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Dan Goozee GALACTICA.TV interview
Written by Marcel Damen   
Monday, 05 January 2009

Marcel Damen talked to Dan Goozee, better known for his concept art on the Battlestar Galactica 1978 series. In an exclusive interview Dan talked about his work on Battlestar Galactica for the first time ever and provided us with copies of the never shown concept artwork. Next to that he also talked about the work he did for the Irwin Allen movies The Towering Inferno and The Poseidon Adventure, his work on the Walt Disney theme parks and his current work as an award winning painter.

Below you can read the transcript of this interview. If you rather listen to the audio of this interview then click the "PLAY" button below to start.

First of all I'd like to take the time to thank you for doing this interview.

Oh, thank you for your interest.

I'd like to start with the beginning. When did you know you really wanted to start drawing?

Well, I grew up in a very small town in Oregon and I had an interest in drawing, because it rained a lot, so it was something to do. I was also interested in paleontology, but at the time I was growing up that field was really... You pretty much had to wait for somebody to die at a museum for a job would open up. So I decided to pursue art and I liked movies. The town I grew up in was very small, about 3,500 people. There were two movie theatres in town. My grandfather managed one, his brother managed the other, so I got to see every movie that came to town for free. I think that kind of helped to build up a vocabulary without even thinking about it.

My mom was very supportive. She was divorced, but she encouraged me. She scraped some money together and we got down to Art Center [College of Design] in Los Angeles and I worked on a scholarship after the third semester, so my intuition was taken care off. Art Center in those days was not in its present location it was out in west Los Angeles, Third Street. It was a much different school than what it is now. It's a much more conceptual school now. Then the two strong departments were Advertising Design, primarily, Industrial Design and Auto Design. They had major funding support from Madison Avenue in Detroit. Illustration was one curriculum where they couldn't guarantee anybody a job. It was pretty much taking a chance.

Dan Goozee

Dan Goozee

So did your parents have anything else in mind for you or was it always drawing?

No, I don't think so. I had expressed an early interest in science and that would have been fine with them too. The paleontology part, again I was interested in veritably paleontology, digging up dinosaurs and that kind of stuff. One of my teachers said that the only way to make money out of that is to work for an auto company analyzing core samples, so learn diatoms. That kind of threw the romance out of the window. That's pretty much... You asked in your synopsis about Art Center's core curriculum (Art Center's core curricula is a commitment to social and cultural engagement and giving students the tools and skills with which to effect change and address real-world issues).

They didn't have quite the commitment to social and cultural engagement that they do now. I think the social responsibility thing is something they grew up more in the later decades. In the 60's they were really concerned about developing a real high level of skills so by the time you went out the door at graduation you could be put to work right away.

What was the most important thing they thought you there?

Well, they had some really good teachers. They taught drawing and painting in a very academic, strong way. They weren't really concerned with modernism. Now they're much more concerned with modernism and conceptualism and the ideas behind things. They weren't really training, I believe... They wanted people to come there who had a sense of taste and a sense of design, who could think, but they weren't in the business of training us to think. We were going out in the world and go to work for people of who they thought that had the ideas and we were going to give life to the ideas that other people had.

Did you try out many styles before you got to your current present state of style?

I've got through a whole series of styles. When I first got out of school... I mean, when I was in school, it was pretty much academic drawing and painting, so when I first got out, the first film I worked on, Tora Tora Tora, most of my storyboard sketches were very... much more detailed and they were done in carbon pencils, that I was familiar with. When I went on, I started using more Pentel pens, ballpoint pens and ad markers to get a quicker effect, because there are a lot of times you don't need so much -- I discovered -- a vast amount of detail for a storyboard sketch. You are really sort of charting camera flow and the POV (Point-of-View), what it changes. A close shot or a long establishing shot or a zoom or a pan or a higher falling action when it's a chase scene or some kind of battle. You're really sort of dealing with the flow of it, rather than getting every button right.

Who were you biggest influences when you started?

Well, when I was going to school, I went all the way from... Before I went to school I used to read Saturday Evening Post all the time and I loved [Norman] Rockwell and all of those people. As I got into school everybody was falling in love with Bernie Fuchs, who was one of the big illustrators in the day, in the 60's. When I got out of school I got a job. I was working for my masters degree but I run out of money. I needed a job. One of my instructors, a very nice man, got me to see a friend of his who was an art director at 20th Century Fox, just to show my portfolio and get some advise. And they offered me a job, so naturally I jumped at it.

I went to work in the art department there and there was just a wonderful bunch of artists working there. Some people who were actually award winning known national painters and they were working very quietly in this art department, working away. I met a guy, named Jim Riddles, who turned out to be one of the big western art painters in later years. I worked with another gentleman called Emil Kosa, who was downstairs in the matte department, who was a very famous California scene painter. So a lot of those guys became my influence at that point

How did you actually role into creating visual art for motion pictures? Was that also something you learned at school?

