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From comic book to feature film, capturing the look of Los Angeles in the 1930s was the key to bringing The Rocketeer to life
By his own admission, Dave Stevens was one very weird kid. While other eight-year-olds were trading baseball cards and turning gum-wrappers into love chains, the future creator of The Rocketeer was busy clipping. He clipped pictures of '20s and '30s flyers, their outfits, banners, ribbons and planes. He saved photographs, hundreds of them, of Depression era air shows, airplane hangars, viewing stands, even employee costumes, because, as he says, "I knew I would use them one day."
Stevens even put autogyros and his favorite "fat little bumble-bee looking Gee Bee planes" into the strip in the hopes that if the comic ever made it to the screen, kids would get to see them. Of course, Stevens didn't really entertain any hope that the comic would become a film. "Too expensive," he says. But then Dave Stevens hadn't figured on The Walt Disney Company.
When the studio decided to turn The Rocketeer comic into a film, director Joe Johnston (whose credits include the smash hit Honey, I Shrunk the Kids) was adamant about one thing: the movie had to be true to the "look" of the book. To accomplish this, Disney brought on Jim Bissel, production designer for such blockbusters as E.T. The Extraterrestrial and Arachnophobia. It was Bissel's job to take Stevens's vision and interpret it for film, overseeing the design of everything from sets to props to costumes.
PersonsJames D. Bissell (interviewee)
Dave Stevens (interviewee)