Tag: COVID 19

Harry Potter Day, Harry Potter Art, COVID, Kindness, and Contributions

After all is said and done, Harry Potter is about love. It’s about tolerance and hope and acceptance and teamwork. 

One of the things that has struck me in the last few days, with HARRY POTTER DAY (the anniversary of The Battle of Hogwarts), is how inspiring the stories of Harry Potter are right now, as it relates to how we deal with and get through this horrible, challenging time of the pandemic.

I thought of how we can approach it all, and how can can help each other heal…Many have heard about New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s success at “doing what few countries have been able to do”, and contained the spread of COVID-19. The country has had far less than 100 deaths from the virus, due to a number of measures, ones that the entire country committed to and supported, as well as the clarity of the message coming from the government. Unlike other countries that declared “war on COVID-19”, the message was about coming together, and “unite against COVID-19”. The prime minister called the country “our team of five million.” When speaking to the country, she almost always ended her appearances with “Be strong. Be kind.” 

That reminds me so much of the way Dumbledore spoke to Harry. In remembering and looking at some of the brilliant wizard’s quotes, he has so much to teach us about how to approach, survive, and maybe even thrive during this pandemic. 

The headmaster knew that how a leader speaks to his or her followers can make all the difference:

“Words are, in my not so humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic, capable of both inflicting injury and remedying it.”

Dumbledore knew the importance and power of kindness. 

“Just like your mother you’re unfailingly kind … a trait people never fail to undervalue, I’m afraid.”

On patience and compassion for those who are vulnerable as we move forward in the coming months:

“Dark and difficult times lie ahead, Harry. Soon we must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.”

On the universality of the whole world dealing with this pandemic and the profound losses it has created:

“While we may come from different places and speak in different tongues, our hearts beat as one.”

“… we are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided … Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open.”

On the challenges we are all facing, and staying positive:

“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”

On the issue of disagreements about testing, mortality rate, and how the president is doing:

“It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to your enemies, but a great deal more to stand up to your friends”

There are so many other quotes from the books that resonate right now, but perhaps it’s Sirius Black who captures how we must all proceed, both in terms of how we treat others around us, and how we find a way beyond our own despair: 

We’ve all got both light and dark inside of us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.” 

Sure, there’s an actual battle, which is part of a war against the forces of darkness, that leads to the climax of the series. I would argue the fight, or the war, is not on the virus itself. It’s on the apathy, despair, and hopelessness the pandemic has caused. People showing compassion and concern for those on the front lines, for the most vulnerable among us, the poor who are more at risk: that’s the new Dumbledore’s Army.  It is based in kindness and love, just the kind the Jacinda Ardern has shown in her leadership as New Zealand’s Prime Minister. 

With all that in mind, we decided to offer, as we so love to do and are inspired to do right now, a charity donation for all sales of Harry Potter art to the HOUSE OF RUTH, a charity that empowers women, children and families to rebuild their lives and heal from trauma, abuse and homelessness.

As you may have heard, domestic abuse during the pandemic and in quarantine has been on the rise, and we want to help those who are put at risk. The spirit of Harry Potter and Dumbledore’s Army, seems perfectly suited to that challenge.

For every sale, we will donate to HOUSE OF RUTH, through July 31st, Harry’s (and J.K. Rowling’s) own birthday. Harry had to deal with domestic abuse. Let’s help some people get past it in the real world.

CLICK HERE TO SEE ALL THE HARRY POTTER ART AVAILABLE FOR SALE!

Artinsights continues to celebrate the art of Harry Potter, with Mary GrandPré book cover art, Jim Salvati Harry Potter concept art, and Stuart Craig art of the Harry Potter production design, all official Harry Potter art. (Harry Potter art is the only art program that has steadfastly required art that is sold be only by artists who actually worked on the film or illustrated the books. Fan art is another matter, but you all know that!) 

We’ve spoken about Harry Potter book cover art with Mary GrandPré on a number of occasions. When we first focused on it and released the first official images, only a few books had been released. It was great fun going through the next 4 books or so, and then the movies, talking to her from time to time. She had a few favorite images, and they changed, of course, as the story of Harry Potter expanded and the boy grew older and, sometimes, sadder. When you look at the collection of deluxe book covers, (and it’s not as easy to do when you just have the books) you can see how she worked with JK Rowling to go from bright colors of The Sorcerer’s Stone and The Chamber of Secrets, to a more and more monochromatic palette in Prisoner of Azkaban and Goblet of Fire to Order of the Pheonix and Half Blood Prince and finally to a very adult-looking cover for The Deathly Hallows.

Mary GrandPré told me the last cover was her favorite, although she told me she loved the special images released as Escape From Gringotts and Number 12 Grimmauld Place so much that she wished those two images had been used as Harry Potter book covers. 

As for the smaller images which were the first released as official art, she also said she had particular favorites.