I kind of lucked into it. It was very strange, at that time at Art Center our main concerns were New York for advertising, Detroit for automobiles. They really didn't think much about the fact that they were in the same town as Hollywood and that there were all these motion picture studios that could use artists. So, I just went out to show my portfolio and I can say I was very lucky that they said: "Well, I don't see any architecture here, but you can draw. I don't think it's going to be a problem for you. Would you like to come to work?" I got a job as an apprentice there and a week later - it was all union set up - I think I was second illustrator and eventually up to production illustrator over years.

One of your biggest jobs was the storyboard for Tora Tora Tora.

One of the first big ones, yeah. The first picture I worked on when I went there, to Fox, was Dr. Dolittle with Rex Harrison. I did a couple of minor pictures. A bunch of pictures on what they did a lot on what we call preproduction, which was actually design sets and do big proposal paintings for. Then the head people would decide if we were going to make them or if we were not going to make it. In some cases they would decide not to make them. You'd end up working six month to a year on a picture that would never really actually get shot.

That's too bad.

Well, some of them would have been great. There was one called Tom Swift and his Amazing Flying Machine. That would have been a fantastic one.

storyboard for Tora Tora Tora by Dan Goozee

storyboard for Tora Tora Tora by Dan Goozee

The actual storyboard for Tora Tora Tora must have been a humungous job to do, since it's a very long movie, 2 ½ hours?

Oh my Gosh. There were three of us doing storyboard sketches and some other paintings as well. We worked for almost three years.

Wow! Okay.

Doing various script incarnations and then on the Japanese side, they were doing a lot of their own storyboards, stuff that [Akira] Kurosawa was directing. I got a chance to meet Kurosawa, which was a great honor.

I can imagine, yeah. You actually worked on that for three years. Did it actually look [on screen] the way you expected it?

Yes, it did. Quite frankly it did. The thing is, at the time they had a lot of miniature work and also a lot of aerial work. Considering the amount of time that goes into building this stuff, they had to shoot it... they had to plot the stuff very carefully. At one time, I think, they had 28 planes. Their own little air force. Various types of Japanese and American [planes like] P-40's, the B-17's and a bunch of other stuff. They also built what they would call scenic planes, which were just painted flaps which were set up in the back but in the background they looked like real planes.

You actually also worked in post production then?

I was there. I actually went there when they were filming for a short time. I was doing some additional work in Hawaii and I got to go there a couple of times. Hawaii is about the only place of the main land that I've really visited in film work. I've been there for Tora Tora Tora and Islands in the Stream, which was shot on the island of Kawai there. I was there for about ten weeks and... Let's see what year was that? about '83 I think.

That's nice!

Very nice. I got to take my family. I was working six days a week, but they were having a great time.

Yeah, I can imagine. You also worked with the master-of-disaster, Irwin Allen.

Yes, I did and he was the greatest character in the world.

You worked on both The Towering Inferno and The Poseidon Adventure. I've read he strongly relied on pre-production storyboards, even going so far as to get his actors' precise likenesses into the artwork. Is that true?

That's exactly true. In fact, in the beginning, it was very frustrating in the case of The Towering Inferno. Originally Paul Newman was going to play the fire chief and Steve McQueen was going to play the architect. We had the thing halfway drawn out, with their heads in. So we had to go back and erase out Steve McQueen as the architect and put in Paul Newman and erase out Paul Newman as the fire chief and put in Steve McQueen. He liked to be very precise about those things. He also invented, I think, the phrase... He liked the sketches explaining how things were going to work, which was actually outside the purview of what the camera would see, he coined the term "movie magic".

He was very proud and we'd have walls and walls filled with these sketches of the tower, what was going to erupt and what the camera set-ups were going to be. He used those so he could have a production meeting and everybody including the special effects people, the stunt coordinators and even the fire safety people, would all know exactly what was going to happen and in what sequence it was going to happen.

concept sketch for The Poseidon Adventure by Dan Goozee

concept sketch for The Poseidon Adventure by Dan Goozee

I saw that on one of the sketches you sent of The Poseidon Adventure. You drew the tilted stage and everything. Is that also something you did in combination with the stage builders, the special effects people and the camera crew?

Well, actually it was done in conjunction with the production designer itself. The production designer was a gentleman called Bill Creber, a really, really good production designer. He designed, particularly in the case of the ballroom scene on the ship that was going to be upside down in the roll over, he designed the sets so they could be taken apart and put back together again exactly upside down.

That's an amazing job then. Did you actually draw out that stuff? That it had to be taken apart?

Yeah, we drew it upside down and we drew the stunt work where Ernie Orsatti takes the dive when he hanging by the table and he crashes down the chandelier which is now on the floor with the stain glass ceiling. So we got to draw all that stuff. Some of the stuff we drew as things were being build. Of course at the same time, you understand, they have model makers making models of this stuff too, so they could go in with this little periscope and look at it from that point of view and sort of see the scale to help plan there moves up. I call them model builders, even miniature builders, but they're sometimes referred to as miniature people, but the miniatures in Tora Tora Tora are so big that the battleships were all about 30 feet long.

