A short history of the first British Star Wars posters

 

The first British quad poster for Star Wars was painted by twins Greg and Tim Hildebrandt (known as 'The Brothers Hildebrandt') in 1977. Dark and mythical, it conjured up images of a different time and place in a galaxy far, far away...

Star Wars first poster by The Brothers Hildebrandt

The first British quad poster by The Brothers Hildebrandt

 

A romanticised Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia took centre stage, against an ominous image of Lord Darth Vader, the Death Star and a fleet of X-Wing fighters going in to battle, painted into the night sky. The strapline read "May the force be with you". Considered too overbearing, too 'dark', this poster was superseded just weeks later by Tom Chantrell's artwork, which instead focussed on the vibrancy of Star Wars, the lightsabers and 'blasters', the explosions and the characters:

Star Wars quad by Tom Chantrell

The second poster, by Tom Chantrell

 

Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia Organa, Grand Moff Tarkin, Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi, C-3PO, R2-D2, Chewbacca and Darth Vader all featured on the poster, together with a squadron X-Wing fighters, a Y-Wing fighter, a lone TIE fighter and the ever-present Death Star. Once again "May the force be with you" was used, whereas in America they went for "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away..."

Star Wars quad by Tom Chantrell with Oscars

The third quad. Chantrell's artwork again, plus Oscars

 

In America Lucasfilm had appointed advertising agency Smolen, Smith and Connolly, who then hired artist Tom Jung, to work on poster designs. It is Jung's work, his design, (below) that actually came first, before the now famous Hildebrandt poster. Jung's poster was majestic, beautiful, understated, but perhaps more 'art' than 'ad'. Fox were very happy with Jung's work, but Lucasfilm wondered, "was it going to sell Star Wars?". So the Hildebrandt brothers were brought in to produce a version of the Tom Jung design.

Tom Jung's majestic design, for the US one sheet. 'Style A'

Tom Jung's majestic design, for the US one sheet. 'Style A'

 

The brothers (Greg and Tim) were well known for their fantasy art. Deadlines were looming and they worked frantically, together and in shifts, for the next 36 hours to complete the project. Their version was very well received, but in the end, in America, they went with the Jung art after all, as is bore a closer resemblance to the actual actors, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher. The Hildebrandt version was more 'fantasy'.

 

Back in the UK and for the movie's initial London release in December 1977 it was the Hildebrandt design that was chosen, slightly altered to fit the format of a quad poster. However Producer Gary Kurtz hired British poster artist Tom Chantrell to design a more vibrant poster, one that shouted 'action' and perhaps better captured the mood of the film itself. So the most famous poster in the history of British cinema was born, Tom Chantrell's Star Wars poster. Months later a second version appeared emblazoned with an Oscar and the caption '7 academy Awards including Best Visual Effects and Best Original Score'.

 

All three pieces of artwork went on to become famous worldwide.

 

Sci-FiMoviePosters.co.uk, July 2014

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