Early in the summer of 2016, four Prop Store employees traversed through stinky cow country to the Bohemian bay area city of Berkeley California to assist in collecting iconic pieces of movie props, artwork and memorabilia for the Phil Tippett Auction…
Phil Tippett’s staggering career includes credits from all three original Star Wars films, the Robocop trilogy, Pirhana (1978), Jurassic Park, Evolution and even four films from The Twilight Saga. Phil started Tippett Studio in the 1980’s with the help of his partner Jules Roman shortly after wrapping his work on Return of the Jedi.
Our journey brought us to two studios adorned with props and artwork from our collective childhood spanning two decades of film making. As we first entered Tippett Studio, we found ourselves in a small display room. A shrine to all things Tippett. A ghost from Ghostbuster II, bug maquettes from Starship Troopers, Cain’s brain from Robocop 2 and the Dianoga trash compactor monster from A New Hope. I was simply dumbfounded by the scale of VFX history we were surrounded with. I became hyper aware of just how much of my life and American culture had been influences by Tippett’s work. And this is only after walking into the first room!
As we move further in we find ourselves surrounded by shelves of maquettes from Dragonslayer, Jumanji and even Evolution. Looking up one wall we could see a large scale dragon head puppet from Evolution mounted to the wall with its tongue hanging out like some sort of grotesque hunting trophy. Off to the left and looming over us from a second story outcropping was the massive, full-scale Cain robot from Robocop 2. The piece guarded a little kitchen area bearing its big guns and clawed appendages like a futuristic gargoyle. If only I knew we’d be bringing the monstrosity back to LA…
Next we crossed a large area with foam puzzle piece floor mats and strategically mounted cameras all around. This is Tippett Studios motion capture recording area. A threshold where the old ways meet the new, as pieces of Phil’s own stop motion passion project Mad God hid in dark corners. Moving onward we entered the deepest and darkest area of the studio, the workshop. Effects workshops have always had a cave-like feel to me; maybe it’s the unfamiliar smells of drying materials or the lingering dank of artist sweat. Regardless, I enjoyed relishing in the pure creative energy here and reading the lighthearted but stern rules and requests printed and taped to the walls throughout.
Eventually we got the news that we had another location to explore. Phil held onto an extensive amount of artwork and production materials from throughout his career and he kept it all in the attic of his home in Berkeley. When we saw the scale of paperwork we were to sort through we did our best not imagine how many trips up and down those stairs we’d have to submit ourselves to. For me personally, this is where the material in this auction really stands out. We had an archive of nearly 40 years of film making history to sort through. Original hand-drawn concept art, scripts, storyboards and stop-motion armature designs. These were the inner workings of so many iconic sequences and images that were burned into our brains via film projectors and cathode ray tubes.
Finally, I remembered an off handed comment from Phil earlier… somewhere up here was a little storage closet full of crew shirts and gear and I wanted to find it. I searched the walls for any handles or cracks but saw nothing. I knew they were somewhere up here so I took a closer look. Behind a small bookstand I saw a crack in the wall. Ah hah! I pulled the book shelf back and found a small door behind it. Inside I found three duffel bags full of crew shirts and gear from throughout Phil’s career. I dug into the bags with excitement and found treasures dating back to his ILM days many stained with paint remaining from their respective productions. As I gathered the crew material I saw that the majority of the paperwork had been trudged downstairs and into the moving van as if by magic. Dan and Michael totally had nothing to do with it… I lugged a couple of bags down stairs and that was it. An entire careers worth of material inside one 20 foot moving van. I couldn’t wait to get back to LA to start on the auction!
Auction Content Manager LA
If you haven’t already had the opportunity to have a look at the amazing once-in-a-lifetime props that are up for auction in the Phil Tippett Auction, take a look now and register to bid on a true piece of movie history!
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