Monday, December 21, 2009

'Does anyone here remember - Roger Dean?'

Well - Now that Avatar by James Cameron has officially been released, and a few more video clips and stills are available, I think I really have to comment on something that struck me the very first time I saw the first images:

Did British artist Roger Dean get any credit for what is clearly an extension of his own imaginative works from the 1970's?

(Note - the remote access images sometimes do not load - so use the links)
"The above image is one of the best concept art images released to date for James Cameron’s Avatar. The image is by artist Dylan Cole"
Floating Mountains - from AvatarFlying Creature - from Avatar
Floating Jungle is the picture created by Roger for the Yes box set "In a Word: Yes (1969 - )".Flights of Icarus, one of the images from the worlds of Roger Dean's Floating Islands

Now, I would have bought my original copy of Roger Dean's book 'Views' pretty close to when it was first published in 1975. I started art school just about that point, and I know that volume of illustrations, album covers and concept designs, had a profound effect on my own developing style. (If you are interested, check the profile of my 'Riverdale' metalwork style and the influences that I drew on.)

Nothing comes out of a vacuum, I would be the first to admit. But those who are familiar with the striking set of covers for the British band Yes illustrated by Dean over the early 70's can not fail to see the outright duplication of ideas, lines - even colours.

When LIFE imitates art, that can be amazing.

When ART imitates ART, well, there is another word for it...

PS - I would recommend readers to take a look at Roger Dean's own web site at :

Addition : 1/21/10

In the month since I first posted this piece, a couple of things of note have happened:
First, I have gone and seen AVATAR, and quite enjoyed it. I published my review of the film in general as 'Avatar (yet another) Review'.
Second, there has been this weird and massive increase of readers. An increase of something like 3 X the number of readers in the last month. Admittedly, most of them starting right at the piece you see here. I can only hope any of you parachuting in on the Avatar target might take a look at some of the other offerings. If you are a fantasy film buff, you might find my work on objects for Outlander of some interest. (If you are *really* interested, search above for 'Outlander', there are a good half dozen plus posts altogether.)
Third, I would suggest you take a look at the comments (below) from other readers related to this topic. Seems I'm hardly the only one who noticed the similarity to Dean's work. And no, there was no mention of Roger Dean in the film end credits (I sat through them all). According on one comment, Cameron quite specifically denied that Dean was a source of any inspiration.
Imagine that!

I have drawn most of the images directly from the official web sites containing them. The bottom image was scanned from the cover of Dean's second volume of work - 'Magnetic Storm'.


Steve Muhlberger said...

I remember -- last year this time I was watching on video a relatively recent Yes video (2003? 2005?). It was brilliant but why it is relevant here is that it included a fine feature on Dean.

Anonymous said...

Interesting that you would pick up on that. James Cameron is well known to hijack images from fine art and use(abuse) them in his productions. One of our local artists (Sally Mann) was remunerated, in blood and in cash, for the images Cameron hijacked for the film Titanic. If I remember correctly the images magically disappeared from the VHS/DVD release.

Steve Muhlberger said...

Now that I've seen the movie I'd like to say that the flying sequence -- which follows Jake getting his mount -- is like being plunged into a "Yes" album circa 1976, or perhaps Anderson's Olias of Sunhillow. Your remarks about artists being immersed (probably from being in the womb) in the Roger Dean aesthetic are right on, but I think the associated music was an influence, too.

Unknown said...

im a huge roger dean fan. have been for years. when i saw avatar, which was gorgeous, btw... one of the most beautiful films i've seen in awhile.... i was constantly thinking of roger dean. the arches, the floating islands, the forests and landscapes, the colors of the flying dragons... at the end i searched the credits carefully and said... wtf? not even a thank you to roger for these ideas? for the inspiration? not one acknowledgement at all. im a big james cameron fan too, but to not even mention roger dean's influence in that film is rediculous. i think he should sue for copyright infringement. gimme a break, james. and ILM (industrial light and magic) who did most of the specials for this film.... common; you guys HAVE to be roger dean fans... why not give him SOME credit???

Anonymous said...

Great, great movie! Definately one of my top favorites. As I was watching, I was sure that Roger Dean was hired to design the entire visual concept. How exciting! I am a very happily born and raised Yes fan, and Roger Dean’s incredible Yes album artwork filled my childhood (and adulthood) with visual wonderment- the perfect accompaniment to Yes’s dreamy-imagery inspiring, and universally positive concept music. Lets call a spade a spade here, it is obvious that Pandora is Roger Deans world, just get out your old Yes albums and have a look! It is obvious they didn’t want to pay Roger Dean for his intellectual and artistic property. Its obviously plagerism and I hope Roger sues and wins!

Anonymous said...

yes....I mean YES! I was drawn to this movie because of the imagery - now I see why. Been a fan of Yes artwork by Roger Dean since my first exposure to YES in 1982 or thereabouts - my husband and I were looking through the credits to see if Roger Dean was referenced....but nothing! We wonder what HE thinks of this move. PS.. the movie is fabulous - but part because of this Roger Dean influenced art!