That's pretty big, yeah.

Just about the size of a truck.

It was done in great detail then?

It was. It was extremely detailed and they were very proud of their work. In the old days, in the old studio system when I started there, they would have people who could work there for twenty years without ever having to leave. As time went on the studio system turned into a situation were people were just brought in to work on one production and then when that production was over, people kind of scattered to the winds to find other work. So the art department eventually turned into an accounting department and little mini art departments were set up all over the lot for each production.

Do you have any anecdotes of working with Irwin Allen?

Let's see. What do I know about Irwin? Uhm... (pondering the question). Irwin would come in, I remember he would come in and he'd have... like in The Towering Inferno. He'd say: "This miniature, this is the biggest miniature ever built. It's 60 feet tall." and then they'd bring it into production. Then the next time he came in he'd say: "This is the biggest miniature ever built. It's 80 feet tall." And finally one of the production designers would say: "Irwin, could you just stick to one figure? How big is it?" and then he said: "It's as big as a rubber band. It's as big as it needs to be." (laughing) The other time in a production meeting they were having trouble with this lobsterman guy when he was still shooting Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. The costume designer brings it in, he makes some adjustments and the guy leaves and says: "Thanks" and he says: "That's what I'm here for."

The last act I remember is at one time he reached -- because he thought people were looking to sleepy at a production meeting -- he reached into a drawer and brought out a starter's pistol and he fired two shots into the air and said: "Now if I have your full attention..." Yeah, he was like an all time Hollywood producer. He was a very generous man to his artists. He considered the people who worked for him sort of like family.    

Okay. That's pretty cool. You also worked with another great director, Steven Spielberg, on Close Encounters of the Third Kind?

Well, actually in that case I was working more for Doug Trumbull, who was working for Steven Spielberg. I'd gone to work... I'd known Doug from some earlier incarnations. He offered me a job with a company he had called Future General. They were an off shoot of Paramount. They were going to work on new ride technology. So in the course of that he came to the attention of Steven Spielberg. We got assigned or Paramount loaned Doug's group to work on force perspective miniatures and some of the effects details, some of the matte shots.

So did you also actually do matte paintings?

I did master painting for matte paintings. For instance during the course of the film me and another gentleman flew out to Birmingham, Alabama to look at the aircraft hanger that they were going to shoot for the devil's mountain sequence. We got up there in a camera crane to get on top of the building and we took shots with a Hasselblat from the angle we were going to be working from and then brought them back and did a painting. We laid a photo mosaic and did a painting over that just to show the scene could be filmed in there. Basically showing the background, the mount and then the foreground, that sort of thing. I did one... I don't think it was a hugely successful, but they used a kind of subterranean cave interior later, when I was working on Galactica. But yeah, I met Steven Spielberg a few times. He came down. He was very creative. He was very nice and a very open, easy guy, no airs at all. Extremely creative, absolutely full of enthusiasm and everything.

concept art for The Rising Star on Battlestar Galactica by Dan Goozee

concept art for The Rising Star on Battlestar Galactica by Dan Goozee

How were you approached for Battlestar Galactica?

Well, John Dykstra had worked with Doug [Thumbull] at Future General on some of the ride controls. Also he had worked with Doug Trumbull's father on this motion control camera, which later sort of ended up being generically referred to as Dykstravision. He had a camera that really worked on a clock that was moving along a set course, that would take a slow pass on the ship. So they actually had the point of view of the ship in becoming the big monstrous Battlestar Galactica gliding by in space. It certainly was a huge improvement over the other thing. When I first started at Fox in the backstage they were flying saucers around on wires or on booms like the Japanese did Godzilla. This thing took a lot of the guesswork out. You had some much cleaner photography that way. This was still before CGI, computer generated imaging.

Can you name some of the things you were responsible for when working on Battlestar Galactica?

I did several things. Very little storyboards. Most of the stuff I did while I was there... As I said, I knew John through working for Doug and he invited me to come over to Apogee, which was the outfit that was doing it. They were in a two story, industrial building on Valjean Street in Van Nuys, right next to the Van Nuys airport. You could drive by and you'd never know what's going on in there. It's a street full of little industrial buildings. They worked on some storyboards, but primarily props and lay-out of effect shots, like the sketches I've sent you. They talked about how we could take a snow cab and turn it into the landram.

I did some sketches of the Ovions, which were basically short people in rubber suits. That was the limitations in those times. Of course we were working on a probably much tighter budget than a bigger film. So I did that, I worked on props. Let's see. I did one thing, as I said a sort of quasi matte [painting]. Which I could, since I was in the illustrators and matte artist union, I wasn't crossing anybody's lines. It was some kind of backlit subterranean interior. They needed it in a hurry and I think they were probably over budgeted at the time, so...

concept art for the landram of the episode The Gun on Ice Planet Zero on Battlestar Galactica by Dan Goozee

concept art for the landram of the episode The Gun on Ice Planet Zero on Battlestar Galactica by Dan Goozee

concept art for the landram of the episode "The Gun on Ice Planet Zero" on Battlestar Galactica by Dan Goozee

You mean in the Ovion caves...?

