Las Vegas.

The next concept with this copper colored space station was actually built in South Korea.

This next painting of Bluto Bay decor was done by Eric for the Toon Lagoon Popeye area at Universal Islands of Adventure.

Eric also did this concept-art for a James Bond "Licence to thrill" attraction. First, i thought he did it for a previous concept of the Walt Disney Studios "Motors, Action!" stunt show, as i knew WDI envisioned to do the stunt show on a James Bond theme. Then it was cancelled and i always thought it was for a rights/license problem, that the Bond license was too expensive, etc... In fact not, it's probably because Paramount Parks got the rights to do this "License to thrill" attraction. The attraction existed for real from 1998 in three or four diferent Paramount parks.

Landmark also designed Hotels and Casinos, and Eric also did paintings for these, like this 1999 ”Muwi Kingdom Hotel” concept for Inchon, South Korea.

This next bird's eye view was to be a casino/hotel called The Desert Kingdom for Las Vegas to replace the Desert Inn. But the Desert Inn was sold to Steve Wynn who built the Wynn Hotel instead.

Eric's painting of the interior lobby was incredibly spectacular - i should say dazzling. That's the one below, with the griffins.

This next concept-art with the movie theaters and trolley car was done for a Navy Pier concept in Chicago.

This one too was done for the Chicago Navy Pier concept.

This Eric' 1998 acrylic painting shows a land called "Cartoon Ville" part of a proposal for a "Shanghai Movie Park" in China.

The two next paintings called "Metropolis Metro Entertainment Center" were done by Eric for a Shanghai Metro Entertainment Center.

The concept-art below show a "Nautical Sports Dome" for a Niagra Theme Park.

"U.S.O. with Bob Hope" is the name of the Cell Vinyl on illustration board concept below.

Eric next painting was for a "Rhythm and Blues Area" in a Grammy Exposition.

As i told you Landmark did a lot of concepts for casinos. Here are some paintings that Eric did for casinos. Let's begin with the Las Vegas Caesar's Palace and this concept-art for a 1995 "Caesar's Exterior Expansion".

The next one shows a new inside decor proposal for the Caesar's palace...

And this one, always at the Caesar's, was called "Casino of the Gods".

This next 1999 painting from Eric was named "Secondary Gaming-Train Station", a proposed expansion of the Barona Casino in San Diego.

”Rooftop Casino” is the name of the scene below - obviously inspired by the rooftop of Paris Opera (where by the way i walked upon for real some years ago for a photo shooting!).

This next 1997 painting ”Monex New York Casino” was another kind of "rooftop" view for the Century City Monex.

"Starlight Restaurant Interior” is the title of Eric's artwork below, designed for Phantom Phantasy Casino.

These two 1993 acrylic paintings were Eric's concepts for the Harrahs Hotel/CasinoLaughlin in Las Vegas. The first one is called "Harrahs Laughlin" and the next one "Plaza Scene"

Always for the Harrahs in Las Vegas, this last artwork from Eric was called "Mardi Gras".

I want to thanks Eric Heschong and Gary Goddard of Landmark Entertainment who provided me the pictures files and authorisation to post them when this article was first posted some years ago. We will miss Eric and his amazing paintings.

Artwork: copyright Landmark - Eric Heschong - Disney Enterprises

Friday, December 27, 2019

The Mandalorian Final Episode is Awesome, and Jon Favreau Announces that Season 2 Will Come on Disney + Fall 2020!

The Mandalorian final Episode is now released on Disney + and it is an awesome finale! Here is a short review about it, and a big Warning! as there IS storyline spoilers below!

The previous episode ended on a serious cliffhanger with scout troopers capturing baby Yoda and the death of Mando's friend. The Episode 8, and the last one, so, open with the same scout troopers on their speederbike for a short but memorable talking scene, the kind of scene that you usually see in Tarantino movies! But first, before i forget, a good news as this final episode last 49 minutes instead of 30 / 35 min for the previous episodes!

So, baby Yoda is in the hands of the enemies, but someone - or should i say something is coming to save him to bring him back to the Mandalorian - great scene, by the way. Unfortunately baby Yoda don't find himself in a better place as The Mandalorian and his friends are stuck inside a building with Moff Gideon - played by Giancarlo Esposito - and literally dozens of heavy armed storm troopers and death troopers outside waiting for them to surrender. This last episode also bring precious revelations about the Mandalorian heartbreaking backstory - he was orphaned after his parents were killed during a droid attack and saved/adopted by the Mandalorians, and his real name - Din Djarin - and yes, you'll see at last The Mandalorian face but don't count on me to post a screen capture of it here. All these were good answers to questions that have built over eight episodes and lighted the enigmatic character. But we still don't know baby Yoda's name...

The characters succeed to escape from the place they were besieged by the troopers and soon after we find them with the Armorer - a great piece of dialogue is happening with the Armorer telling Mando that The Child and him are now "a clan of two." The escape through a river of lava is memorable before one of the characters sacrificing himself to save others ( no, not the one you might think of ) and a great final exploding battle with Moff Gideon revealing that he possesses the Darksaber.