Anonymous said...

I've just got back from seeing the film, and it is clear that many of the images are just like seeing Roger Dean's work come to life! Great film, but I totally agree with others that RD should get a HUGE credit for the design of this movie!

Gregg said...

I think someone needs to start a blog called Roger Dean needs to sue James Cameron. I did the exact same thing that Steven did and sat through the entire list of credits, and there was not a single mention of Roger Dean anywhere! I was blown away when my friend who I went to see the movie with said "Wow what imagination, I would have never thought of something like floating islands!" I told him that was a complete ripoff of Roger Dean and told him that in a time when album cover art was every bit as important as the content of the music itself, Mr. Dean was a master. I am sending him the link to Roger Dean's website, and will even take him some of my Yes albums, views book to prove it to him. Mr. Cameron give credit, where credit is due.

Sam Simaan said...

I am a big fan of yes and as an art major in my youth loved the work of Roger Dean and copied it for paintings to my friends and family, My wife and I just saw Avatar, and through out the movie I was struck with the beautiful work, all I could think of was this is Roger Deans work, I was in art heaven. I Camoren says he was not influnced by Mr. Dean then I would have to say as a fan of his work is he is lying. It was beautiful it wonderouse, and brought back many wonderful memories of a mind set of beauty that can only be called Roger Dean. He deserves creative credit in our minds and hearts regardless what anyone in Hollywood says.

Sam Simaan

Sebastian said...

Wow, I can see that I`am not alone with my thoughts.

I have seen Avatar three times. Cause I was taken away by the "poetic power" of the movie and the Roger Dean art. Without telling my thoughts to my girlfriend, she grinned at me, saying that Cameron and his team didn`t know of Roger Dean, noooo ... ;-)

Maybe someone out there would like to make a youtube video? Call it "Avatar" or the like, showing a collection of Roger Dean paintings. At the end of the video, the viewer is told that the pictures he so enjoyed were done by Mr. Dean, the famous British illustrator/painter/pattern maker.
And one could ask, 'Mr. Cameron, would you like to say "thank you" to Roger for his inspiration?'
Or so. You native speakers can do better.

Question to Sam Simaan: did I get this right, Dameron already took a stand to the Dean-issue? Or was it just hypothetical?



Dexter said...

Looking for exactly what this blog describes I found my way here....;-)
After seeing Avatar in 3D last monday, I was overwhelmed with emotional feelings of a significant magnitude.
Yes! This was as close to what I always imagined it to be if the artwork Roger Dean did for a number of YES albums would come alive.
I mean, there I was in the movie theater with tears rolling from my eyes looking at the sequence where Sully bonds with his flying dragon for the first time.
Not something one would expect a 53 year old man to do right? ;-)

But because the work of Roger Dean and the music of YES influenced my teen years to a point where it was almost an obsession, I am not ashamed of it.
In 1975 I tried very hard to copy the YES artwork that Roger Dean did on the Yessongs album with watercolors and gouache, using a plant spray (no money for a airbrush at that time) and I still have some of my works nicely tucked away in a safe place.
Of course my family would ask me where I got the inspiration for those wonderful paintings and I would eagerly tell them about Roger Dean and his beautiful artwork and why I rather wanted to copy that rather than make something of my own. (making my own art came many years later when I became a professional photographer)
This is why I feel that, even though the film is utterly beautiful, the shameless use by James Cameron of Roger Deans fantasy and ideas without giving him the credits for it is, to say the least, disgraceful.
I hope that Mr.Cameron soon realizes that he should give proper credit to Roger Dean for being such a wonderful source of inspiration to him while making the movie.
If not.....well, I guess that sueing Mr. Cameron is the way to go for Roger Dean.
He would win such a procedure with great ease, because there's no way that a judge would fail to recognize the original work of Roger Dean being stolen by Cameron and used in this movie.


Dexter (the bald guy standing on his seat clapping at the very end of the YES video Soon (Live 2002) on Youtube)

IT support said...

I only saw Avatar this week and almost immediately the film went into the native landscape I thought Roger Dean and album covers from Yes LPs. So I hope he does get some credit for the film although I didn't see any mention in the film credits.

Just Wade said...

Just got home from the movie and came online to excitedly show my wife the brilliant works of Roger Dean (whom she's never heard of), only to find this blog. I felt that I just had to take a minute and pipe in, if only just to show my support for all of you here that share in my thoughts that this movie, as beautiful as it is to see, is a complete disgrace without credit for the creative force behind those images being given the recognition that is so rightly deserved. Shame on Mr. Cameron. Not that he cares. It's made him rich(er). And to people like him, that's all that matters in life. Well, that, and clapping for himself at awards shows.

Anonymous said...

I saw Avitar with my 15 year old daughter and told her in the middle of the movie, "This looks like it was inspired by Roger Dean". She's 15 and didn't know Roger Dean, so I google it, and your site came up. How refreshing I'm not alone in my thoughts. The floating mountains is where I first noticed it, but the colorful flying dragons (?) also reminded me of his work. I hope Roger Dean got some credit for the inspiration, I didn't stay for all the credits.