You asked about Ralph McQuarrie. I saw his work. He wasn't there at the time. I don't recall Andrew Probert. Joe Johnston I did work with. That was in the part of Joe's career when he was trying to branch off and go into art direction himself. I took over some of the duties that he had been working on. He seemed to be very happy about that.

Did you also continue working on the rest of the series or just the pilot?

Actually, no. No, we worked on more than the pilot. I was there for some time. I think we were working on the series.

So you left with John Dykstra when he went away?

When John left, I was pretty much gone already. I don't recall working for anybody else. Most of the people who worked there were working for John. As far as the sets, I never really actually went over to the lot at all during the course of shooting. The only actor I met was the chimpanzee who played the robot dog.


She was over. We had one of those kind of Michelangelo Sistine Chapel moments when we both touched fingers and she burst out in the shoots grand, so...

concept art for Ovion costume and rifle on Battlestar Galactica by Dan Goozee

concept art for the Ovion costume and rifle on Battlestar Galactica by Dan Goozee

Did you actually see the costume fitting for the Ovions and Evie?

They had some of the people over there too. They brought Glen Larson over and I think they were showing him the costumes. Most of the Ovions were rather short young ladies that looked to have somewhat gymnastic proportions so they could fit inside these things.

I have several photos of the Ovion costume fittings and it also shows the monkey Evie. She had to get acquainted to the Ovions so she wouldn't be scared on stage.

Yeah, it's very strange. I only had one interaction with the monkey. But every time I would get into the room after that little interaction she would put her hands over her head and would start clapping at me. The secretary would say: "Why does she like him so much?" and the trainer would say: "Because he has a beard, she really loves people with beards."

There were a lot of those! A lot of people wore beards back then. Most of the shots I have [of the model makers] are all people with beards. Those were in fashion in those days.

Yeah, some had really full beards. It was a lot of fun.

concept art for the gun of the episode The Gun on Ice Planet Zero on Battlestar Galactica by Dan Goozee

concept art for the gun of the episode "The Gun on Ice Planet Zero" on Battlestar Galactica by Dan Goozee

model for the gun of the episode The Gun on Ice Planet Zero on Battlestar Galactica

model for the gun of the episode "The Gun on Ice Planet Zero" on Battlestar Galactica

You said you also worked on the props. You also worked on the guns and stuff like that?

Yeah. Again, some of the work. I did some sketches of the guns and we'd go down and go a little back and forth in our conversation with the model makers. They were downstairs and a sort of mini art department was upstairs. They had a theatre upstairs where they could screen stuff, which consisted basically out of a bunch of older dilapidated couches with springs sticking out and a fairly good size screen.

Did you only make the drawings or did you also work on the props themselves?

No, I didn't do that. That's a totally different skill. Those guys were so good I would probably only fumble and break something. I didn't do that, so... The only time I did play around with that was when I went down at one point during The Towering Inferno. I just got some big blocks of balsa wood and just started with a disc sander in the construction shop or at the studio. Just literally sanding planes onto these rectilinear forms at different angles to get just a little bit more dramatic effect or crystal effect, to get some sort of idea what the tower would look like. To that extent yeah, they let me glue a couple of portholes on the thing. Just to make me happy.

So you never made any models or that kind of stuff?

No. As I said on the studio lot that's very controlled by union. If you go to a smaller, off the lot place like Apogee then there's a certain amount of cross over, but I never really got into it very much.

concept art for the battlestar gunnery on Battlestar Galactica by Dan Goozee

concept art for the battlestar gunnery on Battlestar Galactica by Dan Goozee

I saw you also worked on some of the sketches of some of the fleet ships. Also some technical sketches of the gunnery and stuff like that.

That's what they basically called the ragtag fleet. Some of the gunnery stuff. I used to have more sketches but it's been so long ago. All I have now is some of these brown line reproductions of this stuff that I had.

So how close was the collaboration between you making the sketch and then seeing the actual model? Did you have several meetings in between?

No. John [Dykstra] looked at it, the sketches. John and a couple of guys that were art directors looked at it and they decided based on... They told which part of the sketch they liked and if they didn't like parts of it they told me to do something else.

Actually one of the ships, I sent you a photograph of the actual model, it almost looked exactly like the drawing you did.

Oh? Yeah, you e-mailed me that it might have been used in a different series?

Yeah, it was used in Buck Rogers [in the 25th Century] later.

