William Stout Interview At The Long Beach Comic Con, Part Two

Kyle Fukumoto writes for Bleeding Cool

This continues the interview with artist William Stout conducted at the Long Beach Comic Con (to read Part One, click here).

Stout has a long list of movie credits. He worked as a character designer on Disney’s animated film, Dinosaur, in 2000. Stout was the creature designer for Frank Darabont’s 2007 film, The Mist, based on the Stephen King novel. He was the production designer for 1987’s Masters of the Universe. William Stout was also a co-writer of the fantasy film, The Warrior and the Sorceress (1984). He has also worked for the Disney parks, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, and Steven Spielberg chose him to design his GameWorks entertainment centers that have since closed. Stout’s artwork has also appeared in museums, exhibitions, and zoos.

Mr. Stout spoke about his early work for this interview, “One of my first jobs out of art school was as Russ Manning’s assistant on the Tarzan of the Apes Sunday and daily strips. I inked the strips and colored the Sunday (strips). Then, not long after that, in 1972, I became the assistant to Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder on Little Annie Fanny in Playboy (magazine which ran 1962 to 1988). Both experiences were fantastic. I learned an enormous amount from all three of those guys. Then I started to do a lot of my own stuff. I did comics but I also did advertising and I ended up working on the ad campaigns for twenty motion pictures. To this day one of my most famous images of my career was the poster I did for the animated feature by Ralph Bakshi called Wizards (1977).”

“I sort of fell into the film business in the late 70’s. My first major feature was Conan the Barbarian (1982 as production artist), I did First Blood (1982 as storyboard artist) after that, Conan the Destroyer (1984 as concept designer), and Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981 as storyboard artist). I’ve done about forty-five decent films. One of the ones I’m most proudest of is I worked on Pan’s Labyrinth (2006 as conceptual artist) with Guillermo del Toro. We won four Academy Awards, my work contributed to two of those Oscars. I just worked recently with Jon Favrau on the first Disney-Pixar co-production called Magic Kingdom. I worked for Peter Billingsley, who was the little kid in Christmas Story (1983). He’s grown up now and he’s a big Hollywood producer. He hired me to do some conceptual designs for a project. I’m been asked to direct a film in Europe next year. A vampire Nazi movie. So we’ll see how that goes. I’ve been acting lately. I’ve been acting in the first film called Lucky Day (a short film from Samantha Holmes) I play a mean, bad ass red necked murderer and in the second film called Uncle (also directed by Holmes) I was the uncle. I was a suave sophisticated serial killer who comes back to his family.”

Mr. Stout discussed the trend of comic books being made into films, “I think that’s a really positive thing. You know they’re not just making the superhero comics with the History of Violence (2005 film directed by David Cronenberg) and with the Tom Hanks film, the Road to Perdition (this is the 2002 film directed by Sam Mendes based on the graphic novel by Max Allan Collins and Richard Piers Rayner published by Paradox Press). Walking Dead (the television series based on the Robert Kirkman comic book) as well. They have become viable projects (and) in the case of History of Violence was pretty spectacular, an outstanding film. (The graphic novel was) written by the way by my former production assistant on Masters of the Universe in the art department, Josh (Olsen). Josh was the writer for History of Violence.”

The interview turned to William Stout’s work on theme park designs, “In the mid 80’s, I got a call from a guy I never met who was a big fan of my bootleg record album work from the 70’s. He was assigned as a writer on a new park at Walt Disney Imagineering. He recommended that they hire me to be the designer. Now I don’t know how he knew I can handle that, just by only knowing my record album covers, but it was a good fit because I found that designing theme parks was very similar to designing sets for motion pictures which I’ve been doing except they weren’t going to be torn down. I started a big project for Disney Imagineering called Disney Island. After that was designed, bounced around the company and designed a whole bunch of things including an entire second gate for Disneyland Tokyo. That was just a total blast. After I left Imagineering, I bounced back and forth between Universal Studios, Landmark Entertainment Group, and Walt Disney Imagineering. I’ve been doing theme park design for another ten years after that.”

William Stout finished the interview discussing his current projects, “My latest project was I just finished two murals for the San Diego Zoo. They have seen the twelve murals that I did for the San Diego Natural History Museum and they wanted two of their own. They are in the new Elephant Odyssey compound. I have book coming out in April from Abrams, the largest art book publisher in the United States, called Legends of the Blues. It’s 100 portraits that I’ve done about my favorite Blues musicians all born prior to 1930; Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, and Bo Diddley. The book comes with a CD as well. I’m real excited about that. That was originally inspired by a Robert Crumb’s Heroes of the Blues trading card set (released in 1995 by Eclipse Enterprises). A beautiful set and I made a list of everybody that Robert didn’t put in and those are the guys that are in my book. After doing the Blues book, in preparation for this show, I starting drawing monster portraits, one hundred monster portraits and do that as a book. I’m considering that now. I’m still a monster kid at heart. The proudest moment of my life was a couple of years ago when I was presented a Rondo Award (named after actor Rondo Hatton, a b-movie villain, and the votes are made by fans) in the Monster Hall of Fame (in 2011 he was inducted as “Keeper of our fantasies”). My website is real easy, www.williamstout.com. If you need to contact me, the contact button will send an e-mail directly to me.”

William Stout has a fantastic career as an artist, designer, and creator for many media projects. It is apparent every time that I had the chance to speak with Mr. Stout that he is one of the most open and friendly creators. He will always sketch your favorite dinosaur in one of his books that you buy or bring to him at conventions. William Stout gave a panel, “William Stout – A Life of Adventure” where he spoke about his career. He is also easy to talk to whether you are young or old, a fan or not, and appreciates fans looking at his artwork. Mr. Stout has traveled to Antarctica and Patagoina, scuba dived, and climbed up a volcano. Still, his greatest adventures are in his artwork.