Out-of-This-World Poster Artist Bob McCall
By Allan Maurer
The Style A poster for the 1968 Stanley Kubrick movie “2001: A Space Odyssey,” done in different sizes, depicts the wheel-shaped Space Station One, is the most common.
Science fiction superstar Isaac Asimov once called Bob McCall “the nearest thing we have to an artist-in-residence in outer space.”
Starting off with a love of aviation and a desire to draw, McCall has become one of the foremost illustrators of the history of aviation, documenting space missions, designing commemorative stamps and patches for space shuttle crews.
If you have been to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, you probably recall his magnificent six-story tall mural depicting man’s conquest of the Moon that dominates one wall of the main floor.
McCall excelled at painting the future. As a young commercial illustrator, his work appeared in leading magazines, including The Saturday Evening Post and Popular Science. Then, in the early ’60s, Life asked him to illustrate an article on future spacecraft.
His visionary work on this project led to an invitation from Stanley Kubrick to come to England to paint advertising posters for the film “2001: A Space Odyssey” (MGM, 1968). The posters he produced for Kubrick, depicting the technology of the future, are highly collectible today. Three different one sheets are in circulation.
The Style B poster from “2001: A Space Odyssey” shows men working on the Moon.
Style A, done in different sizes, depicting the wheel shaped Space Station One, is the most common. An authentic 1968 poster in excellent condition sold for about $650 at auction last year. A similar poster was used for the 1980 rerelease of the film, and a version was adapted for the 2001 rerelease.
A French version of the 1968 one sheet (a one sheet is usually 27” by 41” vertical, the most common style of poster today) sold for $131.
Other sizes of this poster are even more desirable. A three sheet (a vertical poster 41” by 81”) of Style A sold for nearly $1,200 in 2008. A six sheet measuring 81 x 81 brought nearly $800.
A one sheet of Style B, showing men working on the Moon, sold this year for about $700, while a copy autographed by actors Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood brought about $950.
Style C, depicting the Centrifuge, is the rarest and most valuable of the McCall “2001” posters. It was designed specifically for the Cinerama version and was sent only to theaters equipped with the wide screen technology. A Style C one sheet sold at auction for over $4,000 in 2007.
The rarest of “2001: A Space Odyssey” posters is the Style C, depicting the Centrifuge. It was designed specifically for the Cinerama version and was sent only to theaters equipped with the wide screen technology.
One aspect of McCall’s work is its almost photographic quality. The Style C is an excellent example. Although it looks like a photograph or still from the film, it is in fact an illustration. McCall’s printed signature appears in the lower left corner.
A variety of other artwork McCall created for Kubrick’s epic is occasionally seen, including standees, banners, counter displays, insert posters (vertical, 14” by 36”, a format no longer seen, including some controversial “minty white” versions), lenticulars, lobby cards (11” by 14”), window cards, pressbooks (which contain stories, art, and posters available for advertising), movie stills and large format 40 x 60 glossy posters—all highly collectible.
A half sheet (horizontal, 22” by 28”) with McCall’s artwork recently brought nearly $800 at auction.
None of McCall’s “2001” artwork comes close in value to another “2001” movie poster, called “The Eye,” created for the 1969 launch of the 70mm version of the film. The psychedelic Eye, used primarily for “wild” posting on building sites and bulletin boards, was printed in far smaller quantities than any of the other posters, and typically brings upwards of $9,500 when one appears at auction.
McCall also created illustrated posters for the films “Ice Station Zebra” (MGM, 1968), “Tora! Tora! Tora!” (20th Century Fox, 1970), and “Juggernaut” (United Artists, 1974).
The Eye,” created for the 1969 launch of the 70mm version of “2001” features the psychedelic Eye, used primarily for “wild” posting on building sites and bulletin boards.
Posters from “Juggernaut” can be found for as little as $16, while “Ice Station Zebra” posters bring from $35-$85, depending on condition. McCall’s posters for “Tora! Tora! Tora!” go for around $100; a set of eight lobby cards, mostly illustrations, sold for $262 in 2008.
Other films that show McCall’s vision of future spacecraft and technology include the Disney film “The Black Hole” (1979), on which he served as art director, and “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” (Paramount, 1979). Some of his illustrations were used on the lobby cards for these films, which average $250-$300 for a mint-condition 8-piece “Star Trek” set and $35-$65 for “The Black Hole” set. Examples of McCall’s original illustrations for these films can be seen online at www.mccallstudios.com.
Allan Maurer is a Worthologist who specializes in movie memorabilia.
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