I knew the guys that did Buck Rogers. In fact, again it's all a pretty small fraternity. Wayne Smith, one of the guys that worked with Doug at Future General and another guy that worked at Future General, they got contracted to do the special effects on Buck Rogers. I may have done a couple of sketches for them as well. I think... I just found something that's so bad, that I didn't even want to show it. They asked me to consult them a little bit on what kind of degree of aging there should be on Buck Rogers' ship when he first came back from floating back in space all the time. That was pretty much the extent of that. As far as any stories about working on the thing, it's pretty much, you know, people working pretty hard and at a certain point they would play hard.

concept art for the never used prison ship of the episode The Gun on Ice Planet Zero on Battlestar Galactica by Dan Goozee

concept art for the never used prison ship of the episode "The Gun on Ice Planet Zero"
on Battlestar Galactica by Dan Goozee

model for the never used prison ship of the episode The Gun on Ice Planet Zero on Battlestar Galactica

model for the never used prison ship of the episode "The Gun on Ice Planet Zero"
on Battlestar Galactica

NOTE: this ship was later used on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century

I've also seen a lot of the sketches that have been used in other series as well. Even one of the Ralph McQuarrie sketches that he made for the viper, was later used for the starcruiser in Buck Rogers.

That is quite possible, quite possible. Ralph McQuarrie is really an extremely talented guy. I saw the stuff. He wasn't there, but I did see the sketches. He was great. Also Apogee was doing work on Star Trek. They were working on some concept stuff for something called V'ger. Sid Mead at one point came down and did some concept work on that.

I remember that. It must have been awesome to meet him. Did you also meet Andrew Probert. He did some costume work [for the Cylons].

His name sounds familiar. I may have met him. I don't think we worked together, if he was working on that. I think he was. It was after I had gone and started working on something else.

He worked on the Cylon costume and also on one of the matte paintings of the Galactica for a special effects shot. Did you also do visual effects shots? Did you do some matte paintings for the Galactica as well?

No, I just did the one that was basically a background. It was sort of a matte background interior of a kind of subterranean. I don't know if that was the one where they were going inside for the gun ("The Gun on Ice Planet Zero") or if it was something else. I can't specify, it's been so many years I don't really recall. The funny thing again, whether it was the Cylons or the Ovions, basically still in those days it was people in suits. Nowadays of course they can make the mechanical looking Cylons in CGI, much more menacing to my eye.

matte painting of the Ovion cave on the Battlestar Galactica pilot by Dan Goozee

matte painting of the Ovion cave on the Battlestar Galactica pilot by Dan Goozee

Did you watch the original series on TV?

Yeah, I watched the original series on TV. We actually went to a premiere. They invited everybody who worked on it to come to see the pilot when they premiered it at Universal at a screening, a special screening. So the cast and crew got to come and I brought my wife and my son. My son was about 4 years old and I introduced him to Glen Larson, the producer, and he said: "Oh, this is great! I want you be sure to let me know what he thinks." Obviously they were hoping for a good audience among very young people, kids and such. People in the area were probably very interested in the product placement. Of course we ended up buying the vipers and the Cylons at Toys-R-Us like everybody else, so...

What things did you see on screen that you actually designed and looked very good on screen?

Well, it's pretty much... I think I did a couple of shots of things like some landing bays too. Again, I don't think I was a major force contributor. I think Joe Johnston and the guys had designed the major things before I got there. Ralph McQuarrie had been working on it, Joe Johnston had been working on it. They had all the major stuff done. The stuff I was doing was peripheral.

Do you also watch the new Battlestar Galactica series?

I watched it for a while and this season, the last season, our TV was out to get repaired, so I was off of cable for about a month and it really threw me off the loop of the storyline.

What do you think of it?

It watched it for the first two seasons pretty religiously and for the most part I was pretty impressed. I have to confess I get rather tired of Baltar. There's too much angst there. Obviously the effects and everything are extremely well done. Visually it's really great. Much more adult and much more dark than the original TV series.

Do you think, since current CGI technology makes a lot more things possible, it also helps the artist being far more creative in the things they can design nowadays?

Yeah, I think so. You know, it's like anything, it's a two edged sword. The good thing is that you can come up with things that you couldn't possibly do physically, also you can create miniatures of scenes or battleships blowing up as they did in Pearl Harbor without having to build the actual thing. However, the bad thing is, that you can get so in love with it that it tends to turn movies into theme park ticket rides.

That's true yeah.

Where you just go along for this wild, crazy rollercoaster ride to the extent that you can do that, you may neglect the story. Also, it's a funny thing, I'm really impressed, but I keep bumping into people who are more and more nostalgic for the days of the old time miniatures and more solid things.

Yes, that's true. I'm also far more into the models and you can give me a man in a suit every day.

It sort of reminded me of... They obviously remade The Poseidon Adventure and they did this kind of [James] Bond. Where the first one was quite a success for it's time, so it kept Fox afloat.

When I heard the new Battlestar Galactica series was doing some original Cylons, I kind of hoped they had people in costumes, but they made them all CGI, so...

Well, yeah, that's the thing. I guess they felt they would look a little clunky in comparison.

Maybe yeah, I don't know. The actors get better as well and the suits get better. You never know.