Laura Hodges

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your post. I enjoyed the film very much but before I went to see it I did not seen any trailers. Only one picture of Jake. So suddenly I realised I was in the middle of Roger Deans artwork. Amazing experience because I love his artwork. And Yes being my absolute favourite band ever, I almost thought I would here some Yes music too. Wrong! Then home again I searched the internet for some credits to Roger Dean. Could not find any. I think it is shameful. Good thing though that so many people are crediting him anyway.

Samantha said...

When Cameron was asked if he got the idea for the floating mountains from an album cover of the rock band Yes, he replied with a laugh, "It might have been ... Back in my pot-smoking days." --- that was on wikipedia. I'm not sure where they got the interview or quote, but obviously the YES albums in question featured Dean's work.

Unknown said...

interesting that cameron would say that. he has also said, on oprah i believe, that (sic) ' the ideas were hazy and general ideas from my imagination, but a lot of the specifics were fleshed out by the visual effects department.' or something to that effect. well, that may well be true. he used lucasfilm's ILM industrial light and magic for the special effects, and i KNOW that those artists have to be familiar with Roger's work... either way, both cameron and ILM ripped of Roger Dean for many of his ideas, the flying dragon's and their colors, the floating rocks, and the stone arches were the main three i saw. i am not aware that Roger has commented publicly on this issue, but his website has put up all the links from people all over the web that have seen Avatar and thought about Roger Dean. I hope that, like Sally Mann was renumerated for her artistic and intellectual property, Roger Dean will be as well.

Anonymous said...

Having managed to avoid all trailers, reviews and comments on the film beforehand, I was completely thrown by the immediate recognition of Roger Dean's work finally brought to life. Excited but a bit distracted, YES, I loved the film pictorially (disappointed with the same-old plot though). And, yes I too sat through the credits and was perturbed to see no mention at all.

Cameron's broken many records already with Avatar, but one may go missed - more people must have sat through the credits than any film ever before!

When he receives his inevitable Oscar, I think he should thank Roger Dean publicly.

Laura said...

Totally agree! When I first saw the planet Pandora in the film, I thought "Roger Dean". I loved Yes and all the album covers he did and Cameron definitely was influenced by this stuff. Especially the floating "mountains". That is pure Roger Dean.

Bearfuss said...

I am smiling from ear to ear at all the comments you all have voiced that ring true to my hart. My daughter is 21, I mentioned to both her and my wife about the direct imagery from Roger Dean. When we got home, I too pulled up his site and showed his work. They were amazed at the similarity of the floating mountains and flying creatures. I can't imagine James Cameron not knowing this and wonder if Roger will take them to court. Cameron's team did do an excellent job of bringing Deans visions to life. Who knows, maybe the sequel will have the mountain houses in it. Even though Roger was not credited, collectively we can give credit where credit is due.

Anonymous said...

Can you believe that the Designer Dylan Cole said this:

The "Roger Dean" Thing:

Some have suggested that Cameron's vision of floating mountains and dragons draws on Yes cover artist Roger Dean. Says Cole:

I can't speak for Jim, but all of the floating mountains and the banshees were all in the script when I read it. I wasn't aware of Dean's work until I started the project, when another artist pointed it out. We looked at his work more as a novelty because it was similar subject matter, but it was not really as an influence. Dean's work has a whimsical quality that we absolutely wanted to avoid.

Anonymous said...

Plagierism is too nice a word. This is outright artistic theft. He didn't just steal a landscape or two -- he stole the whole world. In the Views book, not only does the orange dragon grace the cover looking like it's fighting, the Nami ( or whatever they are ) -- their face paint is exactly lifted from RD's zodiac make-up. Even the helicopter attack ships are drawn up in that mechanical beetle thing. Utter theft. An easy sue and win for Roger.

Anonymous said...

I had the same reaction to seeing the Hallelujah Mountains ... I could hear the line from "Roundabout" (written about 40 years ago): "mountains come out of the sky and they stand there"

Roger Dean, Jon Anderson and Steve Howe should get a mention from Cameron for at least inspiring one of Avatar's signature features.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree, did anyone hear anything from Roger Dean, like if he made a statement in relation to the Avatar 'tribute' to his work?

SPADGE said...


Anonymous said...

Hi guys

As a lot of you are big Roger Dean fans, i was wondering if any of you would be able to help me locate the below pitcure at all?
The info I have put below may not all be 100% accurate, as if it was, I'm sure i would have found it myself by now. Anyway, here goes....

its a landscape painting, with a large planet/moon in the background, with loads of red butterflies/moths flying out of it, coming towards the font of the picture. At the very front its a large butterfly/moth, taking up most the picture.

I was pretty certain it was done by Roger Dean, but after searching endlessly, I still cannot find it, so I could be wrong. Also, pretty sure the name was somehting along the lines of 'The last flight of the .... (something)'

It is a long shot, but if there is anyone out there who can point in the right direction, you would be a lifesaver.



February 15 - May 15, 2012 : Supported by a Crafts Projects - Creation and Development Grant

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