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Meet Harper Goff, the legendary set designer behind Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory


 
“This is where all my dreams become realities, and some of my realities become dreams.” American artist and banjo player Harper Goff (1911-1993) was a man of many talents with an extraordinary imagination. He set the standard for camouflage colors during WWII, laid the foundation for the Steampunk revolution, conceptualized Disneyland alongside Walt Disney, and created the unforgettable set for Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. However, due to issues with his union card Harper remains uncredited for nearly his entire life’s work.

Living in New York City, Harper Goff worked as a magazine illustrator for Collier’s, Esquire, and National Geographic. Harper’s techniques as well his imagination were groundbreaking even early on. In his paintings, he often refused to use modeling talent but instead incorporated real life village citizens into the details of his colorful works. Friends, family, and neighbors traveled to exotic beachfront estates and vacation spots around the world courtesy of Harper Goff, half of them never even realizing it. During his service in WWII while Harper was working on a do-it-yourself painters kit he was approached by the U.S. Army to develop a set of paint colors that would become the new standard for camouflage. Near the end of the war, he was transferred to the U.S. Navy where his razzle dazzle technique helped confuse the silhouettes of ships taking the idea of camouflage to a whole new level.

When Harper moved to California to work for Warner Brothers Studios he became a set designer on films such as Casablanca, Sergeant York, Charge of the Light Brigade, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the Errol Flynn classic Captain Blood. It was while working as an Art Director on Kirk Douglas’ The Vikings that director William Wyler saw in Goff a “character type” and began casting him as an actor. “I showed up wearing a beard, they figured I’d make a good Nordic,” said Harper, who would end up heaving a battle axe at his blonde viking wife in the film. Harper made dozens of appearances in film and television as an actor much to the amusement of his real life blonde wife Flossie. In 1951, while shopping in a London model railroad shoppe Harper had a chance encounter with Walt Disney when they both expressed a mutual interest in purchasing the same model train.

“He turned to me and said, ‘I’m Walt Disney. Are you the man that wanted to buy this engine?’ Well, I almost fell over. He asked me what I do for a living, and I told him that I was an artist. Walt said, ‘I’ve heard of you, but I can’t recall where.’” It turned out Walt Disney had seen some of Harper’s illustrations in Esquire magazine and had always admired them. Disney said, “Give me a call me when you get back to the States.” Ultimately Walt bought the locomotive and hired Harper to illustrate the earliest concept artwork and renderings for his proposed “Mickey Mouse Park” (originally intended to be constructed in Burbank). “I liked the idea of working with Walt Disney, and when I called him he began to explain his idea for a kiddie-land near the Studio — perhaps with a steam train connected to Traveland across the L.A. River. He wanted to build something adults could enjoy along with their children.”

Walt sent Harper on a three-month “information gathering” journey to amusement parks all across the United States. “They were dirty places and it was hard to imagine what Walt had in mind creating. I said to him when I got back, ‘Walt, I don’t think this type of environment is what you want,’ and he replied, ‘Mine will be immaculate and the staff will be young and polite,’ then I realized he could do it.” Orange County was eventually chosen as the site for Disneyland and Harper, who was dubbed the “Second Imagineer” envisioned the look and feel of the theme park. Harper used his hometown of Fort Collins, Colorado as the main influence for Disneyland’s City Hall, and his Art Director experience on the film Calamity Jane to design the Golden Horseshoe Saloon.

Harper Goff’s influence on the Adventureland portion of the theme park cannot be overstated, particularly on the ride the Jungle Cruise. In Harper’s own words: “We began to think of hippos and other animals which could be operated without wires and still have animated elements. We brought in Bob Matte, who later created the shark for Jaws to engineer the original animals. I also worked with Bill and Jack Evans on buying expeditions for the landscaping. We would call cities to see if they were tearing out trees for improvements and go and buy them — we got many that way.” While making trips back and forth between Burbank and the Evans and Reeves Nursery in West L.A. they’d pass a house in Beverly Hills that had spectacular tree in the front yard. Harper and Jack believed it’d be the perfect finishing touch to the Jungle Cruise ride. “Finally, I thought what have we got to lose, and I had Jack Evans stop while I went in to ask the people if they would consider selling it. I told the owner we would replace it with a flowerbed or anything they wanted and surprisingly enough the owner told me yes — it was blocking the sunlight and view coming through his windows and we could just come and take it away… it was the tree that went around the original Burmese Temple, and we got it for nothing.”
 
Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Doug Jones
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09.30.2016
11:02 am
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Real estate cosplay: NYC developers trying to make ‘Steampunk Luxury Condos’ happen
12.11.2014
05:49 pm
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They say that “money don’t buy taste,” but if you can afford to live at N°15 RENWICK, one would assume you’ve at least got the cash for a “style consultant” to tell you how fucking corny you are. The luxury development (whose logo is an obvious homage to CHANEL N°5) is trying what may be the lamest of all marketing angles to attract a wealthy and “creative” clientele—they’re making it steampunk. Their advertising is an utterly confusing photo-spread of classically influenced modern architecture inhabited by Victorian-ish “characters”—it can only be described as real estate cosplay…

From the website:

The Characters of 15 Renwick pay homage to the Victorian era in which the street’s namesake, James Renwick and his son, lived (1790-1895). Renwick was a pioneering author, engineer and professor at Columbia University while his son, James Jr., was one of the most celebrated architects of his generation. The Characters also embody the creative persona of today’s Hudson Square resident and the insider nature of the single-block Renwick Street.

