Wednesday, December 30, 2015


That time C3PO told me a great joke! This was such a cool day. My pal Marco and I went up to Rancho Obi-Wan to hang out with Steve Sansweet and take the tour. Steve probably has the largest Star Wars collection outside of the Lucas archives and we got to see unbelievable artifacts, toys, and art. By the way, 3PO and I are standing in front of awesome Star Wars wallpaper designed by Super 7 (currently sold out). I'll post some other pics from the visit later. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015


Where else can you find silver miniskirts, purple wigs, Nehru jackets, space-age cars, sci-spy organ soundtracks, and a secret organization posing as a movie studio that battles alien spies? Gerry Anderson's first live-action TV show UFO (1970-71) is coming to Blu-ray! Exciting news! UK distributor Network recently just posted a teaser trailer on their website announcing a 2016 release. My earliest memories of the spy and sci-spy genre are of watching UFO, Batman, and Lost in Space around the age of four or five. UFO thrilled me with its hi-tech vehicles and Nehru fashion. To a young boy, SHADO leader Straker (Ed Bishop), with his perfectly quaffed white hair, cut a dapper dash as a futuristic action hero. Little did I know back then that one of the SHADO ladies was raising a little boy named Benedict Cumberbatch. And I admit the aliens in UFO were quite scary- especially when they brainwashed humans to act as spies and saboteurs! Who can you trust? A wonderful take on the classic invasion-paranoia convention. I didn't see the series in color until A&E's DVD release and was pleasantly surprised to discover how far the team had pushed the pop-art appeal. Now we can see it all in the hi-def edition we've been waiting for! Stay tuned for more info as it becomes available. Learn more about the series and see more stills here. Enjoy!

Monday, December 28, 2015


I had fun this morning looking at an overview of the great matte artists who worked on the original Star Wars films. Man, there was a lot of talent there! It's amazing how they were able to create such believable environments. I haven't quite fully embraced the vibe of the CGI era when it comes to establishing settings and characters. There has been a lot of good work, to be sure, but I often feel too aware of the technology to suspend disbelief. But the organic feel of hand-painted scenes is another thing entirely. I've been teaching photography and film now for almost 30 years and I've seen images go through so many changes, especially in surface quality. Although the technology has improved over the years, the digital age still can't quite capture the lush, sensual vibe of something hand-made. If you've ever A/B compared recordings between analog and digital, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. There's an intangible magic of the human element or performance that is often lost (this occurs, in fact, even between 1st and later pressings of the same LP). Just like the old advertisement used to ask, is it live or is it Memorex? Looking back at these matte paintings reminds me of this phenomenon. Check out the whole article here to see more images and to hear about the process from some of the artists. Thanks to my pal, Jack, for putting this on my radar! By the way, one of my favorite examples of matte work is the film, Danger Diabolik. Mario Bava's adaptation of the Italian comic is a 1960s masterpiece, but I was both disappointed and amazed to learn that Diabolik's secret lair was mostly paint on glass. That's movie magic. If you're a Diabolik fan, check out my related posts on Spy Vibe: Find out how Danger Diabolik did in our Top-10 of Best Set Designs here, Danger Diabolik Soundtrack, Verner Panton Design, Diabolikal Villain Image Archive, Set For Adventure. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 27, 2015


Dov Kelemer and Jo Marks at DKE Toys created an interesting group exhibit about ten years ago. Choosing Darth Vader as a theme for a platform show, they procured 100 prop replicas of the Dark Lord's helmet and invited artists from around the world to contribute their customized designs. The group included many heroes from the Pop Surrealist/Lowbrow movement such as Josh Agle (Shag), Gary Baseman, Tim Biskup, Ron English, Paul Frank, Jesse Hernandez, Sun-MinKim, David Horvath, Joe Ledbetter, Tokidoki, Ragnar, Secret Base, and Amanda Visell. The helmets traveled to eight exhibitions between 2007 and 2010. A full-color catalog is available at the project website. Learn more: The Vader Project, LA Weekly, Wired. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 26, 2015


In our time of weekend blockbusters and constant diet of CGI, it's probably hard to imagine a time when dazzling special effects and futuristic design were a cool rarity. The original Star Trek series (the only Trek made at the time) established a 1960s Pop vibe for the future, but we children of the 1970s waited most of the decade to discover our Sci-Fi. George Lucas himself came up against opposition when he pitched his space opera. The view from the industry was that Sci-Fi was a thing of serials and 1950s bug-eyed monsters, or perhaps the cerebral experiences of 2001 and Solaris. The execs who turned him down must share a spacial place in hell as the guy who told The Beatles "guitars bands are on the way out". One of the unique qualities Star Wars established was the idea of the lived-in universe. These were not mere props and costumes fresh from the production rooms, but rich elements of the narrative that made us feel we were dropped into a real world already in progress and with a rich history of character and conflict. It's a quality that I'm pleased to see back on screen in this year's Force Awakens! When Lucas was developing his story, he turned to artist Ralph McQuarrie to create visuals to bring his ideas to life. McQuarrie's images focussed especially on characters, and his rendition of the light saber duel between Skywalker and Vader is legendary (see below)! He created such dynamic scenes, using depth staging and diagonal movement. A number of figures have been produced based on McQuarrie's designs, but a two-piece statue by Kotobukiya is the one to hunt down. There were many interesting little variations in the character designs and costumes, which we might look at later, but today I want to share a series of video clips about McQuarrie the artist. Many of McQuarrie's friends and colleagues got together after his passing in 2012 to make a tribute film and talk about his special talent and imagination. Long-time SW Fans will spot Doug Chiang, Steve Sansweet, Lorne Peterson, Dennis Muren, and Marc Gabanna among the guests. You guys can find some cool McQuarrie art books and prints here. Enjoy!

Friday, December 25, 2015


May the Holidays be with you! Welcome to the first post of ATARI DAYS. I was inspired to create this site by my memories of pop culture and toys of the 1970s-1980s- as well as Ernie Cline's novels, Ready Player One and Armada! I will share daily images of cool artifacts, and when time allows, I'll feature interviews and my own writing about the period. Enjoy!