Counting the Days, with Harry and Hedwig, Diagon Alley, which captures Hagrid and Harry’s found-family friendship, The Enchanted Car, and Battle with the Dragon, and Mirror of Erised were all images she mentioned to me by name. We also talked about A World of Infinite Magic, which she did early on and had chatted with Rowling about. GrandPré wanted to create an image where you could stare at it for a long time, and still see new things.

Do you see the profile of a witch? No? Keep looking!

Notice a lot of elements are in different locations in this art. Rowling changed some of the places things were as the books went along, something that concerned Stuart Craig as he was designing the environments in the later movies. Rowling said that as the world of Harry Potter is magical, it would make sense for things to change! Magic is your continuity friend!

Speaking of Stuart Craig, when I spoke to him about his career and his work on the Harry Potter film series, I got the sense of his pride in his work for the movies. He knew, rightly, that his impact on the consistency, his ability to weave a visual magic through all of the films, made them something fans could return to and celebrate again and again. It wasn’t easy getting Stuart Craig Harry Potter art added to the official roster of images available to collectors. Doubt of the story with the boy that lived, and its longevity, once again reared its ugly head. He’s someone who just thought Harry Potter film art wouldn’t sell, especially his. We are so grateful he was able to be persuaded to the contrary! 

Here is the interview I did when with him when the film series was coming to a close:

HarryPotter-StuartCraig

The Stuart Craig art released based on his work on the films were created from his original drawings and the full-color images created by architectural artist Andrew Williamson, showing once again that the finished product we see as fans is built from many artists’ hands. What we see in the theaters is the result of an impressive creative community made up of hundreds of talented people working together..but beyond the director, someone, an artistic leader with a singular vision, has to lead, and that someone is two-time Oscar winning production designer Stuart Craig. 

Here are some of the Stuart Craig Harry Potter limited editions based on his work in the film: YOU CAN FIND THEM ALL FOR SALE BY CLICKING HERE.

Jim Salvati worked on the the first few films, when Rowling wanted to have some concept art that felt painterly.

Jim was and still is one of the last concept artists working in the industry who works that way, and often worked on Warner Bros. projects, he was the go-to for Harry Potter concept art.

Interestingly enough, he was recently contracted again by Warner Bros., to create an entirely new style guide for Harry Potter, and worked on over 80 new digitally painted pieces for them, to be used as art, reference, and in any other way that they needed specific art-based images. They hadn’t kept good reference materials on a lot of characters and environments from the movies, so they had him do just about anything and everything you can think of. Jim Salvati is still in high demand as a movie concept artist, but the Harry Potter art project took over a year to complete, so that kept his hands full!

To me, the art of Harry Potter really does celebrate in visual art, the spirit of tolerance, hope, acceptance, and teamwork. Despite John Krasinsky, we don’t have enough good news right now. If all this blog does is remind you of the power and magic of positive thinking, I’ve done at least part of my job. 

So. Let’s pivot to Darren Criss, which seems like a turn into left field, but it isn’t. Why? Well, first off, as many fans of both Harry Potter and Darren Criss know, without Harry Potter (and StarKid) he would not be famous. Darren got his start with a little thing called “A Very Potter Musical” (or AVPM) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Very_Potter_Musical  Along with his pal A.J. Holmes, he wrote the music and lyrics to the parody, and it made him Harry Potter-famous. How famous is that? Famous enough to get hired on Glee, which made him a huge star. Just listen to all the squees on the “Future of Harry Potter” panel from 2010…(Yup. That’s me, right next to him..) 

Darren Criss at The Future of Harry Potter panel in 2010. He’s Harry Freakin’ Potter!

Darren has a new miniseries from Ryan Murphy called Hollywood! Here’s the trailer:

Oh, Darren, how you’ve changed! You’re a star, kid!

It connects well with Harry Potter, because, let’s be honest. Harry Potter, regardless of what has happened since the release of the series, is about inclusivity, and that’s the subject of the new show. There’s also a connection between Darren Criss and animation (apart from his famous love of Disney songs).

Darren as Superman? You’re from the stars, kid! (heh heh.)

He’s just been announced as the new voice of Superman, in Superman: Voice of Tomorrow coming this summer, with Zachary Quinto as Lex Luthor! It follows Clark Kent working as an intern at The Daily Planet, and features villain and anti-hero fan favorites, Parasite (Brett Dalton of Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D.) and Lobo (Ryan Hurst, who plays Beta on The Walking Dead). 

For all those reasons, and because there are lots of kids all over the country and the world who didn’t get to celebrate their graduation and haven’t seen their friends in way too long, and, of course, to celebrate Darren Criss’s continued success, this week’s COVID Cartoon Comfort is being replaced with COVID Criss Comfort, through two videos, that go together wonderfully! 

The first is his opening song in A Very Potter Musical in 2009. The musical, all told, has over 100 million views on YouTube.

The second is his performance of the same song at a concert in 2018. OK FANS, SING ALONG! (everyone else is!)

We hope you have found this little blog about hope inspiring. If you’re looking to find some artistic joy, maybe you’ll be inspired to add to your Harry Potter art collection. Either way, stay safe, be good, and remember,

“It is our choices … that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” <3

The Story of The Iron Giant, John Alvin, Brad Bird, art, and a pandemic.