Again, you can't do all things with the computer. You reach a point in these effects scenes I've seen where people a hurling along the edge of a cliff in a car. It drags it out so long that it becomes almost impossible.

original art for the James Bond poster of Moonraker by Dan Goozee

original art for the James Bond poster of Moonraker by Dan Goozee

It becomes unbelievable. You've also created the original art for the film posters. You did film posters for the James Bond movies Moonraker, Octopussy and A View to a Kill. How did that come about?

That's one of those things. I've worked with Fox. I worked on a movie called Battle for the Planet of the Apes when I was in the art department over there. Someone in the advertising agency that was going to do it, saw some of the sketches, and they invited me to come out and do something, what we call comp sketches, which is in most movies and campaigns, I'm sure you know. They come up with all kinds of ideas and then the studio, the heads at marketing at the studio, make up their minds about which ones they want to pursue into a more finished poster. So, I've done some stuff. I did some other work for them. I worked on comps. That's sort of how I got into that.

Most of the work I did for the film posters where one or two agencies that primarily signed in for the advertising, which was in west LA at the time. Tony Siniger had just run a tremendous amount of products through the agency, so I worked on the [James] Bond films for him. I also worked on The Mission. No, that was for someone else. That was for Paragy. I worked on The Black Stallion Returns, Clash of the Titans, Raise the Titanic and... It just sort of transitioned. At the time when I was wooling out of that, the film work was getting a little slow, so I kind of sidewayed into that. It was a different line of work. I did most of the painting that I was doing for the film posters, as large as I could, figuring I wouldn't have to do them as detailed, but I ended up doing it tight anyway. Most of the original art pieces were about 40 by 60 inches.

That's pretty big.

Pretty big and pretty cumbersome. I was very lucky though. Of almost all of the stuff I did for the film poster work I attained the original art. They basically just paid for the reproduction rights. I've had a sort of minor career in selling those pieces off as time goes by, like a little annuity.

Did you get work with the actors themselves for better likeliness or did you have to rely on photos?

I pretty much relied on production stills. The only time... One of the first preproduction ones I did for Moonraker, the agency, Tony, was going to be in London and he actually took some really nice high quality shots of Roger Moore in the suit. He got them in the right angle since I had sketched them out a little bit. The proportion looked a little bit shortened, but that worked out well. The rest of time, I've always just worked from production stills. They have production still books and you tell them which ones you need and they'd print them. Sometimes they would say that this is the head they want or the head the movie star wants, because in most of those cases, the actor has what they would call "approval".

So they tell you which side [of his face] is better?

Well, yeah. They had certain ones in the production still books that were crossed out and were never allowed to be used at all. They would have these little contact sheets, which a lot of times you were looking at with a magnifying loop and when you would get the actual thing blown up as an 8x10 it doesn't look like what you thought it should look like and then you have to go fishing again.

Did you ever get one back in which the actor thought it didn't look like him?

Let me see, let me see... No, most of them were pretty satisfied. I also did Crocodile Dundee I and II and Paul Hogan seemed to be fairly happy... of what I heard back. The one I did for The Mission, which a lot of people even didn't think was a painting since it looked like a photograph. This waterfall with the figure sort of tight to a crucifix which is going over upside down. In that case I got a stepladder in the backyard and I lay down on a couple of boards and my wife would go up to the top of the ladder and shoot some pictures of me with Polaroid. (laughing)

That's cool.

So I was a model for that one.

Okay. So next to that you've also been a long term consultant for Walt Disney Imagineering and are still producing concept art for their theme parks. Is that right?

Yeah, I've did some work for them this year for some proposed redesign for Disney's California Adventure. I've been working off and on with them for about 20 years. Again that sort of segwayed into something else. Somebody I knew there recommended me and I got to work on a couple of big projects. One I worked for about 4 or 5 years as a consultant - I worked primarily as a consultant in that case - on Tokyo Disney Seas, which is this park they built in Tokyo next to Tokyo Disneyland. Basically it was on land, it was reclaimed from Tokyo Bay. As far as detail it's probably the most lavished Disney parks they ever built, primarily because it was being financed by the Japanese clients, the Oriental Land Company. They're just immense Disney fans and they didn't want any detail spared.

original art for Tokyo Disney Seas by Dan Goozee

original art for Tokyo Disney Seas by Dan Goozee

You said you only went to Hawaii, so you never went to Tokyo then?

Yeah, we did go to Tokyo. We went there. Actually, I was finished with the Japanese clients by then, but we went there a couple of weeks before the official opening. They had what they call a soft opening of the park. They let people in and they'd have the cast members in costumes to interact with the guest as they were called. They'd run the rides and they were working out the fine tuning. They were working out the bugs in the system to make sure everything goes very smoothly on opening day. So we were there for about... I don't know, almost ten days. We spent a few days in the park and then we went up to Nikko, up in the mountain to see the Tokugawa Shrine and all that. It was really a wonderful trip. People we'd worked for, Tim and Cathy Kirk, hosted us over there. They took us all around on just a great trip. The only bad thing was that it was August. And Tokyo in August is the most humid place I've ever been. That was a little uncomfortable, but even so it was very well worth it.

Did you work on the Florida Disney park as well as the LA park?

