Outside the sci-fi and Disney geek communities, the passing of artist extraordinaire Robert McCall on February 26 sadly did not garner a whole lot of notice. The general public, it seems, it far too interested in Kardashians and people named “Snooki” to notice someone with actual talent.
And boy did Robert McCall have talent. His futuristic paintings were so unique that you knew who the artist was as soon as you saw them. Although McCall produced artwork for a few Hollywood productions, most notably 2001, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and Disney’s The Black Hole, I believe that his influence on filmed visions of the future should be much stronger than it is. Tell me, what do you think of when you envision a futuristic city? Probably something like this:
Why do all futuristic cities we see in movies look like this? Because that’s what Blade Runner looked like, and it was so visionary that it influenced an entire generation of artists. I don’t mean to denigrate the hours of painstaking work it takes create something like this and make it look real when it’s shown on a movie screen, but I believe that the Blade Runner aesthetic has been done to death and it’s time for something different. When Robert McCall started painting his particular brand of futuristic landscape, the technology didn’t exist to render them onscreen in a suitably realistic manner, but times have changed. Isn’t it time for the futuristic cities we see in the movies to start looking like this:
Instead of continuing to borrow from Blade Runner, I think it’s time for Hollywood’s art directors to start borrowing from Bob McCall. Granted, they’d probably have to pay money to his estate for the privilege of using his designs, but it would be money well spent. And wouldn’t McCall’s vision of the future becoming the “default” one in the minds of the moviegoing public really be the ultimate Robert McCall tribute?