|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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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 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
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
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"
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