Yes, I did some work on Anaheim. You mentioned the Splash Mountain. I did some images for that. I also did some initial images for The Big Thunder Ride. I did a lot of work, initially on EPCOT, when they were planning and building EPCOT in Florida, the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. I worked on the Imagination Pavilion and The Seas [with Nemo and Friends] Pavilion, and some later stuff, designed for CommuniCore. I also worked, for almost two years for World Showcase, on a proposed Russian showcase part there. Unfortunately when we were working on it the Soviet Union kind of fell apart. In fact it's when Gorbachev kind of lost out and when Yeltsin, I believe, came in. At one point I was working on a painting for a poster for the history of the arts of Russia and famous people, from Pushkin to Tolstoy I had in there. I had Gorbachev's head and Yeltsin's head. Each day I would get up and watch the news on the television in the morning and I would start painting Gorbachev's head smaller and Yeltsin's head got bigger and bigger (laughing). Who knows...

They might [still do it] one day...

Yeah, I don't know. They were making a lot of money on oil as I understand, so maybe they'll get that section in the park moving again. A lot of the stuff nowadays, the people who are pushing for parks, are in the mid-east in Dubai. Dubai has a lot of projects going on.

Yeah, I know. I'm an architect myself so...

Oh, then you probably see that they have an appetite for inventive architecture.

True, but I think it's a bubble economy. It will pop one day. It can't go on forever. You already see a lot of the island structures there. They're making them, but it doesn't really get filled with good, new projects.

That's interesting. I've looked on Google, I looked up the architecture and some parts there, like Dubai Creek, almost looks like an US development or something. Dubai Creek and some other areas. They look large.

They're pretty big, yeah.

I've worked for all sort of companies for parks, all the way from Korea to Saudi Arabia.

Did you also work on Euro Disney?

Yeah, I did some stuff for Euro Disney but I can't remember what it was. Oh, I did a big painting for the Phantom Manor. There's a couple of books out, one is The Art of Disneyland Paris, and they also got a big book called Imagineering. I did a project for them, which they had called Project Venezuela to cover up the fact that it was going to be built in Virginia, which was going to be some sort of American History theme park. As soon as Virginia found out Disney wanted to come in they really set their heels in and that thing kind of went away.

Too bad.

They were going to build that. Also I did some work on Animal Kingdom as well. I did some preliminary concept paintings for that Everest Adventure ride that they just put in.

Dan Goozee

Dan Goozee

Nowadays you're an award winning painter.

Well, some days. Other days I just sit here and decide which of these things I should burn. Yeah, painting is interesting. It's kind of strange because it's very solitary most of the times. Everything I've done before has been collaborative, from film work to theme park and advertising. There's a lot of people that have a say in what gets done. With painting there's no one to blame but yourself if it doesn't turn out well.

What award are you most proud of winning?

I don't know. I won a couple. I've got a Gold Medal here for the Californian Art Club that I won the first year I was in that exhibition. I'm very happy with that. I don't really think much about awards or pursue them. I'm much happier when somebody comes up to me about a painting that I painted 10 or 15 years ago and tell me they like as much now as when they bought it. That's almost more satisfying than an award.

I'm wondering, does it help being recognized as an artist or does it put a bigger pressure on you?

I don't know. It can go two ways. Today anybody is recognizable thanks to Google or MySpace, or they're making you fairly anonymous. It's pretty amazing. It's not like the old days where magazine illustrators were like rock stars. In the days of Albert Dorne, [Norman] Rockwell, and those people, there weren't any people that knew what they actually looked like. It can be fairly anonymous. I'm afraid that fine art... Unfortunately fine art tends to wander out more in the lime light than illustration. In illustration you don't have to know the guy that you're doing the job for, whereas in fine art the galleries and stuff tend to promote you. You have make public appearances from time to time.

Many of the ancient masters were only recognized after they died and never had the advantage or disadvantage of knowing how it was to be recognized. I was wondering if being recognized makes you paint more since there's obviously a demand for your work or less since you want to keep up the high standard?

That's another interesting thing. You want to keep the standard up, because if you don't keep the standard up people won't want your work anymore. Of course there's a certain amount of buying an artist for name or for speculation...unfortunately. I don't consider myself to be a wildly successful painter by any stretch of the imagination. There are many people that are making a whole lot more money than I am. If I can make enough to get by and am able to paint the things I like to paint, that's pretty much all I care for. As you say, history comes along later and determines after you're dead whether or not you've a rightful place in any kind of pantheon.

You're painting landscapes and figures. What fascinates you in those subjects and how do you pick them?

I pretty much was... due to the fact I was an illustrator was when I first started doing fine art painting. Let's call it gallery painting, it's not fine art. I'm still very much attracted to the figures, because that's what I was familiar with and thought I could do best. I started doing a few landscapes and then in 1993 I was invited by Peter and Elaine Adams to join the Californian Art Club which is one of the oldest organizations in the country.