What do Vin Diesel, Sylvia Plath, Gun Control, Pete Townsend, John Alvin, and The Sixth Sense have in common? 

They are all connected in some way to cult classic and critical darling The Iron Giant, which was famously successful Pixar exec Brad Bird’s directorial debut, back in 1999. At the time, it was a flop. In fact, after sitting through the film on opening day surrounded by only 6 other people, producer John Walker stood outside an LA theater and offered to buy people tickets to see the film. 

While wading through all the wonderful art in the John Alvin art collection, we found original art he created for The Iron Giant movie campaign. Ever since I saw the giant make a dramatic cameo in Ready Player One, the big sweet robot has been more in my thoughts, so it was doubly exciting to find work by John representing the movie, especially since art from the film is so hard to come by. As with some of the best film flops like The Princess Bride, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Blade Runner, and Fight Club, The Iron Giant has grown in popularity and appreciation year after year, as more generations and savvy movie lovers get to see it and fall head over heels with it. 

However, as I discovered researching The Iron Giant for this blog, there is much sadness surrounding both the original story and the film. I guess somewhere in the deepest recesses of my collective unconscious mind, I must have sensed it was the perfect film to highlight while our global family is struggling with the sadness and shock of a sweeping pandemic.  

The story is based on a book called The Iron Man: A Children’s Story in Five Nights, by poet Ted Hughes, who wrote it to cheer his children through the loss of their mother Sylvia Plath, who killed herself by sticking her head in an oven, having sealed the room between herself and her children with tape, towels, and cloths. That’s a rather dire start, I’ll admit, but it came from a place of a parent’s desire to comfort, which resonates right now. The book was published in 1968, though for US publication, the name was changed to The Iron Giant so as not to confuse it with the Marvel character. 

Vin Diesel was the voice of the title character, and he was hired for the role very early in his acting career, having only been really landed on Hollywood’s radar through playing Private Caparzo in Saving Private Ryan. The Iron Giant also featured the voices of Jennifer Aniston as Hogart Hughes’s mom Annie, Harry Connick Jr. as beatnik Dean McCoppin, and Cloris Leachman as Hogarth’s schoolteacher Mrs. Tensedge.  

Pete Townsend took the book and turned it into a musical. This is where it gets awesome. It STARRED NINA SIMONE! (and John Lee Hooker, and Roger Daltrey..) On the strength of stage version mounted in 1993 at The Old Vic, Warner Brothers bought the rights to the story, and that’s how the making of the movie got its beginnings. 

Here she is, singing “Fast Food”, one of the songs from the musical:

Here’s a music video with Pete Townshend made for the breakout hit from the musical, A Friend is a Friend:

Since John Alvin had done work for the previous animated film by Warner Brothers, Quest for Camelot, Alvin Studios was brought in early on, to work on logo designs. They are some of the only images from the film out in the world. We are thrilled to have the only John Alvin art from The Iron Giant, all of which, if purchased, comes with an official certificate of authenticity from the estate of John Alvin.

Glorious logo designs for The Iron Giant, from one of the preeminent
movie campaign artists in film history, John Alvin.

Most of the production art resides, bizarrely, 650 feet under the ground in a salt mine that’s been in existence since the 20s, where Warner Brothers archives many of their films. The art is beautiful. (and you can buy a book on The Art of The Iron Giant HERE.)

One of the many reasons why the film didn’t do well in initial release, is the fact that other surprising films came out at the same time. Both The Sixth Sense and The Blair Witch Project came out at the same time. Still, those films certainly don’t have the obsessive fanbase The Iron Giant has built since 1999. 

As to gun violence? When Brad Bird pitched the idea after reading the original book, he said he wanted to make it a bit different, and offered, “What if a gun had a soul?” This came out of mourning. Brad Bird’s sister Susan was shot to death  by her estranged husband. 

“Maybe because I was still trying to draw together my own pieces after the death of my sister,” he said, “I had an epiphany: What if a thing developed a soul and what if that thing found out that it was designed to kill, but didn’t want to kill? What if a gun had a soul and didn’t want to be a gun?”

About his loss, he said, “When you shoot somebody, you’re not just killing that person. You’re killing a part of all the people that love that person.”

There’s a quote in the movie by Hogarth to his gigantic friend, “It’s bad to kill. Guns kill. And you don’t have to be a gun. You are what you choose to be. You choose.” 

Brad Bird dedicated The Iron Giant to her. 

The message of the film is about sacrifice, and, as the quote “You are who you choose to be” says, it’s about embracing who you are, not who others wish you to be, or what a hard life, or challenges, (like the ones we are experiencing now!) have allowed you to become. These are all so powerful, given the current state of the world. For most of us, nothing we are doing right now is easy. There are many sacrifices. However, we can go beyond the idea that we are just about money, and power. The world community can show right now that it is more than that. We can show love and compassion to each other.