Look, pining for “Olde New York” is a rite of passage no matter what year you moved here, but these people are paying an insane amount of money for a New York that never even existed! One of the developers, Eldad Blaustein joked that the ideal tenant might be a “Wall Street trader, but he’s writing songs, he’s writing poems at night.”

Sounds about right. Who else would be so dead inside that they’d want to come home to LARP?
 

 

 

 

 
More real estate steampunk cosplay after the jump…

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Posted by Amber Frost
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12.11.2014
05:49 pm
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The spectacular steampunk aircrafts of Charles A. A. Dellschau
06.23.2014
11:11 am
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Dellschau
 
If you’re fond of Howard Finster, Jules Verne, Grandma Moses, or the improbable discovery of Vivian Maier’s photographs, the story of Charles A. A. Dellschau is a wildly improbable and intoxicating combination of those elements. How so? Born in 1830, Dellschau was a Prussian butcher who emigrated to the U.S. around 1849—upon his retirement a full fifty years later in 1899, he took up an intriguing hobby, to act as draftsman for the “Sonora Aero Club” of Houston, Texas, a club interested in kooky aeronautical crafts about which it is unclear whether it even existed. What is clear is that between the ages of 69 and his death in 1923 at the age of 92, Dellschau filled at least 13 notebooks with approximately 2,500 utterly awesome large-format drawings and collages around the theme of steampunk-ish dirigibles and other flying machines. Rebecca J. Rosen elaborates:
 

Dealers and historians eventually tracked down some additional Dellschau works, including a series of three journals called Recolections [sic], that also tell the story of the Sonora Aero Club and its inventions, with “ink drawings of fanciful airships that ... look for all the world as if they had flown off the pages of a Jules Verne novel,” as flight historian Tom D. Crouch describes them.

All together, the shoestring-bound books contain some 2,000 pages, each a double-sided collage replete with calligraphy (often in a code that is still today only partially deciphered), drawings, and newspaper clippings. (Dellschau referred to the clippings as “press blooms,” as though they were preserved flowers.) Each page—or “plate,” as Dellschau called them—is dated and numbered, though the counting starts at number 1601. The estimated 10 volumes with the first 1,600 drawings are presumed lost or destroyed.

 
According to Dellschau’s writings, the club was a secret group of flight enthusiasts who met at Sonora, California in the mid-19th century; one of the members had discovered the formula for an anti-gravity fuel he called “NB Gas.” Anti-gravity fuel! Even if that development never worked out, the vitality and energy of drawings Dellschau made in his 80s would humble most of the twentysomething art school students you would encounter today.

Curiously, there are traces of the Aero Club in lots of places in California—just not in Sonora. According to historian Tracy Baker-White:

“I haven’t found them in Sonora in the 1850s, but I’ve found them in Napa Valley in 1900, or in San Francisco in 1872, or in Stockton in 1872. There are possible links, but there’s nothing that is in Sonora.”

We often use the words “rare,” “unseen,” “unknown” to describe seldom-seen videos or paintings, and often it isn’t quite right, it’s just that very few people have seen them. In the case of Dellschau, however, it really seems to be true that between the years of 1923 and sometime in the 1960s, his work was actually, literally unknown. His works ended up in a landfill, and if not for the eagle eye of used furniture dealer Fred Washington, they’d remain unknown today. Since then, Dellschau’s spectacular works have received their due attention, including exhibitions at the American Folk Art Museum in New York and the Whitechapel Gallery in London. For an overview of Dellschau’s work, see Charles Dellschau by Thomas McEvilley et al.
 
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More incredible pics of Dellschau’s work, plus a UFO expert tries to bring Dellschau into the fold—all after the jump…..

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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06.23.2014
11:11 am
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‘Steam-Powered YouTube’ pokes fun at the increasingly annoying steampunk crowd
05.30.2013
05:46 pm
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steam-powered YouTube
 
For a brief period of time I had a job that required me to descend deep into the bowels of DIY crafting website, Etsy, in order to look for soap and lotion makers who might purchase raw materials from my employer. Even more annoying than crazy craft people were the steampunk aficionados. While I appreciate a good bit of subtle anachronism as much as the next girl, there came a point where the sight of bronzed iPods and Wii Remotes adorned with superfluous cathodes started to annoy the living hell out of me.

Steam-powered YouTube makes up for that. The website is something of an interactive filter, wherein you embed a video, and are then forced to “adjust” the audio and visual elements, manually, as well as regularly release the pressure. Why do I enjoy what is essentially a more laborious way to view YouTube videos? Because it reminds us that older technology isn’t used anymore because it’s damned impractical! Steam is a terrible power source! It’s volatile, and usually a horrible pollutant! And you did have to constantly adjust pressure and dials, precisely because it was so volatile!

So go ahead, try out what is a reasonable facsimile of a steam-powered machine in the context of something as awesome and convenient as YouTube, and remind yourself that luddites are suckers. And as steampunk gasps its dying breaths, let’s step on its throat to quicken its departure.

Posted by Amber Frost
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05.30.2013
05:46 pm
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