“Swiss Family Robinson”—A glorious painted illustration & a typical piece of Brian Bysouth work. (Photo: moviepostermem.com)
Disney movies are popular worldwide, and Britain has long had an avid appetite for Disney products. Posters for these movies were re-designed for the British market and it is a little-known secret that one of the U.K.’s best-known poster artists, Brian Bysouth, was responsible for a huge swathe of Disney titles over a 24 year period, from 1970 to 1994.
Bysouth is best known for iconic posters for films such as “The Living Daylights,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark” & “Highlander.” Later in his career, Bysouth also illustrated VHS & DVD sleeves for the “Star Trek” TV series, thus bringing him recognition with a wider audience. Given Bysouth’s collectable “status,” it is not surprising that canny collectors are now turning their attention to his work for the Disney franchise too.
“Treasure of Matecumbe”—Another painted poster illustration & with a “trademark” Bysouth explosion too. (Photo: moviepostermem.com)
Bysouth the Painter
Most U.K. movie posters produced before the early 1990s were painted creations and Bysouth had a particularly painterly style. This is obviously to the fore on the poster for the 1976 re-release of “The Swiss Family Robinson.” Here, Bysouth gives value-for-money with an illustration which is both detailed, all encompassing and aptly conveys the drama and excitement of the film. Indeed, this is a more sophisticated and colourful poster than the original. Re-release posters, however, generally cost less than original releases and, thus, this item would retail for around $70 plus.
The U.K. quad-sized “Treasure of Matecumbe” was also produced in 1976 and employed a similar style. Bysouth was particularly good at depicting explosions and this poster contains a “trademark” Bysouth explosion. Expect to pay $70 plus for this title, too.
An Artist with Stylistic Flexibility
Disney films ranged from animated features to documentary-style dramas and all-action adventures. As such, the style of illustration required for Disney posters would differ movie by movie. Bysouth first starting illustrating U.K. Disney posters between 1969-70 when working for the Downton advertising agency. The original U.K. quad posters for “The Aristocats” (1970) being an early example of his work for Disney. Like all great poster artists, Bysouth could adopt a range of stylistic approaches to his poster illustration and this is one reason for his successful relationship with Disney.
Indeed, the bulk of Bysouth’s work for Disney took place after he turned freelance in 1973. A good example of Bysouth’s artistic range is shown by 1977’s “Pete’s Dragon.” Fittingly for a part animated movie, Bysouth’s illustration is a melange of both animated and impressionistic figures. This poster retails at $70 plus. “The Shaggy D.A.” (1977) is painted in a similar style, with the canine theme cleverly imported into the script for the film title, too (also valued at $70 plus).
“Pete’s Dragon”—Bysouth possessed a range of styles which suited the variety of Disney’s output. (Photo: moviepostermem.com)
“The Shaggy D.A.”—Colourful & clever: Bysouth runs a shaggy dog coat motif through the title script. (Photo: moviepostermem.com)
Bysouth’s Original Artwork
Most movie poster collectors dream of owning a piece of original movie poster artwork. By definition, this material is rare (particularly since quantities were trashed after use in the early days!). The American market sets the pace: in 2011, Howard Terpning’s artwork for “Cleopatra” (1963) fetched $200,000. The British market has lagged, but over the past two to three years, more original movie poster artwork has begun to appear on the market. Values depend on both the standing of a particular artist and the popularity and collectability of the film title.
Very little of Bysouth’s art for Disney posters has survived, but one interesting piece is the artwork for “Herbie Goes To Monte Carlo” (1977). The value of this piece in the current market would be upwards of $1,500. “Herbie” film posters, however, have a good following, not only among Disney fans but motoring enthusiasts, too; the VW marque attracting extra interest. Another fine piece of original Bysouth Disney artwork is that for “No Deposit, No Return” (1976). Being a film with slightly less cache than “Herbie” means that a value of $700-800 would be more appropriate for this artwork.
“Herbie Goes To Monte Carlo”—Bysouth picks up the original style of 1969’s “The Love Bug” with this later Herbie sequel. (Photo: moviepostermem.com)
“No Deposit, No Return”—Some fine detail in this original poster artwork by Bysouth. (Photo: moviepostermem.com)
Bysouth & the Modern Era
Throughout the 1970s and ’80s, Bysouth worked regularly on Disney commissions. As Disney followed a programme of re-releasing major features every seven years, there was a plentiful supply of work. By the early 1990s, however, film distributors (including Disney), switched to photographic poster designs and many artists dropped out of the market. Bysouth’s skill and acumen, however, enabled him to extend his career throughout the ’90s as he developed airbrush skills and a photo-realist approach to his work. Although Disney provided manuals and guides for foreign illustrators, there was still room for an artist like Bysouth to create something distinctive.
An early “rough” by Bysouth for the quad poster for “The Lion King” shows the artists’ creativity and imagination at work. A piece of prototype artwork like this would be valued at $400 in the current market. The finished artwork still, however, looked “modern” and satisfied the demand from the contemporary market. Good examples of Bysouth’s “Lion King” quad poster command prices of $70-100.
“The Lion King” (rough)—A charming preliminary Bysouth “rough” as the artist experiments with designs for the eventual British quad poster. (Photo: moviepostermem.com)
“The Lion King”—A “modern” poster that once again demonstrates Bysouth’s versatility. (Photo: moviepostermem.com)
Whilst “The Lion King” marked Bysouth’s last work for Disney, his ability to move with the times and produce “modern” work ensured his working longevity until he finally retired in 2002.
Bysouth was responsible for a significant body of work. It is estimated that he created almost 35 illustrations for U.K. posters for Disney alone. The quality of Bysouth’s artwork and his stylistic range puts Bysouth at the vanguard of British movie poster artists. Being responsible for some particularly iconic 20th-century posters ensures an enthusiastic following among U.K. collectors.
However, the vast portfolio of work Bysouth produced means that he is affordable for all. Some Bysouth posters can be picked up for under $100, whereas original Bysouth poster artwork can command up to $15,000-20,000. Whilst the U.K. market mimics the development of the American market, a price differential currently does exist and this may provide interesting opportunities for American collectors.
Mike Bloomfield has been collecting cinema & music memorabilia, with a particular focus on U.K. concert memorabilia & quad cinema posters from the 1960s and ’70s, for 30 years. He runs the two MEM Music and Cinema Memorabilia websites—RockPopMem and MoviePosterMem holds private exhibitions too, provides insurance valuations, a consultancy service to the auction industry, and has contributed to various book publications. You can e-mail him at email@example.com.
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