They have a lot of people in there who we call "plain air painters", which go out to locations to paint like the impressionists. So I started doing that and I became more and more interested in the landscapes. Just from the standpoint that with the landscape you can actually move things around which you couldn't do if you're painting a figure. You can only move the shoulder so much, but you can move a tree all over the place. As I get older as an artist, the thing I admire more and more is composition. Composition in things like still life and landscape is a thing you can play with more. You can work on certain qualities of color and edges more. Sometimes you can also do that in a figure. But I still enjoy the figure. I still go out every week to draw and paint from life models.

For figures, do you make sketches to work out later in your atelier [artist's workroom] or would you rather paint as much as you can on the spot?

Obviously all those years I was doing illustration I was basically working on paintings, and almost all of them are made in acrylic by the way. Almost all work is exclusively made in acrylic paint. This is because in acrylic it's so easy to make corrections and there's always some corrections or redirections. You can just paint right over it. Almost all of the work, the paintings I've been doing lately, are in oils. Just because that's more acceptable and frankly we're doing more negative things in the long term survival of acrylic. Oils have pretty well proven themselves as a medium for time so...

Was it difficult to change?

Uhm... Well, I don't know. You know, some days you wake up and it seems like the middle of the night and you have forgotten what end of the brush the paint goes on (laughing). Other days it seems fairly easy. They're different, that's all. The things you're doing... When you're doing illustration, particularly for advertising services, you're selling something. You're taking something and are making it as wonderful and exciting or funny as you can make it. Something that somebody is wanting to go see. When you're doing a painting you're trying to develop something you have a feeling about and you really want to try and communicate through paint. A question I always like to ask an artist: "If somebody would pay you a million dollars a year to paint, but you'd have to burn it as soon as it was finished and nobody will ever be able to see it, would you take it?" Surprisingly many would say "No". It's interesting since it's an act of self indulgence too, sort of like: "Look at me. Look at me."

That's true, but when you're award winning and there's of course a bigger audience, who also expect something to see.

Well, I don't know. I still get rejected from shows. It's not like... Winning an award is no guarantee of anything. There's an awful lot of people right now [that are painting]. There are probably more people right now inspired to be artists, per capita, than any other time in human history, I think. It's just amazing how many people there are who are painting and wanting to be in shows and galleries. There are literally not enough galleries around to show all the work. But, I mean, we're also in a point in time too where there's taste for all kinds of art. Everything from Modernism to Realism has made quite a comeback the last decade or so. I think it's really great there's such a wide smorgasbord of work out there that the people are interested in.

Carla by Dan Goozee

"Carla" by Dan Goozee

I was actually wondering how you go about painting figures and landscapes. Do you paint most of them on the spot?

No, if it's a very complex piece I'll bring a model in and take some photograph, just like I used to do in illustration. Since obviously nobody has given me production stills like they were on the movie stuff. So I'll work up stuff from that. I'll make small sketches. I usually make some little thumbnail sketches and if I see something I like, I'll blow it up larger and I'll paint from that. When I do landscapes, almost all of the landscapes I do are small and I'm working outdoors in the plain air, either with frenchies or a pruchet box. But even there, I try to do a little thumbnail first so I have an idea what I'm doing. You can't... Only very few painters can just literally walk out there and plot down in any direction and then produce a beautiful painting without giving it much thought.

So you actually do some sketching first?

Yeah, sketching is probably the best thing. I think it's kind of proven when it's something done by hand. Even if you're just scribbling or doodling, something happens in some part of your brain. It helps to open things up. Just the act of your eye watching your hand sort of wandering around the paper making idle sketches or thoughts.

Do you also still do work for motion picture or television?

No, not anymore. I still have a union card, except I've gone inactive. I'm no longer an active member of the union. It's just that I almost have a different skill set nowadays. Most of the stuff... A lot of the guys do it all by computer. I bought Painter, I've got Photoshop and a few other things and I can do some elementary stuff, but I haven't gone over to that. I had a Corel Painter stylist and a tablet and I even did sketching from the model into the computer, just to see if I could try and produce or reproduce or the fact that I might make a red contate drawing, take paper texture and all that sort of things... but then I realized, why try and duplicate the computer what I can already do with just a contate. It's sort of like reinventing the horse. So I decided, let the computer do what the computer does best, I just model along with my paints and my charcoal.

In the end it's also nicer, because otherwise you're just indoors and...

It's kind of a funny thing, because illustrators In Los Angeles years ago... One of their stipulations of their annual exhibitions was that they didn't want people to just put in reproductions in a frame, of something they had done, so the stipulation was that they had to be the original art if they were going to hang it in the exhibition. They wanted to see the original painting or the original paper sculpture or whatever it was and then of course as the computer became more and more manifest... where is the original art? It's on a disk! They had to pretty much do an 180 and pretty much everything you see in the exhibition now is pretty much a print out.

Okay Mr. Goozee, I'd like to thank you very much for doing this interview and also for sending along all those nice images.

Well, thank you. If there are any more questions or things you can think off, let me know.

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