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Goonie Poster Artist John Alvin Is Dead at 59

Monday, February 11, 2008  
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John Alvin - PRNewsFoto/Linda Jones Enterprises
John Alvin, 1948 – 2008
John Alvin, who created memorable images for movie posters, billboards and advertisements, including the two fingers touching above the Earth’s surface for “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial,” died on Wednesday at his home in Rhinebeck, N.Y. He was 59.


Goonies fans worldwide will recognize Mr. Alvin as the artist behind the beautiful and, unfortunately, lesser-recognized "map style" poster for The Goonies (see below).

The cause was a heart attack, his daughter, Farah Alvin, said.

Mr. Alvin painted striking images for more than 135 films in a 35-year career, working on projects for directors like Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Blake Edwards, Mel Brooks and Ridley Scott.

“He captured the heart of whatever the assignment was,” Federico Tio, executive vice president of marketing for Walt Disney Studios from 1990 to 2005, said in an interview on Friday. “John became synonymous with almost all of the recent posters for Disney” — for films including “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin,” “The Little Mermaid” and rereleases of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and “Pinocchio.”

“We actually started using him as an adjective,” Mr. Tio said. “We called his work Alvinized.”

click to enlarge
For the 1974 horror spoof “Young Frankenstein,” Mr. Alvin painted looming stonelike title letters rising from a castle that is superimposed over a full moon, with a crazed Gene Wilder and Peter Boyle as the Frankenstein monster tipping his top hat. For “Blade Runner” in 1982, he used a large composite of Harrison Ford’s face over a futuristic city. His 1994 poster for “The Lion King” shows animals of many kinds surrounding a rock to view the newborn monarch.


More recently Mr. Alvin painted posters for the “Star Wars,” “Harry Potter,” “Lord of the Rings” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” series.

John Henry Alvin was born in Hyannis, Mass., on Nov. 24, 1948, the son of Albert and Rena Troutman Alvin, both career Army officers. His daughter said that as a child Mr. Alvin was awe-struck by big-budget movies like “The Vikings” and “The Time Machine” and began sketching his recollections of scenes. In 1971 he graduated from the Art Center College of Design, which was then in Los Angeles and is now in Pasadena.

In addition to his daughter, an actress, who lives in Manhattan, Mr. Alvin is survived by his wife, the former Andrea Brown, whom he met in art school and with whom he later worked on several projects; and a sister, Suzanne Alvin of Seaside, Calif.

In college, Mr. Alvin did some freelance work for Anthony Goldschmidt, an art director in Hollywood. It led to his big break, when he was asked to paint a poster for Mel Brooks’s comic western “Blazing Saddles.”

Mr. Alvin’s poster showed Mr. Brooks wearing an Indian headdress with a headband in Hebrew reading, “Kosher for Passover”; superimposed was an image of Cleavon Little on horseback in sunglasses with a Gucci saddlebag.
John Alvin's online portfolio can be seen at  Additional artwork is available at
Hevesi, Dennis.  "John Alvin, Designer of Memorable Film Posters, Is Dead at 59."  The New York Times
    11 Feb. 2008.  11 Feb. 2008