Taika Waititi is the one who directed this episode and he did a great job on this finale, with the help of a good script. And now a good news for you, Mandalorian fans as, as soon as this final episode was released on Disney +, Jon Favreau announced that The Mandalorian Season 2 will be available on Disney + Fall 2020! As for what will be the storyline and where the Mandalorian and baby Yoda will go in the season 2, you also have big hints about it in this great final episode of the season 1!

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Avengers Campus Will Open at Disney California Adventure Summer 2020 !

Disney Parks just announced that the Avengers Campus - which will include the new Spiderman attraction - will open officially at Disney California Adventure Summer 2020!

"We're excited to officially announce that you will be able to team up with some of your favorite Avengers at Avengers Campus at Disney California Adventure park beginning summer of 2020!
As we’ve previously shared, this campus is set up by the Avengers to recruit the next generation of Super Heroes.

Avengers Campus is home to the Worldwide Engineering Brigade – also known as “WEB” – which will house our new Spider-Man experience, the first Disney ride-through attraction to feature this iconic Super Hero.

During an open house at WEB, the aspiring inventors are excited to invite you for a test drive of their latest invention: the “Web Slinger” vehicle, which allows you to sling webs just like Spider-Man! The attraction gives you a taste of what it’s like to have actual super powers as you help Spider-Man collect Spider-Bots that have run amok.

Avengers Campus will also feature Pym Test Kitchen. Just as Ant-Man and The Wasp use “Pym Particles” to grow and shrink just about anything, Pym Technologies is using the latest innovations to grow and shrink food at this eatery.

You will also find heroic encounters throughout the campus, including Black Widow, Ant-Man and The Wasp, Doctor Strange, the Guardians of the Galaxy, Super Heroes from Wakanda and Asgard, and Iron Man.

As Super Heroes continue to assemble at the campus, one of its iconic buildings will be the Avengers Headquarters where you should be on the lookout for Avengers in action."

The big E-Ticket Avengers attraction will open later and won't be part of this phase one of the Avengers Campus.

Michael Todd's Production of "Around the World in 80 Days" is One of the Best Movie Adaptation of Jules Verne's Novels

The best movie adaptations of Jules Verne's novels are without a doubt Disney's 20000 Leagues Under the Sea, Michael Todd's production of Around the World in 80 Days, and Journey to the Center of the Earth. The three are perfect, no one will ever do better, and there is many reasons for that. First, the perfection of the cast - just try to play Captain Nemo better than James Mason or Phileas Fogg better than David Niven! Then, there is the era when these films were shot, the stories in Jules Verne novels were supposed to happen less than a century from the 1950's, so the 19th century was not that far and you could still find people who lived it. Also, although you could surely shoot adaptations technically superior if they were filmed today, both movies have something that all the best visual effects of our 21st Century can't reproduce: the innocence of the era. No one does anymore films like these as what makes their essence has disappeared, very unfortunately.

Around the World in 80 Days is a 1956 epic adventure-comedy starring David Niven, Cantinflas, Shirley MacLaine and Robert Newton, and was directed by Michael Anderson and produced by Mike Todd - who was Elizabeth Taylor husband at that time - with Kevin McClory and William Cameron Menzies as associate producers. The fantastic music score was composed by Victor Young, and the Todd-AO 70 mm cinematography (shot in Technicolor) was by Lionel Lindon. The film's six-minute-long animated title sequence, shown at the end of the film, was created by legendary title sequence designer Saul Bass - don't miss it! The film won 5 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and you better open your eyes as dozens of famous actors appear in cameos all along the movie!

Broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow presents an onscreen prologue, featuring footage from A Trip to the Moon (1902) by Georges Méliès, explaining that it is based loosely on the book From the Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne. Also included is the launching of an unmanned rocket and footage of the earth receding.

Around the World in 80 Days tells the story of an English gentleman Phileas Fogg ( wonderfully played by David Niven ) who, in 1872, claims he can circumnavigate the world in eighty days. He makes a £20,000 wager ( £1.8 million in 2019 ) with four sceptical fellow members of the Reform Club ( each contributing £5,000 to the bet ) that he can arrive back eighty days from exactly 8:45 pm that evening. Together with his resourceful valet, Passepartout ( played by Cantinflas, who was immensely famous at that time and considered as Mexico's Charlie Chaplin ), Fogg goes hopscotching around the globe generously spending money to encourage others to help him get to his destinations faster so he can accommodate tight steamship schedules.

And now a good news as you can watch the FULL movie right now, right HERE, just push the sound volume at the maximum, and it's a perfect movie for a Christmas day !

Enjoy the show and, below, some still pictures and lobby cards of Around the World in 80 Days.

The French poster for Around the World in 80 Days.

Around the World in 80 Days also had many theatrical adaptations all along the years, below a poster for a theatrical version at Paris famous theatre, the Chatelet.

Hope you'll enjoy the movie as much as i did, it's truly a perfect adaptation of Jules Verne classic novel!