We love it when an artist we’re working with is very enthusiastic about the project. That usually means that they are going to do a great job on the subject matter. That was definitely the way with JC Richard on Dragonslayer. In fact, a few hours before the screening we had with Phil Tippett, we received an email from JC where he was ecstatic that Phil was at the screening and even more excited that he was seeing the poster! We surprised JC with the signed piece you see below and JC was also kind enough to share his thoughts on the film…
JC Richard:I’ve had a long-time geek crush on Dragonslayer. Dark in tone and rich in production design, it was the first film I saw as a child that treated the fantasy genre with respect, as if it were some lost history and not merely a kid’s bedtime story. The true star of the film is, of course, the terrifying dragon, “Vermithrax Pejorative,” brought to life by an f/x team headed by legendary Phil Tippett. Sure, there have been many movie dragons rendered since then with more CG polish and sheen, but in my opinion Vermithrax still beats ‘em all.Tippett even created a new camera/motion control system called ‘Go Motion’ for Dragonslayer, a big step forward for animation. Many of the techniques he developed under this system later made the leap to CGI, such as programming a ‘rigged’ character skeleton for repeatable motion and rendering/calculating the optical motion blur between frames. It’s always fascinating when an individual like Tippett can be an artist AND engineer because those skills rarely reside (productively, anyway) in the same brain. As a kid, I endlessly studied his effects work like it was Homer, and those studies led directly to my first creative job as a CG animator, which then led me into everything since… so you could say I owe it all to Vermithrax.
A few random facts about ‘Dragonslayer’, and how they relate to the poster:
* The title doesn’t really refer to any of the human characters (no, I don’t count the last shot with the King). Instead, the name “Sicarius Dracorum” is given to the spear that Galen and Simon forge with the aid of the amulet. The poster contains a minor spoiler in regards to the spear’s ultimate fate.*The symbols at the very top of the poster are actually a form of local inscription writing called Ogham (in use locally at the time of these fictional events, roughly 6th century Ireland). The markings loosely translate into ‘Behold Vermithrax Pejorative, Dragon of Dragons’, a play on a Latin phrase the wizard Ulrich utters in the film.* Vermithrax is technically a Wyvern, a serpent with two bird-like legs and two wings, as opposed to a four legged Dragon with wings on its back. According to legend (and plot), Wyverns also delighted in killing young maidens and relish the taste of human flesh… It was a bit of a challenge coming up with a ‘final’ Vermithrax likeness, since there were many different models used for flying, walking, closeups etc. (16 versions in all).
-Co-produced by Disney and Paramount, the unflinching gore in a few scenes surprised parents that thought they were going to see a cute kid’s movie (another reason why I always loved it!)